Monthly meal planning – tips and tricks!

This is my second foray into monthly menu planning. Last time was a success, so after a couple of weeks off while we went on our road trip and school holidays, I’m back on the bandwagon this month!
The other change is that I am moving from night shifts to afternoon shifts at work. This changes the types of meals that I plan on work days.
I just plan for weeknight meals as that is when I cook, A1 does the weekends. So for a complete budget you would need to add in weekend dinners and lunches.
I’ve had a request on our Facebook page for tips on monthly meal planning. I’m no expert after such a short time, but will share how it works for me…

  • Do a cleanup of your fridge/freezer/pantry BEFORE you start planning.
  • This way you are regularly cleaning them up AND you have a rough idea of any meat/veg and staples you have on hand to be used.

  • Draw up or print out a monthly planner.
  • I love the one that Kate from Picklebums has for download on her site – check it out here… I write my work hours, childcare for the kids and any special things happening that day on there. As well as the meal for each day. It means that everyone knows what is happening!

  • Get some variety!
  • I grab my phone (with bookmarked recipes), some favourite cookbooks and magazines and start choosing recipes. I write a list of recipes and the ingredients/amounts required as I go. Once you have all your recipes you can write them into your planner.

  • Save & organise with shopping lists
  • I do a monthly shop for the basics for the whole month (including meat & poultry, freezing what isn’t required in the next couple of days) and non-perishable for the recipes. I then have a separate list for the few fresh things needed on a fortnightly basis. You can obviously tweak this to suit your pay cycle/budget. By having a list, you are less likely to sneak things into your trolley – I skip the aisles that don’t contain list items. I also get as much fruit & veg from our weekly farers markets, I know its fresh and local.

  • No piggies all in a row…
  • Mix up your meats – I tend to write up ideas for what I’d like to make then shuffle it around so I don’t have three days of beef in a row.

  • Love your leftovers!
  • Team things up so you can use left any overs eg. the Chili con carne will be used in the slow cooker jacket potatoes and pizza in week 5.

  • Slow cookers are simply awesome…
  • If you are working during the day and have a slow cooker, make use of it, it’s your friend.

  • Spend your time wisely.
  • Look up Freezer bag meals on Pinterest and Google and do a bulk cook. It might take a few hours of prep, but that prep can free you up in busy times.

  • Be a Masterchef at home.
  • We all get stuck in a rut at times. Challenge yourself to do something different/difficult once in a while. Pull out some fancy cookbooks and choose something. If it doesn’t work, there are always cheese toasties! If it works then it has expanded your horizons…

  • Schedule to suit your commitments.
  • I am working this month (except for week one) on Tuesday/Wednesday/Fridays. Since I’m at home with the kids on Mondays, I’ve popped in a couple of new and more challenging meals to cook from scratch.
    Friday meal will be something simple that I know the kids will love, as Master O has a full day at care & Miss E a full day of school/care. Lets be frank, its the end of the week, they’ll be tired and ratty. I’ll be happy if they eat at all!

    I’ll post up the actual meal plan next week. It’s a five week plan, so you could use the 5th week as ideas to fill in the weekends. If you have any questions, feel free to comment on here or our Facebook page and I’ll endeavor to answer your questions in next weeks post!




    1. Awesome tips! Cleaning the fridge etc as you’re meal planning is great advice. Look forward to the meal plan, roughly how long does it take you to get it all sorted? Do you plan breakfast, lunch and dinner?

      • Hi Sim!

        It is a lengthy process when planning for such a long period. I ended up doing 5 weeks and it took me the most part of an afternoon… Thankfully it was horrendous weather outside, so I popped some movies on for the kids and set them up with a floor picnic and they rarely disturbed me – totally should have made myself a cup of tea.
        I just plan out weeknight meals, as they are the nights that I cook (but you could use that extra fifth week as inspiration for weekend meals). We buy our meat in 10kg bulk lots so A1 normally pulls something out of the freezer to cook up, or we allow ourselves takeaways on a weekend too. So its more of an organization tool than a budget tool for me.
        Lunches for myself and the kids are usually a plate of whatever fruit we have on hand and either a sandwich, or cheese and biscuits and yoghurt. Stuff I would normally have on hand. And three days a week Miss E is at school.
        I write out a list of snacks/baked things that I can make for the kids when I do my meal plan and make sure I have the ingredients for those when I do the shop.
        Breakfast is just toast/cereal/yoghurt so they are our regular staples. We also make our own natural yoghurt in the thermomix and flavoured in the Easiyo. Saves us heaps!

    2. katepickle2 says:

      Thanks for mentioning my meal planner… I am about to update all the printable meal plans so if there is anything you’d like to see included let me know 🙂

    3. Thanks for the tips! I wrote up my first monthly plan last week but am yet to put it into action. I love the idea of it though because deciding at 5pm what everyone is having for dinner was not working out so well – and even weekly plans can get a bit repetitive. It’s definitely great to plan for whatever commitments you have. My husband travels a bit for work and we don’t always know in advance when he’ll be going. I find having a couple of options in the freezer is a great help for those last minute changes.

      • Hi Carolyn! I find it really freeing when you put a meal plan into action. I am a terrible procrastinator so if I don’t have a meal planned I keep putting off my decision for dinner that evening. We end having take-away WAY too much!
        This works much better for us 🙂

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