Monthly Meal Planning Update with a Sample

I mentioned several months ago I was going to try meal planning on a monthly basis, rather than weekly.  Now that it’s been a while, I wanted to do an update on how it’s going, because I really love it!

Reasons I tried monthly meal planning:

– Every week I would realize it was time to go to the grocery store and I had no plan.  This would usually happen at night when I was too tired to get out cookbooks / look through pinterest so I quickly scrawled out an unimaginative grocery list with things I didn’t need a recipe for

– Because of the above, we ate the same things all of the time and I was getting really sick of it

– Because I wasn’t putting much thought into meal planning, I often had to go to the store multiple times per week

– I love shopping at Trader Joes, but there are some things they don’t have, or that I prefer to buy elsewhere.  I really don’t want to go to multiple grocery stores every week though.

My process:

1. Choose cookbooks

I personally love looking through physical cookbooks, so I like to choose a few to use each month.  I have a lot of cookbooks already, but I think I may try checking out some new ones from the library next month just for fun.  I also use online recipes sometimes.

2. Choose 16 recipes

We almost always have leftovers (though I’m not sure how long this will remain true with the amount our little guy is eating these days….).  I usually choose four recipes per week, and this is almost always enough for us.  I just make a list of the recipes, noting which cookbook they’re from and the page number.

3. Make a weekly calendar

I plan four weeks at a time, so I make a simple grid.  (Someone spilled a whole cup of coffee on this one…not naming any names.)  I divide up the recipes by week, trying to balance things I like with things my husband likes, lighter meals and heavier meals, etc.  I write the source and page numbers on here too.

Yes, I have bad handwriting….

4. Make grocery lists

Once I’ve divided the recipes by week, I make the grocery list for each of the four weeks.  I only plan dinners, as I almost always eat the same breakfast and eat random salads and stuff for lunch.  I always add things we need to the list before going to the store, but it’s great to have the main list done ahead of time.  As I’m going through the recipes, I make separate lists for things I want to buy at Costco or Target.  These lists are usually small.

I keep the list on the refrigerator so that, theoretically, my husband could add stuff he wants me to get.  I don’t think this has actually have happened though….

5. Grocery shopping

I go to Costco once at the beginning of the month.  I usually buy all of our meat here and a few other staples.  I don’t make a special trip to Target, I just save that list for whenever we need to go there next.  Then I go to Trader Joe’s weekly, usually on Mondays.

What I love:

– I actually enjoy looking for recipes now!  I like to cook, so this is fun for me when it’s not a weekly scramble.

– We are eating so much more variety now.  This is especially important to me now that James is often eating what we’re eating, as I want him to try lots of new foods while he’s still really willing to eat almost anything.

– I rarely have to make extra trips to the grocery store.

– I haven’t actually tracked this, but I think we’re saving money due to fewer grocery trips and more conscious meal planning.  I usually plan several vegetarian meals per week, which definitely cuts down on costs.

– It’s more efficient.  It takes me maybe 1.5-2 hours to do this every month, but for me, that’s much quicker than the cumulative time of doing it weekly.

– Every week feels balanced with a mix of vegetarian and meat-based recipes and a mix of lighter and heavier meals.

What I don’t love:

– It’s harder to be flexible.  Things come up, people come to visit, we decide to go out of town, etc.  It can be annoying to update the grocery list because I have to figure out what ingredients were for what recipe, etc.  This can be annoying, but it’s worth it to me for all of the pros.

This Month’s Meal Plan:

Most of the recipes I use are from actual cookbooks, not online, so I can’t share all of the recipes, but here is our meal plan for this month.  It wound up being a little more meat-heavy than usual, but otherwise is pretty typical:

October 9-15

Salmon with potatoes and vegetable

Enchiladas from this post – loved these

Ham and cheese waffles & eggs from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook (didn’t actually make these, I don’t remember what we did instead….)

Red lentil dal with cilantro rice

October 16-22

Salmon Bites with cous cous and brussels sprouts

Turkey black bean chili (a recipe I’ve used for years from a blog that no longer seems to exist)

Brown rice stir fry with tofu from Martha Stewart’s Meatless

Vegetable Tostadas from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook

October 23-29


White corn cheddar chowder from Martha Stewart’s Meatless

Southwestern Hash from Martha Stewart’s Meatless

Steak and mashed potatoes with broccoli (I didn’t actually buy the steak at Costco, so will come up with something else, probably fish)

October 30-November 5

Lasagna (this recipe or this recipe – haven’t decided)

Chickpea burgers from Martha Stewart’s Meatless with naan and tzatziki

Lemon rosemary risotto from Risotto with chicken sausage

Burrito bowls (homemade beans with brown rice and toppings)

Do you meal plan?

Do you have any good lasagna recipes?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

You may also like


  1. This is such a helpful post! I am always scrambling to do my weekly meal plans, I’m definitely going to try your way instead. We shop at our closest bulk store, Sam’s Club, to save money (my husband and I eat salads for lunch every weekday and to get ingredients for that alone makes it worth shopping there), but I find we eat the same things every week because of that. We probably make 4 meals a week too, although my toddler is starting to turn his nose up at leftovers on occasion! It helps to have a new item, I will make a new quick veggie side dish (usually green beans or broccoli which he loves both) most days even if we have leftovers.

    1. I don’t have any lasagna recipes as that is one thing I haven’t attempted to make lactose free for my lactose-intolerant husband yet. My mom always just mixed ground beef with some spaghetti sauce and layered it with mozzarella and cottage cheese!

    2. Thank you, I’m so glad it was helpful! I should probably go to Costco every week just for the spinach too (it’s so cheap and good quality!), but I just can’t bring myself to go to two stores and I love Trader Joe’s 🙂 That’s a great tip for changing up leftovers! I am definitely enjoying this stage when my son will eat pretty much anything while it lasts….

    3. This is great. I always try to meal plan but only week to week which doesn’t seem to reduce the food shopping. So trying it month to month might be just the step I need to take. Great that you showed how you do it and you keep it interesting using cookbooks and increasing veggie options. Though I love love my veg, tend to go with the same recipes over and over. Have quite a stash of cookbooks. I could really see myself using them this way and not only getting excited but feeling focussed. JU
      Just a question. Why is the meal plan only for 4 meals a week?

      Just came across your blog. It’s great!

      1. Thanks so much, I’m so glad you found it helpful! I got in a total cooking rut after my baby was born and this really made it somewhat fun for me again and got me to try new recipes. I hope it does for you too! I only plan four because we tend to have a lot of leftovers. I always make the whole recipe, which is often for at least four people and with the amount my son currently eats, we almost always have leftovers. Sometimes I’ll also cook extra so that we have leftovers and I don’t have to start from scratch every day. I have a feeling as my little guy grows though, I’ll have to plan more recipes….Thanks for reading!

    1. That makes sense, we’re pretty much always home for dinner now in this baby stage, but it definitely wouldn’t work well if your plans are less predictable. Thanks so much for the recipe! I love pinch of yum in general and am excited to check it out!

  2. I love how much you cook! I love to try new recipes but this newborn stage and minimal sleep is tough. I prefer naps to cooking-haha! I typically just roast a veggie and make a protein. I do like your idea of planning for the month though. I get in a slump over what to cook each week, that seeing it over a four week time period would help me better diversify the menu. I’ll have to try it out!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *