One-Month Menu

For quite a while I’ve thought about making a menu that would last a month. This would simplify my life in more ways than one – I would only have to get my cookbooks once a month, make a major shopping list once a month, look at my online recipe box once a month. You get the picture. Plus, I don’t always take the time to plan a menu. Then it’s five o’clock, and I need supper in an hour. All I’m looking at are ingredients and I’m feeling totally uninspired.

Healthy Simplicity - Planning a Month of Meals

So last month after collecting meal ideas – things we really like – for a few months as I remembered to do it, I finally sat down and made the month-long menu. I’ve been loving it.

The plan is for my husband (who does all the grocery shopping – yeah for me) to do a big shop once a month and small weekly trips for produce and dairy. We’re still tweaking this part of the plan and getting used to it, but I can see that once we perfect this it will save time for my husband making his life simpler too.

I was telling my sister about what I’m doing, and she suggested that I should write a blog post about it because she would like to see how I do it. So here is my method. I hope it can help you.

First I collected a list of meals that we enjoy. My plan was to get thirty different meals. I got eighteen. That’s okay. I realized that some meals we will enjoy eating more than once a month – like kai si ming. My children love that dish and will eat it every week if I offer it.

Then I took out the calendar to figure out when the birthdays were, the nights that Daddy wouldn’t be here, the nights I needed a fast supper because of an evening activity, etc. From there I just started filling in the menu with the help of my list of main dishes. I added the sides and desserts that we enjoy. In a surprisingly short amount of time I had filled in three and a half weeks of meals.

Next I went through each meal, and thought about the ingredients. I started listing out what I would need. Again, in a short time I had a grocery list ready to go for the ENTIRE month. Happy, happy, happy.

I did all of this on scraps of paper that I had, but just for you I designed some nice sheets for you to print up that you can then do all this organizing on.

I have included two different kinds of grocery lists.  Here is a sample of one…

Healthy Simplicity - Planning a Month of Meals

There are two pages for meal ideas with room for writing notes – what cookbook/website the meal is found at, tweaks that your family enjoys, etc. There is one page each for sides and desserts. I look at sides and desserts like accessories – they can adorn more than one meal.
Healthy Simplicity - Planning a Month of Meals

 And finally the most important page where all of your work comes together…

Healthy Simplicity - Planning a Month of Meals
There are seven pages in all, and you can get them for free here. I am so excited to be able to offer this. This is the first time I ever designed something all by myself to give away here on my blog. Dropbox will ask you to sign up for an account when you first arrive. BUT if you just click on the background the sign up box will go away, and you can still sign up for free.

Healthy Simplicity - Planning a Month of Meals

Put your planning sheets in page protectors and use wipe off markers to cross off the meals as you write them on the menu.

I’m thinking about getting a picture frame and hanging the menu up each month. You could even mark on the glass frame with wipe off markers. Do you think if I hang it on the wall that I won’t hear at least five times every afternoon, “What’s for supper?” ☺

Have you ever planned and shopped for your meals a month at a time? Would you?


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Jennifer Schonhaar

Jennifer Schonhaar

Jennifer is the happily married wife of a pastor and the somewhat-tired-but-oh-so happy mum to eight beautiful children. She loves to try new healthy recipes, sew, read to her children, garden and play the piano.
Jennifer Schonhaar

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88 Comments

  1. Julie Geoffrion

    VERY good blog. So concise and easy to understand.
    I like pretty things to write my lists on, too so I need to print these :).
    How about a list of what you all eat?
    The kids will STILL ask – it is in their nature LOL πŸ™‚
    Happy eating!

    • JenSchon

      I know they will ask, but one can always hope. πŸ™‚ Maybe I’ll do the list someday. There’s nothing exotic. We eat pretty standard fare – keeping it simple.

        • Julie Geoffrion

          haha – deal πŸ™‚ I have my rotating monthly plan in an xcel sheet – I’ll email it to you.
          But, I didn’t think greatly about events coming up so like this month I’m already “behind” with Pierre travelling but that just means we have extra food since the kids and I eat comfort food and not much LOL

  2. Brilliant plan! The kids just might still ask, but at least the answering will be easier πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing your documents, and congratulations on making your first pages to give away!

    I’ve tried a month at a time but that doesn’t work too well with our schedules. Mostly I go a week at a time but keep the freezer and pantry full of staples to stretch things when I need to.
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    • JenSchon

      If you’re not used to planning then starting with a week at a time is great. Any planning is better than no planning.

  3. We grocery shop once a month because we live about 65 miles from the nearest Costco and other crucial stores. My hubs and I do it together because he is my human calculator and he keeps me on budget! I love your menu freebie (mine is so basic and not at all cute) I have already called my sister and told her about it. I definitely will be stopping by your blog again! Thanks so much.
    E.W. Allred recently posted…I can’t have it both ways.My Profile

    • Julie Geoffrion

      I’m Jen’s sister and she knows all this but we live about 30 miles from a Sams and with four mouths to feed (our fifth has left home for the Air Force and yet the food bill has not gone down) I shop once a month there. However, they offer a click and pull so I do my ordering for the month online and they shop for it. I LOVE it – I stay on budget while ordering from my bed lol. I also am able to put things in the cart all month as I see the need or pull them as we aren’t needing it ;). Budgets – such a lovely thing haha.
      Now, I only enter a grocery store about 2x per month for milk and a dab of this or that and I love it.

  4. Great freebie! Thanks for sharing it. I love our ideas on shopping once a month, it seems to really eliminate a lot of stress on whats for dinner! Thanks again!
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    • JenSchon

      It’s also a better use of time. It only takes a little longer to pick up several items for a month’s worth than it does to pick up one for a week’s worth.

  5. I buy most of my groceries once a month because my husband only gets paid once a month. But I am terrible at meal planning. If I have a plan a day ahead I am doing well. I really need to start planning meals. It sure would be easier to have a plan instead of just standing in front of my freezer scratching my head.
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    • JenSchon

      I can be really on and off about planning. Planning once a month makes it so much easier – just pick one time and I’m ready for an entire month. It really takes the pressure off.

  6. I usually try to plan my meals for a week, but I have never done it for the whole month. Thanks for the handy planning sheets, this will make it so much easier. Great post!!

  7. OMG! I LOVE this! Thanks for sharing & including printables! I hate trying to figure out what to make for the week, or I think about it mid-week and forget the next week. I’m currently on a diet and meal planning for the month will certainly help me stick to the plan. Pinning and sharing!
    Scarlett recently posted…The Truth About Weight LossMy Profile

  8. I have never done this, but would LOVE to do it. Our family’s schedule is extremely busy, but fairly consistent. If I could take the time to plan the quick meals for the days I work late and there are evening activities, I think this could actually work! It would help us avoid the dreaded fast food that is horrible for nutrition and frankly, no one in my family even likes. It would also avoid the “what’s for dinner?” that I hear consistently every single day I get home. I love the calendar and lists. Thanks for making this so easy!
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  9. I am impressed at your tenacity – an entire month at once! I can barely handle a week. If it helps, I use pocket (others I know use evernote), to easily track all of my online recipes so that when it’s time to plan meals, I can find something new without a lot of searching. Great post!
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    • JenSchon

      I have a recipe box on allrecipes.com. Sometimes when I’m just browsing recipes and see one that looks good I save it. I enjoy trying new recipes every once in a while.

  10. I struggle with planning a week at a time. My husband and I are still trying to master that before moving to a month at a time. We’re still exploring each other’s food and meal preferences as we’re in our first year of marriage. Maybe when we’ve been married longer, it will get easier? Thanks for sharing, the printables look amazing!
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    • JenSchon

      Start by keeping a record of all the meals you enjoy. You can use that as a base for your planning. And it’s a good thing to have whether you plan one week or one month at a time.

  11. I love this concept and also have a large family. My oldest daughter and I talk about doing this all the time – and have managed to get it up to two weeks. Our problem is that we travel full time in a motorhome – so the fridge would never hold that much food. One day when we are done traveling and we settle back down -maybe?!?

    Thanks for all the work you put into this post and the great print outs! What a blessing.
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    • JenSchon

      Much of what would need to be refrigerated we buy on a weekly basis. Let’s face it, I’m not going to buy 16 gallons of milk at once. πŸ™‚ Two weeks is a good amount though. Any planning is better than no planning.

  12. What a great bunch of resources you have given us to use! Thank you for sharing your work with us. My husband also does most of our shopping – and it is wonderful!

    • JenSchon

      I hate shopping so God gave me the absolutely perfect husband – he loves shopping. πŸ™‚

  13. I love the fact that you did an entire month! We have done probably two weeks (it was a challenge for some reason) but we now keep it to a week.

    I’d love to try this shop once a month, produce / dairy weekly, idea you have. That sounds like it will save a LOT of time in the end!

    Also when you brought up “kai si ming” I’ve never heard of it before. So I looked into it and oh my it looks and sounds amazing. Thanks for bringing that up! I believe we just found a new dinner idea for my family πŸ™‚
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    • JenSchon

      I think it’s a huge timesaver.
      Kai Si Ming – my children cannot get enough of that stuff. It’s even better the next day after the flavours have melded together. I don’t know how me managed before finding this wonderful dish. πŸ™‚

  14. I would LOVE to be able to plan meals in advanced. Unfortunately we are just getting by day to day. Hopefully when there is more income I can plan maybe 2 weeks in advanced. Thanks for your tips! I’ll have to try them out when I get the chance.
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    • JenSchon

      It has taken us a while to where we could shop for a month at a time. Having a plan of any kind though always helps you to save money.

    • JenSchon

      I had way too many times of reaching five and not knowing what else to do and deciding on having eggs for supper again. I just didn’t want to continue down that path.

  15. This is really cool! Meal planning is NOT my strong point – even though I know it can save money and a lot of stress/frustration. The idea of making a meal plan each week makes me cringe. You mean I have to do this four times this month…and every month thereafter? Eek! I’d love a post on some of your recipes – even just names with links to recipes on other sites or on other pages. It would help me fill in my meal plan by saying X day I’ll try X recipe. We tend to eat a lot of the same things over and over again. Some of my blog’s readers are interested in meal planning so, as a beginner, I have a lot more research to do on the topic πŸ™‚
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    • JenSchon

      Maybe next month I’ll post our menu with every thing linked up. For sure planning saves money, time and frustration.

  16. I’ve thought about doing a monthly meal plan for over a year and still haven’t gotten it done. It would help for my uninspired days. If I had the freezer space, I’d probably do a batch cooking day once a month and make a few meals that could be frozen to make life easier for the days I didn’t want to cook or would be really busy.

    • JenSchon

      It’s so nice when I’m feeing uninspired to just look at menu for what I’m making for supper. I’d love to do more freezer cooking. Maybe someday.

    • JenSchon

      So nice to have things ready to go. Yeah for you having a husband who cooks. Mine can do a great job if I need him to. It’s been a big help more than once when I’ve been not feeling well for him to be able to do this.

  17. This is cool! Thanks for sharing. I plan on using the list for sure. Lately it seems we’re lucky if we can plan three or four days out and I have all of a sudden within the past year or so started to loathe grocery shopping! This would help with both of those. I’m always fascinated to see how other people do things so this was great to peak into your planning process!
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    • JenSchon

      I feel your pain about the grocery shopping. I’m just so blessed that my husband loves to do it. I think planning all of your meals for the month would cut down on the amount of time that you would have to spend in the grocery store.

  18. Good for you! I’ve tried meal planning a variety of different ways. I try to go with the flow, and use whatever works best at that time. Lately, I’ve simple been cooking from what I have on hand, trying to keep things on hand I know we enjoy eating. Thank you for sharing your method… I might be tempted to try it again! πŸ™‚
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    • JenSchon

      I’ve done a lot of the winging too, but with eight children I kind of need a plan. πŸ™‚

  19. I love this idea. My hubby and I are a family of two, so I wouldn’t say we have a huge need for it, but we do get stuck in a rut and I think if we planned a little further out, we would have more creative dishes and less stress. My hubby shops and cooks – how lucky are we!?

    • JenSchon

      I didn’t know how much I would want a husband who shops until I had one. πŸ™‚ I’m training my children how to cook so maybe I’ll eventually work my way out of a job in the kitchen.

  20. Jen, a friend taught me how to menu plan years ago and it has been such a time and money saver. No more trying to figure out what to cook at the last minute and then not having all the ingredients I need!

    Although I’m always on the lookout for new recipes we have the same thing each week. I know, sounds boring to me too. But my family appreciates the consistency. For example, every Monday we have sweet & sour meatballs, Tuesdays is Pesto Chicken and so on.

    I actually created my menu as a Word document. Then I type what’s for dinner each night, print it up and hang it on the refrigerator. πŸ™‚
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    • JenSchon

      My husband wants me to do one plan that will work for every month. I’m not quite up to thirty meals yet, but if I can get there then I will just have a perpetual menu. It does save time and money to plan your meals out. Makes for happier children too because they know what to expect. πŸ™‚

  21. Great ideas! I haven’t went out as far as a month but I have done 2 weeks. It makes life so much simpler having things planned ahead. No stress over what to have tonight or running through a dreaded fast food place. Thanks for the printouts!
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  22. It sounds like a lot of work but considering how much time I can waste hunting through the cupboards for something to throw together, it sounds like in the long run, its much easier to do. You’ve hit on a great idea. Thanks for sharing the preparation pages. It makes it a lot easier as well. And no,sadly, we don’t plan meals by the month. We’re lucky to even do 2! Thanks again for this.
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    • JenSchon

      Once you have the basic meals and sides written down it’s easy to add them to the menu plan just taking into account your schedule. I think this takes a lot of the trouble away for me. Instead of sitting down four times a month to plan, I sit down once. I think we’re eating more variety now instead of the same old quick standby’s.

  23. I have learned that I am a terrible menu planner. I am such an emotional eater that I have a difficult time sticking to the menu. I plan it just no execution. I am trying different things so we shall see. Your post is motivating to me. I could plan 30 meals and get groceries for them but don’t specify the day…that just might work! πŸ˜‰
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  24. Oh my goodness, this is amazing! You must have spent such a long time on these, but they look great and would be so helpful! It’s funny, I’ve always thought it would be easier if I just had a month’s worth of meals and grocery lists just written out. Then it comes around to it, and I don’t want to do the work involved. But imagine how much trouble it would save to plan it all ahead of time! Love this, thank you!
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  25. Wow I wish I could be that organized and inspired to cook. I am definitely a two night a week gal to cook, two nights my hubby cooks, one night we get take out, and the rest it’s usually something quick. Great inspiration I can bet this will make life easier.

    Deb
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    • JenSchon

      I’m not always very organized or inspired. I figured though that once a month I could pull off a menu that would keep me on track.

  26. Okay, to be honest, I downloaded everything before I even commented. Your first paragraph describes me to a T, other than the fact that I really hadn’t thought about doing a month long menu. I’m like you. It gets to be around 4:00 – 5:00 and then I am scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner. I am lucky though. If I don’t get something together, which is fairly frequently, my husband will come home and throw something together, God bless him! I think what you have here is going to make a change in this household! Thank you and my husband thanks you too!
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  27. One thing that I took out of this post, well two things…is that I should start making grocery shopping lists categorized by the aisle or section of the store. That will save me so much time! The another thing is that it’s very convenient to insert planning sheets into a page protector and use wipe off markers to cross off ingredient as I buy them in the store. I couldn’t do a month-long plan. It’s just me and my sweetie, and it’s hard to keep food fresh without going bad before we’ve had a chance to eat it. Plus, our refrigerator is on the small side. Also, you have me interested…what is kai si ming?
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    • JenSchon

      I’ve organized my grocery lists by categories for as long as I’ve been grocery shopping. I do the same thing for the lists I make for my husband. That way when I’m in the produce section (for example) I can easily see what I need there and not leave out something and have to go back.
      Kai Si Ming is a hamburger and cabbage dish. It’s super filling and tasty and inexpensive which makes it a great recipe in my books.

  28. Great post! I love practical advice like this, and those printables are very nice!
    I liked this post so much that I signed up for your blog mailing list.

    I, too, try to plan out a menu, but just for a week at a time. I can see the advantage for you to do a month at a time, but with just two of us here, a weekly menu works well. You probably don’t have much of an issue with leftovers with your large family, but I plan just four meals per week because we almost always have leftover to use the other days.

    Thanks again for a great post!
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    • JenSchon

      No leftovers aren’t an issue. Any that we might have are usually eaten up at lunch the next day. πŸ™‚

  29. I would love to try this, but might chicken out and try starting with 2 week menu plan. I haven’t been fantastic at doing weekly menu plans, but I need to be more consistent because I really enjoy the weeks better when I know what needs to be cooked when. The idea of only having to do one major grocery trip each month sounds wonderful! And I love your idea of framing the menu plan.
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  30. Jennifer, when I am on top of it I do menu plan for a month at a time. Lately, I have done the menu plan for a month plus done the shopping. Life happens and our schedule changes one night so the meal changes. So I end up swapping with another night and before I know it, my menu is a mess! I am setting a goal to get April’s menu and shopping list done this week! My husband and I go shopping together – he helps me stay on budget (most of the time!) and this way he knows what I am getting. He is happy to cook dinner as long as he knows “what’s for dinner” and that is where I need to get it on the calendar. Thank you for the kick in the pants to make dinner a little less stressful for my family! ~Adrienne
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    • JenSchon

      You’re welcome. My husband and children don’t mind helping out either if they know what’s coming.

  31. I also put together a monthly menu plan. I always dread putting together the menu plan because it’s tedious, but it saves me so much time in the long run! (Especially grocery shopping.) Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  32. This is such a great idea. I always want to menu plan but can never quite get started with the organization part. You have pointed me in the right direction and given me a few tools to use. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this!

  33. I have planned whole months in advance in the past, by the week, and as I do currently, every two weeks. For now two weeks is what’s working the best for me. Don’t you find what you need often changes at different points/stages in life? I do. If you are still looking to make healthier changes to your diet, please stop by my blog sometimeβ€”lots of tips for eating whole foods on a budget, along with yummy recipes. I’d love to hear from you over there. πŸ™‚ (And I love your da Vinci quote! Perfect.)
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    • JenSchon

      From time to time I do have to re-examine what we’re doing and see where it needs tweeking to make it work best for us.

  34. I don’t think I could ever plan a month out in advance! I am the worst cook in the world, and our meals are usually chicken… tacos… stir fry… repeat! I What do you do about produce and fruits and veggies? Do you shop for those weekly, and then everything else in advance?
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  35. I would love to get to this point. I’m organizing a massive amount of recipes now. It would be great to have a meal planning menu. Would relieve a lot of stress too. I could also eliminate running to the grocery store several times a week. Thanks for sharing!
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