Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Month in Meals

People often ask me how I manage to go grocery shopping only once a month. To me it really isn't hard, since I'm already keeping track of schedules anyway, and now that I'm closing out my third full year of monthly meal planning, I thought I'd share my process. I actually really enjoy it, but I will share a few things: some months are easier than others, my family is on the road a lot so I often go for convenience, I don't cook a ton of food from scratch, and we eat a lot of the same meals over and over from month to month.

I start by pulling out my magnetic calendar. This stays on the fridge all month long. I plan my meals around pay day, not the beginning of the month, because that's when I do my grocery shopping.

1. Starting with a blank calendar, I fill in the dates, as well as going through my Google calendar and marking any known conflicts - nights I know we won't be home for dinner or we might need something fast (my family's favorites include Ramen noodles, Mac & Cheese, frozen pizza, pot pies, and Lean Pockets). I also mark off most Sundays because for lunch we eat with my in-laws for Sunday dinner, and at night we usually do some sort of "fend for yourself" (but not really, my kids are little, after all!) type of popcorn or sandwiches.

2. For the remaining dates I fill in as many meals as I can think of. This usually consists of the basics like spaghetti, soup, pancakes, tacos, etc.

3. Next I make a running grocery list of all the ingredients we will need for the meals I listed, and then start adding in the regular items: bread, milk, cheese, lunch meat, applesauce, cereal, etc. and check with husband on less regular items like dog food, dish washer soap, laundry detergent, and so on.

4. Because I'm super anal, I write down the approximate cost of each item on my list so that I have an idea of where I'm at with my budget and how much I'll be spending before I even walk in the door.

5. Some months I just go to Wal-Mart, some months I go to Hy-Vee, and once in a very great while, I will hit Hy-Vee, Fareway, AND Wal-Mart.

1. I do one MAJOR grocery trip, but I do sometimes have to make a run for things like milk or fresh produce.

2. When I do buy a lot of fresh produce (like if there is a sale) I try to put those meals toward the beginning of our meal plan so I can use them up before they go bad.

3. You spend more money when you take your kids or your husband with you!

Some Changes for February:
1. This month was the first month I tried doing my grocery list online/on my phone - I wasn't a fan. I'll probably go back to my notebook paper.

2. This month I wanted to do some frozen meals because our "making" experience for February is going to be cooking, and also to try to get some better quality/variety meals than frozen pizza. I found some great pins on Pinterest with meals that sounded good. I'll follow up on that one later!


  1. As I'm reading this I can't help but giggle! I do almost this exact thing only weekly instead of monthly because that is how I'm paid. I even write out the amounts of each item so I have an idea of what I'll be spending. Actually I go so far as to list everything in order by aisle to save time and keep on track so I don't over spend :D my husband grumbles about that part but it does the job when he has to make the trip instead of me! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Side note: I have tries using my nook for my list and I just prefer pen and paper!

    1. I'm right there with you. The app I used this time was just Google Keep, which I love for list making in general, but for my grocery list I'm still partial to doing it by hand! So glad I'm not the only one who does this! Though I don't do it by aisle since I never know where I'll be doing my shopping. I bet I could come close, though!

  3. I'm with you with the paper and pencil approach! I even still keep a paper planner because I like to be able to cross things off and write things down and kind of keep it as a journal even! I do my meal planning right in my calendar and have a running grocery list right there. :). I do still keep my calendar in my phone also because then my husband and I can see each other's calendars and know what's going on.