The after school rush is the most difficult part of my day. Dylan and Lexie want to share their days with me, Lily is usually waking up from a nap, and Liam is hungry. There is homework-LOTS of homework-that needs to be done and there are four kids fighting for my attention. The last thing I want to worry about is figuring out what we're eating for dinner!
I planned meals for several years and it worked well for my family. About a year ago, I decided to make monthly meal plans. This method keeps me so organized in the kitchen! It is one of my favorite time-saving tips for big families.
To start, I came up with a list of our favorite meals. I asked for input from Grant, Dylan, and Lexie. I also asked my friends to share their favorite quick and easy meals. Once my list was completed, I looked at my calendar and picked a day to start my monthly meal plan.
I shop for groceries every other Friday. My new monthly meal plan starts on the Sunday following my first shopping trip of the month. I plan enough dinners for 28 days.
Right before I grocery shop, I sit down with my calendar for the month, and figure out how many dinners I will need to make in that 28 day span. Once I eliminate our once a week meals with family, and allot for 4 additional days where we would have dinner with other family/friends or eat out, I only need to come up with 20 meals. That number will vary depending on holidays and birthday parties, too.
After I figure out how many dinners I need to make, I pull out my list and start adding meals to a paper calendar. In addition to our favorites, my goal is to try 1 new recipe a month. I usually find this recipe on Pinterest or Allrecipes.
Once I have a completed list, I add the ingredients I need to my shopping list, then stock up my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. I always buy a large selection of fresh and frozen vegetables for healthy side dish options!
My final step is writing out a quick weekly meal plan on a dry erase magnetic board. I put it on the front of our refrigerator so nobody pesters me about what's for dinner!
This may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you have a list of your favorite meals completed, this process is quick and easy!
Here's a sample monthly dinner menu for my family (most meals are served with a vegetable):
- Parmesan Baked Chicken with Rice
- Taco Soup
- Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese and Fish
- Spaghetti with meat sauce
- Breaded Chicken and Stuffing with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
- Chicken Enchiladas with Spanish Rice
- Tacos with Beans
- Poppyseed Chicken with Rice
- Ham, Potato, and Cheese Casserole
- Stuffed Peppers with Mashed Potatoes
- Smothered Pork Chops
- Swiss Chicken in the crockpot and Mashed Potatoes
- Make Your Own Pizza
- Beef Cubes over Noodles
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- Paprika Chicken with Dumplings
- Oven Baked Chicken Casserole with Potatoes and Carrots
- Roast with Potatoes and Carrots
- Steak with Baked Potatoes
Once you have a master list of meals, the entire meal planning process, with the exception of shopping (which you have to do anyway!), takes about 10 minutes.
This method saves me so much time and energy! I always know what's for dinner and I never have to run to the store for ingredients. That's a win!
Do you meal plan? What are your favorite meals?