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A Month of Meals: Intro and Monthly Menu Planning

MonthofMealsWelcome to the first of a week long series on menu planning and grocery budgeting. Today I am going to give an intro and share how I go about planning our meals a month at a time. Tomorrow I will be sharing the recipes I will be using for my 4 week menu. Thursday we'll focus on the grocery list and shopping. Friday is all about freezer cooking. Saturday I will be posting a review, answers to questions in the comments section, or social media, and a link back to all the posts in case you missed one.

Our food budget has been low for a long time. Our budget is currently at $300 but has been as low as $100. Some things to take into account if you want lower your food budget:

  • Don't buy boxed or frozen meals. They are costly, filled with junk, and also wastefully packaged

  • Be prepared to cook from scratch.

  • Stop serving "family" style. By dishing the plates in advance you can make sure everyone has appropriate serving sizes and you can pack up leftovers if you intend to split a meal into two or more meals.

  • Is someone still hungry? Instead of adding seconds, add a salad or apple slices with peanut butter.

  • Don't plan a different meal for each day of the month.


Right now our family has some unique needs. Yes, we are gluten free, but that is not what I am talking about. We are living with my parents while we wait to go on mission in Montreal. My mom is a bit territorial over the kitchen so we need to be able to get in and out as quickly as possible. There is limited food storage space too. Plus my mom usually cooks dinner for us but when she doesn't I end up finding out at supper time. While it is true that we personally won't be using all of this month's meals this month, we will keep them stored in the freezer for the month or two that Adam will not be working before our leave date. All these things I kept in mind as I began looking for meals to add to our menu. So, let's get started planning the menu!

I planned a 4 week menu for September. For us it starts today and goes to the last day of the month. That means we need 28 suppers, 28 lunches, and 28 breakfasts. That sounds a bit daunting, I know. When you stop trying to think of 28 different meals for each, it gets better. Variety is great but it is also expensive and time consuming. On a normal basis, I would make a new menu each month. We keep the meals that we aren't tired of to the next month and add new ones. We'll start with supper because it has the most variety. You will notice that some of the recipes make enough for 2 meals for our family of three and I have taken that into account.
Supper

 

Make 2 of each.

 

Pesto Chicken and Green Beans: 2 meals

Mexican Chicken Taco Stuffing: 4 meals

Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry: 4 meals

Ranch Chicken and Potatoes: 2 meals

Italian Chicken Stir Fry: 2 meals

Italian Chicken and Potatoes: 2 meals

Hawaiian BBQ Chicken: 4 meals

Corny Chicken: 2 meals

Baked Ziti: 2 meals

Mermaid Hair Casserole: 2 meals

Beef and Broccoli Pasta: 2 meals

 

All but the ziti will be included in freezer cooking.

 

 
Lunch

 

Onigiri (rice balls) 3 days per week: 12 meals

Tuna Quesadillas 3 days per week: 12 meals

Leftovers once per week: 4 meals

 

Leftovers may include left over, reheat, meals or any food that is close to date. Mix and match and turn it into something new.

 

 
Breakfast

 

Donuts once per week: 4 meals

Oatmeal 6 days per week: 24 meals

Cereal 6 days per week: 24 meals

We are not huge breakfast people. We usually add peanut butter or fruit to our oatmeal. Lunch is a busy kitchen time here so I tend to do onigiri, which can be made in advance or quesadillas which are super fast to make. Donuts with hot chocolate are a special treat on Friday mornings. It is important to budget in something special. This isn't some crazy diet and it shouldn't be a punishment. We really look forward to Friday mornings and we make it a special family time.

That seems to be it. We have all the meals planned for the whole month. The next step is to get all of our recipes together and I will see you tomorrow for that!

Have questions about planning the menu? Ask them in the comments and I will make sure to get them answered!

You can find the rest of the series here.

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