Monthly Menu – An Easy Way to Plan your Dinners + a Free Printable

monthly meal planning britainearl

I’m going to state the obvious for a second: my transition from full time lawyer to full time wife, then wife and mom, then add 2 more children, and a photography gig, then 2 more kids, all in the space of 9 years has been quite challenging.

Prior to staying home, I always thought that I would love cooking if I could just stay home.  I mean, I love food, and I love cooking shows, now if I just had the time, I would love cooking gorgeous delicacies for my family.  What I learned about myself is that while I love to eat delicious food, I do not love spending countless hours planning and preparing said food, only for the 6 additional mouths to feed to push the gorgeous food around on their plates and whine about how they’d rather have some Mac and Cheese.  After a significant inner battle, I came to terms with the fact that I would like to plan, make and serve, easy meals that are delicious enough for all to enjoy, and then spend my spare time trying beautiful delicious delicacies out at my favorite restaurants – without my children.

So, after years, and years of learning from others, reading blog after blog, attending seminars, talking to moms I admire, and trying, and trying again different meal planning techniques and calendars, I’ve finally developed a menu plan that works for my family. Here are the steps I used to come up with my simple monthly meal plan:

1)     Create a Home Store. I followed the outline set forth in Provident Living, and created a home store of 3 months of food that our family ate regularly.

2)      Track the foods your family likes and eats.  This is as simple as just keeping a list of dinners everyone says, “Yum!” to.  At first I felt pressured to have a large variety of meals, like 30 or forty to create a varied menu.  But after making a record of what we liked to eat, I realized we were pretty simple in our tastes.  I noticed some trends in our eating habits.

3)      Take the trends and make a weekly dinner meal plan based on your favorites.  The weekly meal plan has changed and grown over the years, but it now looks a little something like this:









Crock Pot







4)      Multiply by 4 (or 5), Make it easy and flexible.* To make a Monthly plan, multiply your weeks by 4 or 5, depending on how many recipes you have.  We basically had a list of 40 or so meals that fit into these 7 categories.  When I first did this menu I was serving the Young Women of my church every Wednesday night, so every Wednesday night we had Spaghetti.  When I had more time at home, Spaghetti night became Pasta night and moved to Thursdays.

5)       Write it down.  I committed my plan to paper and posted it the pantry.  Each day only takes a glance to know what’s for dinner.

easy meal planning for busy families

6)      Build your home store.  I took all the recipes for the dinners on my monthly meal planner and made a shopping list.  I bought everything at the beginning of the month.  (But for perishables that I buy weekly.)  I made a plan to double up on a few items each month until I had my pantry stocked with a 3 month supply of the foods we eat regularly.  (Additionally, I started a plan to store long term items as well, but that’s a post for another day.)

The benefits of working with this monthly meal plan are:

1)      You always have an answer for, “what’s for dinner?”

3)      Everyone in the family enjoys dinner.

Free Printables!!!!

My Family’s Plan:

britain earls monthly meal plan_my plan

Choose your own adventure:

easy monthly meal

I’m including our family’s monthly meal plan, and also a blank calendar to plan your own month.   I recently decided to take my monthly meal planner off the pantry wall, and give it a new glam home inside this fabulous Recipe Binder from the ever chic Sugar Paper.  I love having all our favorite recipes in one beautiful place.

easy meal planning for busy families


*when my husband saw this post he said something to the effect of, “we don’t do that.”  I was not surprised for 2 reasons, 1) he’s a little clueless to this kind of stuff and would probably not notice if I served spaghetti every night for a year; 2) the plan (and I) are so flexible that I commonly do burritos on Monday and crockpot on Wednesday, etc. the point of the plan is that I have a meal plan each week with little to know effort based on the idea of themed nights.  Once I explained that to him, he understood how we actually do “do this.”  I hope this meal plan makes sense and serves to help your meal planning efforts.

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