Once a Month Meal Planning: November

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November always seems like a short month. With two FishKid birthdays and a long Thanksgiving weekend, the month seems to fly by in a flash.

And it always seems like daily life is full! A look at the calendar tells me that in addition to the regular schedule of school, piano lessons, Biology lab, and hockey practice, we also have art co-op, more medical tests for moi, the aforementioned birthdays (aka school holidays), two field trips, a visit with old friends from KC, and cookbook edits. Whoo eee! It’s gonna be a great month!

So, easy meals are the name of  the game. Items with an asterisk * will come from my current or future freezer stash. (Check out Life as Mom on Saturday for my freezer cooking plan.) These are all very budget-friendly and make use of what is seasonal and on sale.

Here’s how the plan is shaking down:


A few months ago I started offering my kids a breakfast bar. It was a great way to accommodate staggered wake-up times as well as to keep me from being a short order cook on weekdays. I forgot about it in the wake of our fall vacation, but it’s back! I plan to offer a daily selection of these items:


I’ve got an easy lunch rotation going on, too


I’ve got the whole month of dinners planned. Yes, really. And it really wasn’t that hard, especially with my new tweak: dinner buffets.

Since we have Mexican food and pasta each once a week, I’m framing them as buffets. I’ll offer several different options of taco fillings along with toppings and different bases, like tortillas or hard shells. Each of my peeps can make himself happy and I don’t have to hear, “But I wanted quesadillas,” when I’m serving tacos.

As my teenage son said, “It’s like XYZ Buffet — but only good.” Amen to that, bro.

We’ll be having each of these themed buffets once a week, but since I can vary the sauces and fillings, it really won’t be the same thing twice. We get variety as well as something we can count on.

1. Pasta bar: lots of noodles, two kinds of sauce, like Rustic Basil Sauce* and Slow Cooker Red Sauce*, garlic bread, salad

2. Tortellini Soup

3. Grilled marinated chicken*, sauteed greens, rice, bread

4. Pizza Night

5. Mexibar: taco filling (like Salsa Verde Beef), toppings, tortillas, taco shells or chips

6. Grilled tri-tip, baked potato, salad

7. Quesadillas, salad

8. Pasta bar: lots of noodles, two kinds of sauce, garlic bread, salad

9. Bday dinner – Kid’s choice

10. Chihuahua Chili, cornbread

11. Pizza Night

12. Mexibar: taco filling (like Carnitas), toppings, tortillas (maybe homemade), taco shells or chips

13. Dinner with friends: Enchiladas, Salad, Green Beans, Rice

14. Birthday dinner – Kid’s choice

15. Pasta bar: lots of noodles, two kinds of sauce, garlic bread, salad

16. Asian Chicken*, Potstickers and Sauce, Rice, Stirfry Greens

17. Roast Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Garlic Green Beans

18. Pizza Night

19: Mexibar: taco filling (like leftover roast chicken), toppings, tortillas, taco shells or chips

20. Pot Roast, Potatoes, Carrots, Salad, Biscuits

21. Beef and Barley Soup, Popovers

22. Pasta bar: lots of noodles, two kinds of sauce, maybe a lasagna, garlic bread, salad

23. Take-out

24. Thanksgiving!

25. Pizza Night

26. Mexibar: taco filling (like Shredded Beef), toppings, tortillas, taco shells or chips

27. Turkey Pot Pie

28. Quesadillas, veggie dippers

29. Pasta bar: lots of noodles, two kinds of sauce, garlic bread, salad

30. Chef’s Choice

Do you plan or fly by the seat of your pants?

Check out I’m an Organizing Junkie for a regular round up of real life meal plans.

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  1. I’m intrigued by the mexi-bar etc concept but I often feel that when I do things like that I’m doing a LOT more prep and a LOT more dishes than I do otherwise – what’s your experience been like?
    Pasta isn’t much of an issue here [they’ll be happy with it any way at all LOL] but mexican nights often go like that – even when I make enchiladas I make two different kinds – chicken AND beef – or someone doesn’t eat. And one kid won’t eat it anyhow [so he gets rice and whatever’s on hand] Chaos LOL

    • @cherie, well, at our house, I usually have grated cheese, salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce, etc, to top whatever it is we’re having. So, quesadillas, tacos, and burritos only vary by a few degrees. Only 4 out of 8 of us eat enchiladas, so even if the others are eating the beans and rice, they’re still adding the toppings. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. I’m going to have to try your pasta bar idea the next time the younger crowd is visiting. They’d rather have Alfredo than a red or meat sauce which is what the others prefer.

  3. We have the same thing going on at our house. Both my girls have their birthdays the same week as Thanksgiving – week long party!! Your meal plan sounds yummy. I like the mexi-bar idea. I like to do salad bars and leftover buffet after Thanksgiving and Christmas works well.

  4. We also have two birthdays this month at the WWIM household so I know how hectic it can get! Happy birthday to the Fish kids. We also do the taco and pasta buffet here at our house.

    When it comes to taco night I put the meat, lettuce and all the extras on the tables along with soft shell and hard shell tacos. My husband makes a taco salad (crushing hard shells into the salad versus a shell bowl), my daughter takes two soft shells and makes a quesadilla with the quesadilla maker we bought her for Christmas last year, my son has soft shell tacos and I have a hard shell taco. It really isn’t any more work for me and every one gets what they want.

    Same thing with spaghetti. I do add the red sauce to the spaghetti but then I put a bowl of plain buttered noodles on the table and let the kids add cheese or whatever else they want to it.

  5. I love your meal plan–it’s heavy on “Mexican” and pasta nights, just like our house. We have a long list of food allergies to deal with and I find that doing a buffet or bar, everyone gets something they like and it’s MUCH less work for me. I also do potato bar night (toppings include chili, bacon, cheese, sour cream, butter, chives, broccoli, onions) and I do hot dog bar (same toppings as potato bar!). I’m trying your pasta bar idea-I already make 2 different pastas to accommodate the food allergies, why not make 2 different sauces, too?

  6. Another “bar” i have done is with potatoes. This is great with leftover meat. One time I had extra taco meat and some left over chicken. I put out shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and some other left over items. My family could make what they wanted. My daughter is not a huge potato fan but was still able to create something.

  7. I meal plan for a month a time, too! Makes our lives SOOO much easier. I don’t think I could survive without my one month menu plan anymore, honestly. 🙂

  8. I’m a fly by the seat of your pants kind of cook. Although I do plan a week at a time. I get cravings or I have to rethink meals because of kids’ sports or activities. Some meals need to be heavy for my athletes and others need to be quick and easy for those eating on the run. I do love reading through your ideas though, they are great!

  9. Hello Jessica,
    I have enjoyed your book, blog, and down to earth approach to family management. Thank you for sharing. I have a question about how your morning schedule works around everyone getting their own breakfast. We, too, are a family with 6 kids, though not as far down the road as you all (I have a 1 yo and my oldest is 12), and I spend a lot of time on breakfast preparation each day, then eating together and having Bible time and read aloud. I think I could streamline this, so am curious how your schedule works, or has changed over the years.

    Thanks, Heather

    • On the days when it “works”, I set things out early, like 6 or 7, and let folks come and go as they please. Each week/day has its designated start time for school. I often do Bible or our read aloud while the late risers are eating or doing their kitchen chores.

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