How to Meal Plan for a Whole Month

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Make your month a little easier by planning all your meals at one time. You can easily meal plan for a whole month and save time and money in the process.

loaded mashed potatoes

Burning Love Mashed Potatoes

I know what you’re thinking….

Meal plan for a whole month? What, are you crazy? I can’t plan two days, how could I possibly meal plan for a whole month?

And why would you want to?

Well, my friend, meal planning is your ticket to saving time, money, and a fair amount of stress when you or those you love start to get hangry. Meal planning can help you stretch your resources, be they the groceries you have on hand or the money you budget each month to buy food.

When I’m doing a Pantry Challenge, it’s almost imperative that I meal plan for a whole month. In doing so, I can space out my ingredients so that I don’t use up all the proteins the first week and then slog through on beans and rice for the other three weeks of the month.

More than that, whenever life starts to feel really busy, I get the urge to meal plan for a whole month as well. It helps me know that I’m ahead in some area of life, and that if I know nothing else, at least I know what’s for dinner.

If you’re wanting to ramp up your organization and kill four birds with one stone, monthly meal planning is for you! It can help you organize for the whole month as well as save money through bulk buying and watching sales for things you’ll want in a few weeks.

Here’s how to meal plan for a whole month:

monthly meal planning calendar with pens and cookbooks

Create a month-long meal plan.

Here’s the basic method for planning a month of meals at a time:

  1. Print out a calendar for the month. Fill it in with the dates for the month if it’s a blank calendar. I used the printable calendar from this.
  2. Plunk down special events and holidays. Those meals will be different than regular nights, so you’ll want to remember to plan for something special.
  3. Plug in regular meals, like Friday Pizza Night or Soup Night, that you have every week.
  4. Look at the nights that have activities like hockey practice or play rehearsal. Plan easy meals on those nights.
  5. Start adding meals into the remaining squares, alternating meatless with meat, or varying the proteins from night to night to keep things exciting.

That wasn’t hard, was it?

Remember you’re not married to this plan! Write it in pencil if it makes you feel less committed.

Feel free to change it up as different things happen throughout the month, drawing arrows where you’ll swap tonight’s meal with another night. By the end of the month, it may look like a very complicated football play, but that’s okay!

The meal plan is designed to help you. To really be successful in life and in serving great meals, you need to be flexible. A meal plan can give you direction without being the law.

And a meal plan for a whole month can buy you a lot of time down the road.

shepherds pie with a spoon scooping

Sample Monthly Meal Plan

  1. Homemade Sloppy Joes, Veggie Tray, Salad
  2. Rice and Beans with Toppings
  3. Carnitas Soft Tacos, leftover beans and rice
  4. Shepherd’s Pie, seasonal vegetables
  5. Skillet Pork Chops, Cheesy Potatoes, seasonal vegetables
  6. Soup Night, Good Bread
  7. Pizza Night
  8. Turkey and Pepper Lettuce Wraps, Potstickers with Dipping Sauce
  9. Six Layer Nachos, fruit salad
  10. Chicken Enchilada Casserole, rice, beans
  11. Meatloaf, Stuffed Potatoes, seasonal vegetables
  12. Dinner out for a birthday
  13. Soup Night, Good Bread
  14. Bean and Cheese Burritos, Mexican Rice, salad
  15. Pizza Night
  16. Rice Bowls with Chicken, Potstickers, and seasonal vegetables
  17. Hamburgers, Veggie Tray, Salad
  18. Pasta Bar, Salad, Garlic Bread
  19. Meatballs & Mashed Potatoes, seasonal vegetables
  20. Asian Chicken Salad with Noodles
  21. Soup Night, Good Bread
  22. Pizza Night
  23. Lasagne, Salad, Bread
  24. Rice Bowls
  25. Taco Night
  26. Pasta with Quick Red Sauce, seasonal vegetables, rolls
  27. Turkey Pesto Panini, Oven Fries, seasonal vegetables
  28. Pizza Night
  29. Soup Night, Good Bread
  30. Chicken Caesar Sandwiches, seasonal fruit

I’m sure there are lovers and haters of a monthly meal plan. Do what works for YOU!

In case you missed the previous posts, I’ve already addressed the methods for weekly and bi-weekly meal planning. Choose what suits you!

What’s YOUR favorite meal planning style?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Sandi says

    I’d fall in the hater category (such a harsh description!) since my life and schedule is nowhere near predictable enough for this. If I had a set schedule, then maybe. I’m really curious, though, that Thanksgiving is listed for that Thursday, but nothing else indicates leftovers. Do you just not have leftovers (gasp! the sacrilege!), or are you figuring to use them up for lunches rather than a dinner meal?

    • Chris says

      We often don’t have left overs after thanksgiving. It’s sad but we end up making just what we need. I know several that make a weekly list and don’t plan it by day so they can pick and choose from the menu. That way they know what their making and have the supplies for it already. Makes shopping easier.

  2. Susan says

    Love it! Especially when it’s cold outside and I can stay in and not worry about supplies for meals. Love to go to my freezer or pantry and have something to prepare. Thanks for the ideas.

  3. I love doing a monthly calendar. I don’t do it exactly for the month though. We go shopping the second paycheck of the month, this month it will be our monthly shopping trip on the 17th. Our month starts then and I’ll plan meals accordingly. We’ll grab milk/bread/eggs every two weeks at Costco and fresh veggies every week at Wegmans. Otherwise the the big shopping is done once a month.

  4. Molly says

    I want to eat at your house.
    We alternate between weekly and bi- weekly planning, but without a calendar. We cook on saturday and eat as we want all week.

  5. Sarah P says

    I am a lover of freezer/make ahead/batch cooking. The biggest reason I love it is saving money while eating great food. I was able to fix a month of freezer meals and breakfast for my family of 2 adults and 1 teen for only 292.00. This is not including fresh salad, milk, and sandwich fixings for school lunch. This is way better than months past. I shop at BJ’s and Wegmans. Plus, a Walmart run. I have enjoyed the meals. I’m going to try just a two week session next time:)

  6. Donna says

    I’m a fan, though I only plan two weeks out at a time with a little bit of a forward look to the two weeks after… I shop twice a month and truly try to think of everything in that one shopping trip. Any time I can save myself from being in a store saves me money as I’m like you, I love to grocery shop and I love buying food! I’m not big on the stocking of the freezer since I don’t have a huge freezer and I cook for people for a living, but I’ve found what works really well for us if if I’m making one batch of something, I make two and freeze one for later use. This keeps 3-4 meals in the freezer at all times and saves oodles of time. I can utilize frozen meals in future two week rotations and they are a lifesaver. Thanks for another great blog, Jessica… I love your blog!

  7. Julie says

    I neither a lover nor a hater — I kind of do both. I start with a monthly calendar and fill in important events (holidays or birthdays) and nights I know have to be something especially quick. Then, because the rest of our weekly schedule varies without warning, I plan about a week at a time.

  8. BethB says

    I’ve found it just doesn’t work for me to plan more than a week’s, sometimes even 4-5 days, of meals at one time. I find myself struggling for ideas to fill that many days or if I do make a more detailed plan I feel boxed in. However, the best big box store and Trader Joe’s are farther away from my house than I care to drive on a weekly basis so I’ve worked out a system that meets our needs.

    Instead of filling out a specific meal plan at the beginning of the month I make a list of 15-20 meals. This list includes our standards as well as a new recipes I’ve pulled out of cookbooks or found on the internet (I’m also setting aside monthly time to browse my cookbooks). Then I make a grocery list for my monthly trips to the stores mentioned above. So I have ideas written down, a stocked pantry, and this still leaves quite a few days in the month for experimentation, leftovers, or to allow for a change of plan.

    It also helps that I have a few meals I alternate on a bi-weekly basis. Pizza or tacos on Friday, meatloaf or enchiladas (both from the freezer – yay!) on Wednesday, etc.. That way I filling those days is a no-brainer. I’ve also learned how to keep a pantry with versatile ingredients which helps a lot. I think most of us use the same basic meal componets for many different meals so being tuned into that helps a lot.

  9. LOVER!!!!!!!!! I especially love it when we actually FOLLOW the plan. 😉

  10. Katie says

    Lover of meal planning, but our schedules are such that I pretty much have components in our freezer to complete meals as needed and haven’t been planning out the whole month. I guess in a way it’s “themed” – Meatless Monday, Poultry Tuesday/Thursday, Pork or Meat on Wednesday and Sunday, Pizza or takeout on Friday and leftovers or eating out on Saturday.

    I cook the meats when I get them and put them in the freezer, as well as beans and rice. Then I can just pull out what I need in the morning and pull together soup, stew, tqcos, casserole, etc. for dinner that night. I write down on our calendar each day what we ate so I know the next week not to repeat.

    I’ve done the planned out month successfully before, but right now this is what’s working for us.

  11. I always plan for the month – I love the flexibility of it. I do one shopping trip for the month and then IF I don’t want to cook what is on the menu for that night I’ll look at a different day for something I do want to fix – I know I have everything I need! While I plan for the month, I post a weekly menu plan on my blog every Monday.
    Hugs –
    Carol @ arewethereyet

  12. Diana says

    I’ve never tried a monthly meal plan because I feel like if I buy what’s on sale the first week of the month, I’d have to buy enough to get us through the month. And we’d get sick of chicken or pork chops or whatever was on sale that week.

    But if I just planned a whole bunch of meals without regard to the sales, we’d spend a whole lot more than usual.

    Thoughts? 🙂 I guess if I were planning from my freezer, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal.

  13. I love having a monthly meal plan. For me it is more of a meal list. I don’t assign meals to specific days, but just cross them off the list as I make them. I also jot down breakfast and lunch ideas so I have a visual reminder of what types of things I need to buy to make those smooth, too. With limited pantry and fridge space I can’t really shop for more than about 10 days at a time, but maybe some day I’ll have the option of doing once a month shopping. Costco being so convenient is a blessing and a curse. 🙂

  14. Lari says

    I love having a plan. I usually plan more on a 1-2 week schedule though and my biggest freezer items are cooked ground beef and cooked shredded chicken that make meal prep easier. My goal over the next month though is to get a bunch of complete meals in the freezer though because baby #5 is due in Jan and there is a slight chance of me going on bedrest before then….I used to do this all the time when I was home full time and miss it.

  15. Emily says

    I love the idea of planning once a month. But it doesn’t actually happen here! 🙂

    One month I got the whole thing written down, and then just adjusted for what was on sale each week. If I got a great deal on hamburger, we brought those meals up a little closer. If I didn’t have any chicken left, we pushed those meals out of the way & switched with others until the chicken went on sale. One thing I learned is, EVERYTHING goes on sale eventually. In our small town, the stores seem to flip-flop from one sale to another, and some months it seems chicken’s on sale SOMEWHERE every week. 🙂 So I try to have some things in the pantry & freezer, and get by until the sale catches up to me.

    Right now, we have a 10- and a 7-year-old. That makes our schedule pretty set – we always have time Monday to cook an involved meal; Tuesday is choir practice so the kids eat with the babysitter; Wednesday my husband picks up the kids while I work late and he feeds them; Thursday & Friday we all get home right at dinnertime, so those are quick & simple meal days or crock pot dinners. 🙂 It’s working! Thankfully – I kind of like eating. 😉

    There’s a list of meals and a grocery list on the fridge, so everyone can see what’s happening food-wise that day. I have had a list of what’s in the freezer, but it got out of date & I tossed it. Oh well.

    Good tips, and I wish everyone the best in their meal planning! 🙂

  16. Debra says

    I hate it while I am doing it but love it when it’s done! I started doing a monthly meal plan this past Feb and it’s really worked out well for us. I don’t anticipate going back to the weekly one.

  17. Shell says

    Do you make your own potstickers from scratch? I have bought them in bags from the supermarket and had them in restaurants, but have never made them.


  18. Shell says

    I just double or triple a dish as I am cooking it for that night’s dinner. One or two go in the freezer depending on how industrious I am. I only actually plan one day ahead, because I always have something in the freezer. I do cook ground beef ahead for the freezer and marinate chicken breasts. This is easier for me than cooking all at once. I also use the crockpot a lot . There are only four of us, so it’s not that hard. If I had your bunch to cook for I would probably have a melt down.Lol. The cooking to me is easy. It’s the clean up that gets to be boring, even though I clean as I go. I do get help with other things that I like less than cleaning the kitchen, so it’s really a nice trade off. I shouldn’t complain. There are a lot of people less fortunate. We try to give as much as we can to different programs that feed the hungry. It really hurts my heart to know that there are people here in America that don’t get enough to eat.

  19. I tend to plan for the month and then reassess on Saturdays if a sale comes up that is fantastic for a perishable item. Then I “solidify” (as solid as Jello) the plan for the week. (I definitely fall into the Lover category)

  20. Rachael says

    I have pinterested my recipes into 10 categories to plan for each week. 7 are for dinners, 2 are for lunches on non-work days , one is for breakfast and I buy peanut butter lunch meat and etc. each week for school/ work lunches. The categories are based on the times that I spend the least at the grocery store. 1 Bean based meals, 2 potato based meals, 3 Rice based meals, 4 breakfast as dinner, 5 fancy sandwiches, 6 Miscellaneous, 7 Summer Salads or winter soups, 8 pasta based dinners, 9 crock pot or fast food. and then there is the breakfast category. Every time I plan meals I pick one from each category and meal planning is both budget conscience, balanced and I have eliminated more expensive ingredients by substituting with something else. I buy the main ingredients in bulk, beans, rice, pasta etc, I pick the sales fruits and veggies and sales meats under $2.00 a pound, I occasionally cheat. I substitute part of my cheese with a lower cost cheese, for example mac and cheese will be made with part cream cheese and part cheddar to help cut the cost so I just need a few specialty items each time maybe a seasoning or condiment different from the usual list. I keep a grocery list where I can just check the boxes with the quantity that I need.

  21. Jessie says

    I started a new version of the monthly plan by choosing 2-3 meals a week that repeat each month. The empty days get new meals added in each time I meal plan. I can stock up on those ingredients and also get variety; it’s a win win 🙂

  22. Teresa says

    Little late to the party here but one thing that I think needs to get added to the discussion about meal planning is overlap between meals. When you’re cooking for a crowd, this might be less important, but when you’re cooking for one, you need to find ways to use the same set of ingredients in different and creative ways. I can’t buy lettuce and then plan a single salad in plan, it all goes bad then! I need to make sure that I have side salads with several meals, plus maybe BLTs for lunch all week, and maybe some salad wraps. Or I cook up a batch of stew beef and make a several-meal stir fry, and put the rest in beef pot pies for the freezer. I find that’s the hardest part about planning for a whole month; I’m not creative enough to think through all the different uses for ingredients One or two weeks is about right. That way, even if I have leftovers, they’ll still probably be good and can get rolled back into the -next- meal plan and be used up properly.
    My biggest barrier to monthly meal planning is that I don’t always know what I’m going to feel like eating. I really like having a couple of options available to me, instead of being locked into meals, because things change, and my preferences may shift from day to day sometimes. When I planned I might’ve been on a tomatoey preference day, but then find out that I want light fish-vegetable meals for a week straight! Flexibility to respond to cravings is a must in my meal plans.

    • Great point! Using common ingredients in your meal planning is key to saving money and avoiding waste.

  23. Tammy says

    I just went through and inventoried our pantry, refrigerators, and freezers. Just being able to see what we had, what needed to be used promptly, and coming up with a plan – even for three days to start – was a huge help. Yes, I have already swapped some of the meals, but being able to plan – and see what items I will need to purchase on pay day to complete certain meal items – is a huge help. I look forward to planning meals for the remainder of the month – and hopefully continue the practice. Even if we have to swap meals, I’d prefer that to forgetting I had planned “X” for dinner one night and then completely forgot about it. It will be a work in progress, but one that I think will be very advantageous for our hectic schedule.

  24. Pat says

    The pantry challenge and Kitchen Winners Circle got me back to meal planning again. After our vacation this summer the thought out plan went out the window! I always had ideas just didn’t write them down. Having a plan now is good. I only started with a 2 week plan and hope to get back to monthly for February.

  25. Roberta Moore says

    I made a 2 week menu for years when the kids were at home. We lived in the country & couldn’t just pop into town. Even my children knew to ask be fore they ate, making sure it wasn’t food that was on the menu. But now I want to make healthier meals and that doesn’t work if you don’t have a plan. Write the menu out as you make your grocery list. But don’t hesitate to change a meal on the menu, it’s your plan. Cook extra when you do cook, freeze for future use, even if it is just the meat. It will make a difference in how your family eats and balance your meals if you follow the menu.

  26. Christina S says

    I think I have done almost every type of meal planning. Daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly,… Right now in the season our family is in I am loving the Kitchen Winners Circle Menu plan. Minimal work for me and my binder makes it easy if anyone else should decide to take a turn cooking supper.

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