A monthly meal calendar can help you answer the age old question: "Mom, what's for dinner?" With all of your meals planned out in advance, you'll always have the right ingredients to whip up a healthy, home cooked meal each night. In an age of fast food dinners and microwaved food, a monthly meal planner can help keep your family's nutrition on track, notes Families With Purpose. Get a calendar and use family favorite, meatless meals and new recipes to create an entire month of healthy fare.
Get a calendar. Choose one that has large spaces for the dates. If you don't have a calendar or planner handy, you can print one off at My Free Calendar Maker (see Resources section). If planning by month seems too overwhelming, start by planning weekly and then move to monthly plans as you become more comfortable with your new cooking schedule and procedure.
Write down all of the meals that your family enjoys, that you make on a regular basis. They are usually quick and easy recipes like tacos, spaghetti or baked chicken. Ask your family for input; they may remember some meals that you have forgotten about. Choose meals that have similar ingredients so you can use much of the same in other recipes.
Choose four new recipes that you have never tried, and a few meatless meals like vegetarian chili or beans and rice. These types of meals are very cost-effective and can help drive down your grocery bill. New recipes may be added to your usual repertoire if your family enjoys them.
Plan out the entire month by inserting a meal idea onto each square on the calendar. Spaces out the meals so that you have at least one meatless meal per week, and one new recipe each week. Then, fill in the other five says with your tried and true recipes. Remember that not each day needs to be home cooking. You might institute a pizza night for each Friday to fill up the calendar and give yourself a break. You might also make Saturday a leftover day, or plan to use leftovers on another night so as to not waste food.
Create another month's worth of meal plans if you have enough recipes. That way you'll be able to alternate between both calendars so that your family doesn't feel like you're eating the same foods month after month.
Write a master ingredient list as your shopping list. If you have the same two calendars to alternate between, you'll be using the same ingredients each time and shopping should be a snap. Try purchasing all-dry pantry ingredients at the beginning of the month, and then buying fresh items weekly as needed. This will help you use your monthly meal planner to help simplify other areas of your life.
Place the meal calendars in a three-ring binder with pockets. You can clip your recipe cards in there, or add a notepad for shopping lists to keep your meals completely organized.