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Easy Meal Planning with a Free Printable Monthly Calendar

I have freebies for you today!

If you’re working on simplifying your life in 2017, you’re going to like this one. I’ve tried meal planning for years but I would always drop the habit after a few weeks because I’d forget to plan over the weekend and then I’d shop without knowing what we needed and the next thing you know everyone is eating Nachos Bell Grande and I’m chalking the whole project up as a loss.

It turns out that weekly meal planning doesn’t work for me BUT monthly meal planning makes my life a whole lot easier. The trick is to repeat what you’re eating from week to week. For example, at dinner we have chicken on Monday, burritos on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday, stir fry on Thursday, and freezer meals on Friday. Breakfasts and lunches repeat as well!

It sounds boring but unless you’re Rachel Ray you probably repeat a lot of meals anyway (particularly if you have little kids) and a week of spacing things out seems to be enough time for us to not get sick of anything. Plus, I plan a little generally (like burritos every Tuesday) and then vary the details from week to week (grilled mushroom burritos last week, spicy turkey burritos tonight).

The best part about planning a month at a time is that I can plan out my shopping all at once. I try to only grocery shop once a week and we do 90% of our food shopping at either Costco or Trader Joe’s so when I make the calendar I write down which stores I’m going to hit each week and plan accordingly. If it’s a Costco week, I know I can plan on a rotisserie chicken so we have things like chicken burritos and chicken soup. If it’s a Trader Joe’s week, I’m more likely to include a variety of veggies because I’m not buying them in bulk.

Benefits:

  1. I’m saving money by planning out my shopping in advance and splitting my bulk purchases to last through the month.
  2. I plan out three meals a day so I don’t ever have to go stare blankly into the fridge while hungry kids whine behind me.
  3. By not planning on eating out, we get less take out. It still happens but it’s turned into a real treat where it used to be something we did 3-4 times per week.
  4. I can sit down on the weekend and write out our whole week’s menu in less than five minutes without stressing or flipping through Pinterest.
  5. When I actually want to make something fancy/creative/Pinterest-y, it’s easy to bump whatever is on the menu because everything repeats to some extent.

The actual planning pages I use are pretty blank but the calendar has a place for all three meals plus a space on the end of the week to write down which store I’m hitting that week. I couldn’t find anything like it so I had to create my own so I’m sharing my 2017 calendars with you in case you’re interested:

January 2017

Feburary 2017

March 2017

April 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

I also have our weekly planner page. This is what gets posted on the fridge so I don’t have to answer “what are we having for ____ ?” five million times per day. Honestly, I feel like it was also the big motivation for Calvin to start reading – he wanted to know what was coming to the table!

Meals for the Week

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