(Disclaimer: geez, I just finished this post and it is ALOT of information. You have been warned.)
So, this past month I accomplished something I have only read about – I made and finished a monthly meal plan.
It doesn’t sound like that big of an accomplishment, unless you’ve actually tried. I have spent so many hours for the past 3 years (when we moved to Texas and I became a SAHM) researching and reading about once a month meal planning/cooking, and had full intentions of doing it pretty much every time I made our biweekly meal plan. I would get several hours into it, lose my mind, then make a two-week meal plan instead. *This consisted of many pieces of paper being thrown into the garbage… I’m sorry for the tree you once were, piece of paper.*
The motive: The company Matthew works for was bought out and they decided a couple of months ago they were switching pay weeks and we had two choices – they would deduct money from each paycheck until said date or we would get a half paycheck. There wasn’t enough time to prepare so we chose half paycheck. I budget like a crazy person so with some prepping, we were able to make it work. The only thing was I would have to meal plan for the entire month.
And here enters the monthly meal plan. Surprisingly, it only took me maybe half a day (with children interrupting) to make the plan itself. It did take going to three different stores and a day of prepping but it really wasn’t that bad, I ended up really enjoying it! *I totally thrive off of organization!*
I needed 19 dinners. Our family is not one that enjoys the same meal once a week, I’m all for cute themed nights but I tried it and lets just say “Taco Tuesdays” weren’t as fun as The Lego Movie made them out to be! I made sure we had a variety of meals and made a “tentative” plan each week but it has the ability to change. The only way you can control your budget and follow a meal plan is with PLANNING. You can do all the fancy couponing and such but if you do not plan and STICK TO IT, this will not work. *In case you want to know, I do not coupon. Blech…*
Okay, so here we go. I’m going to first list the meals as well as the link you can find the recipe. Then I will tell you how to prep exactly, and I will also include a shopping/price list. I am literally giving you everything you need to completely OWN this meal planning thing.
Buffalo Chicken Wraps served with chips
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Basically just dump a can of drained corn, two cans of diced tomatoes, one can of Rotel, one can drained/rinsed black beans, 1/4 chopped onion, chicken, and some garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic/onion powder into a crockpot with a liner (easy clean up) and cook on low for a few hours. It can also be cooked on the stovetop. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream/greek yogurt!
Mini Egg Pizzas (x3)
Paprika Chicken served over pasta (I used chicken thighs instead)
Black Bean Tacos (x2) I’ll talk about this more later but I made black beans instead of using cans
- Make it your own! We use romaine lettuce, ground beef, homemade taco seasoning, some corn, black beans, tomatoes, greek yogurt, salsa, chips, etc. Whatever we could find that sounds good in a taco salad 🙂
Breakfast (x2) – this is whatever is best for you. Usually the staple items can make anything for breakfast!
Spaghetti (x3) – we make our own sauce. So saute some oil and garlic in a skillet then add a can of diced tomatoes (that have been slightly beaten in a blender), oregano, and basil and let it simmer a bit then make a hole in the middle and add red wine and just simmer until you’re ready to serve!
I have not included our plans for breakfast and lunch because that really has to do with your lifestyle. We almost always have leftovers for lunch so Matthew takes those, the kids will have peanut butter and honey sandwiches, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese (our favorite is Annie’s), or hot dogs. And for breakfast the kids prefer Rice Chex (or the Aldis brand of it), I have an egg or two, and some days we make 2-ingredient pancakes. Snacks are few and far between, we don’t really snack but when we need one it is fruit, I made some hummus (for me), and the kids enjoy a Twizzler or two if it was a good day.
- Separate your chickens. These are the meals and “parts”, use your judgement. You know what your family prefers!
- Chicken breasts: Southwest salad (2), tomato basil chicken (2)
- Thicker pieces of meat (1c. each): chicken avocado soup, buffalo chicken wraps, stir fry
- Shredded chicken (1c. each): fried rice, chicken tortilla soup
- NOW… stick every bit of what is left into the crockpot (with a liner) and follow this recipe to make chicken broth.
- Make, separate, and freeze black beans (I used this process)
- Cut up, separate, and freeze veggies (MAKE SURE YOU LABEL!)
- red onion (1/2 onion portion for 2-black bean tacos)
- onion (1/4 onion portion for 3-mini egg pizzas and 1-fried rice)
- jalapeños (1 per bag for 2-black bean tacos)
- avocados (I wouldn’t particularly recommend this method but the avocados weren’t cheap since they aren’t in season)
- To keep cilantro fresh for a month, stick them in a jar with water and cover with a baggie and stick in the fridge. That is literally it! Over a month later and it is just starting to wilt.
Various things you should know:
- Make a meal plan board: it’s in your face, everyone can read it, and it takes the guess-work out of things. I have a grocery list section for obvious reasons but what I really want to point out here is 1. make sure you have a meal plan each week, even if you change it at least it is there and 2. have a “meals unused” list, that way if you aren’t feeling the meal listed that day you can choose from one of these.
- Make recipe cards: this sounds silly, but one way I can fail at planning is by not knowing how long a recipe takes or how I should prep. As seen in the picture, I pin the recipe cards for that week next to my meal plan board.
- If you feel a meal needs a little “somethin somethin” make this easy and quick french bread. It’s awesome when you start dinner but really are craving more!
- USE CROCKPOT LINERS! Too much? I’ve only mentioned it like 5 times, but for real meal prep is stressful and messy as it is but add these liners to the mix and you cut that stress in half! (okay, so not that dramatic but I said every time I used these liners how thankful I was that I had them).
- We “make” our own taco seasoning. Basically chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
- I make tortillas instead of buying them, it is more work but I love homemade tortillas!
- This was A LOT of work, so please don’t hate me if I missed something. However, do feel free to message me or comment if I did and I would be happy to add it!
Now the shopping/price list. Like I said above, please don’t hate me if I missed something!
We are a month past this plan and I still cannot believe I did it! I actually want to do it again, after planning a meal plan for two weeks again I much prefer planning for the month. We were never without, I was usually able to substitute ingredients if I didn’t have them, and we ended the plan with two meals to spare (we had dinner at my family’s house more than planned). It was overwhelming at first, and to be honest I did freak out when we got that half paycheck. But God gave us an unexplainable peace and confidence. He gave me strength to get through this past month, to not lose my mind over finances, and to trust fully in Him. God came through in this, not my husband (even though he is pretty fantastic), not me, not our finances, God. I give Him the full credit for this achievement and I pray that this equips you to enjoy the same! I love y’all!