Well, sort of. Yes, everyone would like that, but it’s like saying a diaper bag should always be small, organized, and spotless.
Ain’t gonna happen.
We all know the drill: you get your paycheck, you pay the bills, you think, “I must go to the grocery store.” So off you go.
By this time, you’re tired out and hungry. You start out thinking you’ll buy food for the week, but your list is either a) gone or b) a mental list that has self-narrowed to include only Hostess fruit pies and a pound of hamburger. You leave, dispirited, and order take-out, eating one of your fruit pies while you dial the number.
So, in the interest of pleasantness and peace at mealtimes, Coffee Hour would like to explore the possibility of monthly meal-planning.
Books, blog posts, and articles abound, all dedicated to the proposition that a person can reduce his or her grocery spending, time in the kitchen, and overall stress level by taking some time each month to make a detailed (sometimes frighteningly so) plan for the month’s suppers, lunches, and breakfasts. For many of us, even thinking of food for the next thirty evenings, let alone noons and mornings, equals an instant headache. But this need not be so, apparently.
At Baby Makes Four, stay-at-home mom of two, Megan, calmly and rationally explains her procedure for determining a month’s worth of suppers:
First, I sat down and wrote down all the meals I’m hoping to make this month. I used my Pinterest boards for some ideas, used some of our old stand-bys and favorites, and included a few things I’ve wanted to try but haven’t had a chance to in a while.
When I had my meal ideas, I sat down and filled in days that I know we won’t be home or won’t be wanting to eat full meals at home. (Joseph’s birthday, Halloween, etc.)
Then I started plugging meals into dates on the calendar. If one meal had an ingredient that could be included in another meal, I put them in back-to-back. Every third day or so I included a “leftover” night. This means we’ll eat any leftovers from the past three nights. If there aren’t enough, I can supplement with extra vegetables or salad.
Then she followed up by making grocery lists for a one-time trip to her local buy-in-bulk store, and smaller lists for things to buy each week at her regular grocery store, such as milk and fruit. Easy, right?
Megan’s plan of action is the simplest way to create menus for a month. But if you’re interested, there are also methods that involve monthly cook-a-thons, in which homemakers make huge batches of recipes, to be frozen in family-sized portions and reheated throughout the month; methods based on meals that cost 5 dollars or less; methods tailored to vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free diets; and more.
Furthermore, Woman’s Day has created tasty and user-friendly month-long menus for years. They come with weekly shopping lists, so that you can make sure you’ll have all the ingredients on hand every night of the week. Simply add in your ingredients for lunches (and don’t forget, you can use leftovers for lunch the next day!), breakfasts, and snacks each week, and you’re good.
How much does it cost, though? Well, for the October menu, we calculated the cost of ingredients at around $125. Think you can do better? Great! Replace ingredients, or entire meals, with your own cost-effective substitutes– just remember to adjust your shopping list accordingly!
And finally, for the technology-obsessed in all of us, Coffee Hour would like to mention foodonthetable.com. While it is a weekly planner, rather than monthly, we’re quite impressed with it. Foodonthetable.com is a free, all-in-one website that will create meal plans based on what you want to eat, recipes from its index and from you, and current sales at your local grocery store. Access your meal-plan and grocery list on the fly by downloading the foodonthetable app to your Iphone or Android device.
© Coffee Hour Magazine, 2012