Budget Menu Planning: Monthly Menu

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One of my goals during the holiday break was to compile a monthly menu plan. I was first inspired to work out a monthly menu plan by Tammy’s Recipes. I saw this as a good means of simplifying by grocery shopping and planning all at once. It has saved me time and energy and the frustration of never knowing what to make on a certain week (maybe this is just my problem!).

Now this menu may vary in the summer, and I will probably make a separate summer monthly menu to throw in some variety. My method may not work for you, but here are a few things that I have learned that may be helpful in whatever menu planning method you choose…

1. Make dinner themes

I have found it extremely helpful to start out my monthly menu planning by making daily themes. That way I had something to work around. I make a vegetable and rice stir fry every Monday, adding variation with different vegis and sauces. Tuesdays is always soup night, served with a biscuit or muffin. Increasing soups in your diet is an excellent way of increasing nutrition but also keeping the budget down. Sometimes we have 1-2 soups a week. Making a large batch and serving it for different lunches works with as well.

Monday – Stir Fry
Tuesday – Soup
Wednesday – Chicken
Thursday – Mexican or Casserole
Friday – Italian
Saturday -Leftovers

Other theme ideas: main dish salad, crock pot, fondue, etc.

2. Limit adding new recipes to just once a week, if you like.

Save yourself time, by sticking to the old time favorites, and maybe throwing in a new recipe once a week, instead of starting fresh every week. If you are using each of your old time recipes once to twice a month you won’t get sick of it.

3. Plan in the favorites

Aaron’s favorites are pizza and hamburgers, and in order to keep the man happy, I schedule those in as the special Friday nights dinners. This is also the night of our weekly dessert, so I like to serve him his favorite dishes. So I added pizza on Friday nights twice a month and hamburgers on Friday once a month (this is honestly the only time we have ground beef).

4. Increase grains while decreasing meat

I have found it extremely helpful in satisfying us more fully without the meat, is so use grains at every meal! This is something I am still in the process of figuring out, but I have discovered that you can throw in grains in practically any dish.

For breakfast, we serve it in the form of bread, hot cereal, or muffins. Lunch is bread in the form of a sandwich, tortilla, grains in soups, etc. For dinners, I have been adding quinoa, rice or barley in all my soups (including chili, potato soup, chicken soup, etc.) and it has worked splendidly. It really doesn’t taste different, just adds more substance to it. I also have been throwing grains in burritos, all casseroles, serving along with chicken on our Wednesday theme, etc. You would be surprised at how many recipes you can throw grains in to stretch them further.

5. Vegetables & Fruit

Being that I get my produce through local sources, I can’t always plan out what I will serve as a side until the produce bin arrives. So in my monthly plan, I simply incorporate the following options: stemmed vegi, fresh salad, or a baked vegi. I always get produce to fill each of these requirements, we just don’t know until the weekly amount arrives! It is so fun this way. I love learning how to incorporate a wide variety of differing vegetables and fruits.

My Aunt gave a recommendation to me of serving a small salad at lunch and a stemmed vegi at dinner in order to increase your vegi intake. This has worked well for us. The more we fill up on vegi’s and fruits the less we need of meat as well. For example, we used to always eat two hot dogs each for lunch once a week, but now that I serve a small salad with it, we can get away with one hot dog each, and we stretch the pack further (by the way, Trader Joe’s has awesome nitrate free beef hot dogs that are so delicious)!

The benefit of juicing has also come in handy in order to increase our fruit intake. I have enjoyed this simple tool.

So how does this route save me money? It saves me time more than anything as I took a few hours to map out this monthly menu plan for the whole winter. I increased eating soups and grains as they are nutritious and cheap and cut back on meats in my plan. I make my grocery list from this and stick to it! After compiling a monthly menu plan, I was able to limit my grocery store shopping to every 3-4 weeks. I just started using a CSA (buying produce from a local farm), and I love it! This is definitely a very reasonable way to go. If you haven’t heard about them, check out the farms in your area, by visiting Local Harvest.

I am still in the learning process, trust me…We are seriously adjusting our budget currently to help us to begin preparing for the mission field…so I am being forced to learn how to make things on my own. It is a good challenge.

You can check out my newly compiled monthly menu here.

COMING UPhow do we stick to a small budget while eating as nutritionally as possible? I am in the process of learning how to make things on my own (dairy products, dressings, etc). How-to’s as I learn something new in the next few weeks!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

23 Responses to Budget Menu Planning: Monthly Menu

  1. Christine Steendahl="The Menu Mom" February 4, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    Great site! I liked when you mentioned limiting trips to the grocery store to save money! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lonny Walder October 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    I have determined that this article and reader comments are rather interesting. To my knowledge, this is a great web site to locate posts on topics such as natural health. Could anyone here tell me where to get more detailed posts on this topic, please? Thanks!

  3. Ann January 20, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Hi Lindsay
    Love your website!.I’ve got your recipe of chicken curry on my menu for the week.
    Great to here that you are doing your menu for a month- I used to do it weekly and are currently on 10 days and hopefully next month I will try to do it twice a month. Still struggling to get the amount i spend on groceries down, though.We are living in Canada, so also about impossible to get fresh veggies and fruit this time of year.
    Regards
    Ann

  4. Bri November 18, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    I have to say that I love your site! I am really trying to reign in our spending on eating out by eating all meals at home (or packing them when we’re out). What do you do on Sundays?

    • Lindsay November 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

      Sundays is either shared meal after church with friends and family, leftovers from the week at home, or a family eating out night.

      • Sarah December 31, 2010 at 9:59 am #

        For Sunday nights our family has created the tradition that we eat cold (healthier) cereal and make homemade popcorn and often watch homevideos :) The Mommy wants a FULL day of rest and the easy clean up is so nice and kids love anticipating our special time together.

  5. Naomi January 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    I stumbled onto your website while searching for some cheap and efficient menu planning ideas and just wanted to say, I got the impression that you come from a very close, and wonderful family. I hope I am right because it made my day. Thank you for choosing to use the internet for something useful and uplifting!

  6. Deb February 29, 2008 at 5:00 am #

    I love all your helpful info. I have 4 children & am working hard at getting control of our grocery bills. I was wondering, do you snack & if so do you have any suggestions. This seems to be a big part of our grocery money & with 4 kids I cant seem to get it under control. They come home from school starving & just cant make it untill 6pm dinner. Thanks again for your wonderful blog :)

    • Lindsay February 29, 2008 at 5:12 am #

      Deb, I don’t have little ones that enjoy snacks yet, but my recommendation would be to keep the snacks to fruits and vegis. Maybe celery and peanut butter, apples and peanut butter, or try some homemade crackers with cheese. My friend Kimi has a good recipe for these. These are the things I will do when my little one is older.

      Personally, if I get hungry before dinner, I will eat a piece of bread, or a piece of fruit already available. English muffin toasted with peanut butter is a favorite (good protein to hold you over!). I don’t buy any other snacks to supplement, as I just don’t have the budget for it, and they usually have a lot of additives that aren’t too healthy.

  7. Lisa February 11, 2008 at 11:20 am #

    Thanks for sharing your list! I like the variety in yours much better. Can’t wait for spring/summer – when the produce starts to really come back. But for now we will have to rely on our CSA’s and canned/frozen produce. I too enjoy Tammy’s recipes. We have tried many of her recipes with great success. You can really trust her reviews of each one.

  8. BarbaraLee Malikowski February 8, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    I use a big desk calender. Breakfast is easy. I have a few things for a.m. to keep it simple. Our bigger meal is at noon and I have a dessert for the p.m. meal. Once I have a month done I put it into my i-cal. I record it has a new event with the time and set it up to repeat in a year. That way next year it is already done and I just look to see what we are having and shop.

    • Tia February 23, 2008 at 5:31 pm #

      Ours too! My husband works outside the home so I pack him a substantial lunch. we’ll have a salad or soup for dinner and that’s it. We aren’t big dessert eaters. Which is always nice! I have to go into work 3 days a week for meetings and what not. So I pack myself a good lunch, and a few snacks.

      Nice to know other people eat bigger meals for lunch!

  9. Peggie February 8, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    Thanks for recommending Tammy’s Recipes. I just looked at the site and it looks pretty good. I will check it out more.

    Like your ideas here, thanks.

  10. Risha February 8, 2008 at 7:55 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing these ideas! I must admit, menu-planning is not usually the highlight of my day/week. I would love to be able to plan a month at a time! Better yet, I’d love to be able to cook meals in advance for a month!

  11. Lisa February 8, 2008 at 6:57 am #

    I appreciated this post. The menu’s were very helpful. We are receiving local Organic Milk (better price than grocery stores right now), and now we are also considering having local produce delivered. Would you mind sharing a “snapshot” of what you might receive in a box? Here is what we would have received this week if we did purchase one:

    Large Variety Box:
    (for 3-5 people)
    *Banana – 2 lbs.
    *Carrots – bunched
    *Romaine Lettuce
    *Cauliflower
    *Celery
    *Apple – 5 each
    *Green Beans – 2/3 lb.
    *Tomato – 1/2 lb.
    *Tangelo – 1/2 lb.
    *Grapefruit – 2 each

    All for $30.19.
    What I am trying to figure out is if this is a reasonable price for organic produce?

    • Lindsay February 8, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

      Lisa, I would say that is a good price. This is what I got this week (which lasts about two weeks) and costs $60 (it is a large bin, similar to yours with extra fruit):

      8 Apples
      6-7 Anjou Pears
      2-3 Minneolas/Oranges
      2 Mango
      5 Bananas
      1 lb Fingerling Potatoes
      2 Onions
      1 lb. Chiogga Beets
      1lb. Celeriac
      1 bunch Broccoli
      1 Green Leaf Lettuce
      1 med bag of fresh greens
      1 Bunch Carrots
      1 lb. Satsumas
      1-2 Pomagrantes

      We are using a local delivery service as well that delivers local organic produce during the winter months. As the CSA season kicks in more, I will be decreasing this order to only fruits as I will get all my produce from the farm.

  12. Amy February 8, 2008 at 6:34 am #

    Wow! You laid out a great plan. I’ve been considering going back to a once a month plan and really appreciate your post.

  13. Erica February 8, 2008 at 6:29 am #

    Girl, where do you live that you’re still getting produce from your CSA at this time of year?? I live in Michigan and I am waiting with baited breath for June, when ours starts up again.

    I am so jealous…does that break the 10th commandment? “Thou sall not covet another blogger’s fresh, local produce”. :)

    • Lindsay February 8, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

      That provided a good laugh. Thanks Erica! We live in Washington, and I just found a CSA that starts in Feb. They are slimmer pickings (mainly root vegis, and greens) till April, but it tastes amazing! Some have shorter and others have longer growing seasons around here.

  14. Amy @ Hope Is the Word February 8, 2008 at 4:48 am #

    As always, you inspire me! Great tips!

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