How to Create a Monthly Meal Plan (Without Overwhelm)

Trying a monthly meal plan can transform your cooking and meal preparation experience at home. It simplifies your life significantly and eliminates the feeling of being overwhelmed. It can be tiring and frustrating to constantly come up with breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas every day.

However, with a monthly meal plan, you can alleviate the stress and focus on enjoying your life. In this blog post, I will provide you with a step-by-step guide along with free printable downloads specifically designed to assist you in creating your monthly meal plan.

cookbook and sheets to plan meals
Source: Plum Branch Home

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When my husband and I got married, I started meal planning as a regular practice. However, after a year or two, I still found myself overwhelmed and stressed about staying on budget, finding meal ideas, and enjoying my time in the kitchen. Then, about a year later, I discovered the magic of monthly meal planning, and it has completely transformed my approach.

Now, at the beginning of each month, I set aside a Saturday afternoon, grab an iced coffee, and dive into meal planning. But here’s the game-changing trick I stumbled upon: instead of tackling the entire month at once, I use four weekly meal plan templates. This approach helps prevent overwhelm because I only focus on one week at a time. Plus, if I ever need a break, I can easily take one.

Why Meal Plan Once a Month?

You could meal plan each week but that means carving out an hour every Saturday. Meal planning once a month not only reduces stress but saves you money. Also if you’ve got a goal to eat more vegetables, you’ll be able to create an action plan by monthly meal planning. There’s so many benefits which is what we’ll chat about next.

Benefits of a Monthly Meal Plan

  • Reduced stress and overwhelm
  • More time doing what you love, less time searching the kitchen
  • Feelings of being organized and prepared
  • Saves money when grocery shopping
  • Creates an action plan for eating/nutrition goals
  • Less time consuming

Tips for a Stress-Free Monthly Meal Plan

  • Carve out time to meal plan (don’t wedge it into your day)
  • Make this time fun with a coffee or tea and music
  • Print out organized weekly meal plan templates and an organized grocery list template
  • Check what you already have in your kitchen and make meals out of those first before shopping
  • If you get overwhelmed take a walk outside before coming back to it

Monthly Meal Planning Step-By-Step

Before you start with the simple steps below, choose a day when you’ve got plenty of time. For me, this is on Saturday afternoons. The last thing you want to do is give yourself 20 minutes to plan an entire month of meals. This will only leave you stressed, overwhelmed, and defeated. Instead, choose a quiet time, make an iced vanilla cold brew or a hot chai latte, and sit somewhere comfortable.

1. Print out Meal Plan and Grocery List Templates

To begin, print out or make four weekly meal plan templates as well as an organized grocery list. You can find both in our free resource library. Sign up for free below to get your password and free printable templates.

2. Outline Any Eating/Cooking Goals You Want This Month

By making a monthly meal plan you can easily hit goals such as choosing less packaged foods and cooking more foods from scratch. Before you begin, write down a goal that is easy to accomplish. This may be eating more fruits throughout the next month, saving $100 on your monthly grocery bill, or eating more protein filled meals to reduce cravings.

3. Look Through Your Pantry, Freezer, and Fridge

Before you begin filling out your meal plan and searching for meal ideas, go through your pantry, freezer, and fridge to see what you already have. Make a list of meals you can make with ingredients you already have as well as the leftovers. This helps reduce food waste and will save you money!

4. Browse Pinterest Recipes and Cookbooks

Now that you have your printed templates, a goal in mind, and a list of meals based on what you already have in your kitchen, it’s time to start filling out your meal plan. Begin by filling in the breakfasts, lunches, and suppers for each day. For the days when you plan to eat out, have a date night, or go on vacation, simply cross out that section or write in the event you have planned.

If you’re in need of meal ideas, Pinterest is a great resource. Search for phrases like “easy weeknight meals” or “on-the-go lunches” to find inspiration. Additionally, you can explore the recipes available here on Plum Branch Home for more ideas. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you never miss out on new recipes to incorporate each month!

5. Create an Organized Grocery List

Finally, once you have completed your meal plan(s), take the time to review each meal individually and make a list of the ingredients you will need to purchase from the grocery store. In my personal approach, I like to maximize our savings by shopping at multiple stores. To achieve this, I create a comprehensive list of all the items we need and then compare prices online using different store websites or browse weekly ads using Based on the price comparison, I create organized shopping lists specific to each store.

However, if you prefer to shop at a single grocery store, you don’t necessarily have to follow this process. It’s a personal choice, but keep in mind that exploring multiple stores can potentially save you a significant amount of money.

Add These Recipes To Your Monthly Meal Plan

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  1. Thank you for putting this Monthly Meal Plan in your blog!!! What a great ideal, I love it!!
    I need to give this a try for multiple reasons!
    This is going to help me in so many ways.

    I have a freezer and cabinet full of food but never seem to know what to fix. And the food never goes away 😅

    1. So glad you found this blog post helpful! It always makes me so happy when blog posts help out you all! Making meals with ingredients in the pantry or fridge/freezer can be so fun!