Monday, January 24, 2011

Cook for a Month Plan

If you are like me, you struggle with meal planning. I always have. Even with couponing, I have never been a great meal planner. I used to just buy whatever looked good at the store and then try to figure out what to make from it or think, "I want spaghetti," and go get everything I needed that day and spend a lot of money.

Once I started couponing, I learned to stockpile. Stockpiling means that you get a good amount of things in your pantry (rice, pastas, sauces, marinades) and freezer (chicken, beef, pork) when they are a great deal and/or you have coupons. Then I would figure out what we wanted based on what we had. If I wanted spaghetti then, I would grab pasta that I bought for pennies, sauce that I bought for under $1.00, and ground beef that I bought for under $3.00. Then I would just need a pepper and an onion (unless I had chopped and frozen it when it was a great deal) from the store. Easier and way less expensive.

When I was pregnant with the twins I was concerned I would go on bedrest and either way would need simple meals when they were born and we were busy, so I freezer cooked 6 months of meals at the halfway point. It worked great because we could just pull what we wanted as we needed it.

Well now that I am almost done with those meals, I tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. I toyed with the idea of freezer cooking in bulk again, but thought that I would be spending too much one month and then not much subsequent months. Plus it was a ton of work and I don't have 4 days to do that again without too many distractions. I thought it would be wise to make a monthly meal plan and then figure out ways to save time and money.

Here is what I came up with:

I made a list of 16 of our favorite "tried-and-true" recipes:
1) Spaghetti
2) Spaghetti and Meatballs
3) Baked Ziti
4) Chicken Parmesan
5) Meatloaf (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
6) Salisbury Steak (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
7) Pot Roast (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
8) Honey Baked Pork Chops (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
9) Chicken Barley
10) Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight
11) Chicken Pot Pie
12) Chicken Stuffing Pie
13) Italian Balsamic Chicken
14) Maple Glazed Chicken
15) Buffalo Chicken Tenders
16) Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

That would mean I would cook 5 meals a week which is perfect because we go out to eat one night and eat at church one night.

I grouped them by type and put 4 recipes into each category:
"Big Meal" – Meatloaf, Salisbury Steak, Pot Roast, Honey Baked Pork Chops
"Leftovers" – Meatloaf, Salisbury Steak, Pot Roast, Honey Baked Pork Chops
"Italian" – Spaghetti, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Baked Ziti, Chicken Parmesan
"Creamy Chicken" – Chicken Barley, Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Stuffing Pie
"Healthy Chicken" – Italian Balsamic Chicken, Maple Glazed Chicken, Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

Then I figured out what night would be what category. I took into account days that I had more time, days that I had less time, what night would be good for leftovers, etc.

Here's what I came up with:
Sunday – "Big Meal" Night (This works well because I have more time and help on Sundays, plus it sounds right to have a Sunday Supper)
Monday – "Leftover" Night (This works well because Monday is usually a crazy day recovering from the weekend)
Tuesday – "Creamy Chicken" Night
Wednesday – Church Night (No cooking)
Thursday – "Italian" Night
Friday – Go out to Eat Night (No cooking)
Saturday – "Healthy Chicken" Night (This works well because we go out to eat on Fridays and we don't tend to eat as good when we eat out)

I also came up with side dishes that would go well with the dishes.

I then plugged the meals into a chart trying to not have similar recipes close together.

Here's what I came up with:






Pot Roast (Beef Roast, Potatoes, Carrots,

& Onions)

Pot Roast Leftovers


Pot Pie

Spaghetti & Garlic Bread

Italian Balsamic Chicken, Rice, & Veggies

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Peas, & Corn

Meatloaf Leftovers

Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight

Baked Ziti & Garlic Bread

Maple Glazed Chicken, Rice, & Veggies

Honey Baked

Pork Chops, Baked Potatoes,

& Veggies

Honey Baked Pork Chops Leftovers

Chicken Stuffing Pie & Green Beans

Spaghetti & Meatballs & Garlic Bread

Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Rice, & Veggies

Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, Peas, & Corn

Salisbury Steak Leftovers

Chicken Barley

Chicken Parmesan & Garlic Bread

Ginger Chicken

Stir Fry

& Rice


I then made a monthly shopping list:

5 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
9 lbs chicken
2 lbs (10 pieces) pork chops
Pot roast

2 bags mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Canned/frozen veggies
1lb frozen mixed veggies

Head of garlic
4 onions
2 peppers

1 jar beef gravy
Franks Red Hot sauce
Stir fry sauce
Soy sauce
Cider vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Dijon mustard

Spices/Baking Needs:
Rolled oats
Olive oil
Ground ginger
Spices for Maple Glazed Chicken
Spices for Italian Balsamic Chicken
Spices for Honey Baked Pork Chops

4 jars pasta sauce
2 lbs pasta
½ lb egg noodles
Various rices
2 boxes stuffing mix
Bread crumbs

Soup (Mixes):
4 jars cream of chicken soup
2 pkg onion soup mix
Chicken broth

I then made a weekly grocery list (fresh items) for each week of the month (for the dinners):
Week 1 – potatoes, carrots, onion
Week 2 – potatoes
Week 3 – potatoes
Week 4 – potatoes, carrots, onion, stir fry veggies

Then I came up with what I would freezer prep or cook:
Spaghetti – Make spaghetti sauce and freeze
Spaghetti and Meatballs – Make meatballs and sauce and freeze
Baked Ziti – Prep Baked Ziti and freeze (freeze mozzarella cheese along with it)
Chicken Parmesan – cut fat off and cut up 1 pound chicken tenders and freeze
Meatloaf – Prep Meatloaf and freeze
Salisbury Steak – Prep Salisbury Steak and freeze
Pot Roast – cut fat off and freeze roast
Honey Baked Pork Chops – marinate and freeze
Chicken Barley – cut fat off and dice 1 pound chicken and freeze
Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight – cut fat off and dice 1 pound chicken and freeze
Chicken Pot Pie – prep Chicken Pot Pie (minus topping) and freeze
Chicken Stuffing Pie – prep Chicken Stuffing Pie (minus topping) and freeze
Italian Balsamic Chicken – marinate and freeze
Maple Glazed Chicken – cut fat off and cut up 1 pound chicken tenders and freeze
Buffalo Chicken Tenders – cut fat off and cut up 1 pound chicken tenders and freeze
Ginger Chicken Stir Fry – cut fat off and dice 1 pound chicken and freeze

My goal is to go once a month to get everything I need and freezer cook/prep everything. Then each night I will just have to cook for 30 minutes or less. I am hoping to spend $100.00 or less on the stuff for dinners. I coupon a lot of those items frequently and keep my pantry stocked. That would be $5.00 a meal which is usually my goal.

If you are interested in this method and the recipes, please email me at and I will send you the printer friendly format of this post and the recipes in a Word document that is easily printable. When I do this, I will blog about it including pictures. I hope you enjoyed.

I would love to hear how you meal plan (monthly, weekly, 2 times a month, daily and shop, daily from stockpile, don't at all).


  1. Hey Ashley,

    Love reading your blog girl. You are so organized. We are not as organized in this house but I do meal plan. Our grocery budget is very small and it comes from the cash I get from watching another child two days a week. So therefore I grocery shop and meal plan one week at a time. We don't eat out except Sunday lunch, so I plan 7 meals. We have soup/chili night, breakfast night, slow cooker night, mac and cheese night, meatless night, grill night, and sandwich night. If there is leftovers, then we skip one of the nights above or eat if for lunch on Saturday. Keep blogging girl!


  2. Steph, Thank you for your sweet comments. I think you are really organized since you meal plan that great every week. What a great idea to use a specific fund for groceries. I love your plan of a theme each night. Would you be interested in guest posting on the blog with what you do and maybe some pics for a week? I know a lot of people would love it.

  3. I like the idea of cooking for a month. You say you go to the store once and buy all the ingredients. Do you make mini-trips to buy milk and stuff that you use often? Also, do you mind if I ask ask how much you spend at the grocery? I have always struggled to stay on budget at the grocery store. Thanks, Ashley! :-)