Hear Me Out :: A Monthly Family Meal Plan

mom chopping peppers with a child hanging on her back, illustrating the idea of a monthly family meal planI hate everything related to the obligation of feeding my family.

I hate the thinking, planning, and prepping. I hate taking hours out of my precious weekend time to meal prep for the week. I hate the monotony of cooking every night after work. I hate trying to think of meals everyone will like, that fit in a budget, and meet some arbitrary nutritional standard. And I hate not having a plan — not having ingredients to throw something together and, instead, ordering takeout because of it.

The amount of time and energy it takes to plan and execute a week’s worth of meals — and the fact that I have to keep doing it every week, FOREVER — is truly overwhelming.

Alas, people need to eat, so it has to get done.

Somewhere in the depths of the internet, I read about doing a monthly meal plan. It sounded wild and unrealistic, so I didn’t pay attention initially. But something about it stuck with me. One day last winter I was lucky enough to have that sweet, serendipitous dual nap for my kids, and I decided to give it a shot.

I made a four-week calendar in Google Docs. I decided for the first round to try a similar type of cuisine on the same night of each week — Italian on Mondays, Asian-inspired on Tuesdays, etc. I also tried to balance types of protein and mixed in at least one meatless or seafood option per week. I planned out six meals each week since we typically go out or do takeout once a week.

The first meals I plugged in were my super easy, non-recipe entrees — family recipes I have memorized or things that wouldn’t require thinking for me, like casseroles, tacos, and soups. Then I went into the archive of meals I have made before, and I checked some of my standard websites, like Skinnytaste and Half Baked Harvest, to pull out some favorites.  For the meals that required recipes, I put the link right into the cell. And then I quickly shared that doc with my husband so there was no need to ask what was for dinner or where the recipe was (#marriagewin).

The last step was to make a corresponding grocery list for each week’s menu — right in the same document. I went through the recipes or items needed for each meal, crossed out any duplicates to avoid over buying, and added them into sections by store department.

This took a couple of hours to set up. But once I was done, it was a beauty! Now, each week all I had to do was add the grocery staples we were out of (milk, fruit, etc.) and then go to the store or place my online order. No real thinking required! It was amazing. After using this new system for a while I could simply look at the week and see if we wanted to swap a meal out based on grocery store sales or current preferences. I also ended up making a fall/winter and then a spring/summer version since we typically do a lot more grilling in the warmer weather.

This may seem really daunting. Or it may seem really silly. But I can say that creating a monthly family meal plan has definitely made my life better and easier. Thinking about this once a month, or once a season, feels so much less monotonous and overwhelming than having to think about it every single week.

If regular meal planning is the bane of your existence, give this a shot!

Colleen Lubin is a native of Arlington, MA, who dragged her New Yorker husband back to the Boston area after years of splitting the difference in Connecticut. She has 15 years of experience in training, development, culture, and belonging in higher education and recently moved into the marketing industry. Colleen is a fierce advocate for women and families navigating infertility, loss, and postpartum challenges. Colleen uses honesty, authenticity, and humor to break down the stigma, raise awareness, and support the infertility community on her blog and Instagram at @notquiteknockedup. Colleen is a mom of two miracles, Liam and Logan, born in 2018 and 2020, who keep her both young and tired. She loves listening to '90s hip hop and R&B, trying new recipes, Peloton-ing, sleeping as much as possible, and eating New York bagels. She does not love writing about herself in the third person, calling customer service, or bagels from anywhere but New York.


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