Meal planning is one thing that has saved me countless hours and a lot of money. It takes few minutes of planning, depending on how you meal plan, and can keep your grocery budget on track as you shop for only the items you need to cook with,
As I’ve shared before, I like to plan for the entire month at a time. Not necessarily a detailed 7 meals for 4 weeks plan but rather a more flexible plan where I only plan for about 5 meals for 4 weeks. While this does take a little bit of time and effort at the start of every month, it’s such a relief to know that I only have to sit down once to meal plan!
As I have been using this method for quite a while, and am familiar with the meals that my family likes to eat and our easy to prepare, I have a regular rotation of meals that I can easily swap in and out with ease.
Another tool that I use to aid in my meal planning is creating a seasonal theme to help me come up with ideas and make sure I am rotating the types of foods we eat around.
Meal planning through the seasons is a way to create a simple template of themes to build a balanced monthly meal plan. It helps me come up with new ideas when I feel like I am in a rut. It challenges me to add variety and to even try out new recipes.
I have found it useful to create two separate themes, one for spring and summer and another for fall and winter, to help create a balanced meal plan all year long. Obviously soups, chili and more hearty meals are appropriate for the colder days in the winter, where lighter salads and vegetable based meals do well during the hot days of summer.
Spring and Summer Dinner Themes
I have set up a two week rotation of meal plan themes that help me add a variety and a steady rotation of different meals.
- Simple and easy crockpot recipes, which could fall into into a variety of different themes
- Fish- we usually eat some sort of Salmon or Shrimp dish (yes, I realize that shrimp isn’t technically fish, but it falls into the seafood category)
- BBQ which could chicken, pork or beef
- Main dish salad- I love to eat a lot of salads, especially in the summer when a big, heavy meal doesn’t sound to appetizing. To appease my meat and potato hubby, I always add some sort of meat topping
- New Recipe- this is where I force myself to be creative and try out one of the many recipes that I have pinned or that I have clipped from a magazine or cookbook.
- Grill Out- we love to grill out during the summer from steaks to hamburgers, if it’s on the grill we love it!
- Pizza- I love making homemade pizza
- Meatless Monday- my husband is not particularly a fan but there are so many yummy and filling vegetables that I try to create a filling, nutritious and budget friendly meal every once in a while.
- Main Dish Meat- This could be anything where meat is the star of the show (this is my husband’s favorite day!) 🙂
- Dinner Out or Grill Out- We set up our budget to go out to eat as a family a few times a month either as a date or with the whole family.
Fall and Winter Dinner Themes
A lot of the below are repeats from the spring and summer themes, but I swap out the meatless meals for hearty soups and chili.
- Soup or Chili- I love warm, comforting and filling soups during the cold months. Soups and chili is a really frugal way to add a lot of vegetables while limiting the meat. Plus I make most of my own chicken stock using leftover chicken bones.
- New Recipe
- Main Dish Meat
- Soup of Chili
- Main dish meat
- Dinner Out
As you can tell even though I have themes set in place, there is still plenty of room for creativity and variety. For example on Mexican theme nights I can choose from beef burritos, turkey and spinach enchiladas, oven fajitas, tacos or quesadillas just to name a few of our family favorites.
I use a monthly planning calendar to write down our meal plan and post it in the kitchen so that way I can see it when I’m planning out the week and making the grocery list. I write in pencil so that way if something comes up like dinner out or company coming over where I have to scratch the dinner plans, I can easily move the meals around.
I wanted to share my meal planning template with you to help in your meal planning, especially if you struggle to come up with creative and healthy meals to add a variety to the rotation.
In your download you will receive my Meal Planning through the Seasons template, as well as a blank one to create your own seasonal template that will match your family’s tastes. You will also get a blank planning calendar to use in your meal planning as well.
If the idea of creating a theme for all of fall and winter or all of spring or summer sounds to daunting at first, you could always start small and just create a monthly dinner theme. If you find that you enjoyed having some pre-made themes to help with your monthly meal plan you can carry your themes on to the next month or switch them up
Do you have set seasonal themes you use in your meal planning? What themes do you use?
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