Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Once-a-Month Menu Planning, Shopping and Cooking

Why, hello friends! I sure have missed blogging this past week!  But if you've been around here for a while you know that when life gets a bit crazy, I go missing in action. It's life as mom, and that's okay with me.  =)

A while back when I posted how that I was ditching coupons after 5+ years of being a major "couponer", I told you that I would be beginning once a month grocery shopping.  At first I was going to blog about it right away, but then decided that I wanted to wait, see how it went, and then share about it.  

So here goes...back in the middle of March, I made a month long menu plan and made a ginormous grocery list to go with it.  I took all four kiddos with me shopping, which may or may not have been the best idea ever, but we survived with sanity intact even. =D  We hit Walmart, Aldi and Harris Teeter on that trip, and the next day we went to Sam's Club. (Had plans to go there that same day, but the van wouldn't start!)

{Groceries for a month minus my Sam's run}

While shopping and planning for a month at first seemed overwhelming, it was SO worth it.  I wish I could describe how calming it was for me to not have to worry about the menu or shopping every week!  Because of our crazy schedules I didn't have a set time I could go every week so we were always trying to fit it in somewhere, which drove me a bit crazy.

I've been asked a bunch of questions from friends about all of this and so I'm going to go step by step and share what I did to handle the once a month grocery thing.  

And please know that I feel I'm still in the "experimental stages" of this, so if you all have done this and have great ideas to share, please do in the comments.  I would love to know!

Alright, so here goes....

The Menu:

First, I made a list separated into categories of meals that I make like casseroles, pasta, sandwiches, soups, Mexican food, etc.  Then under each category I listed every meal I could think of in those categories.  

Making a menu for a month can be a daunting task, but this made it much easier because choosing meals was no longer random.  Now my week is planned out like this:

Monday--Mexican food (or weekend leftovers)




Friday-- Grill or Crockpot....this one isn't set in stone, but it's usually something very simple that we can grill or throw in the crockpot since hubby is off and I don't want to spend my day in the kitchen! =)

Saturday--Soup...I always, always make a vat of soup on Saturday.  This way we have some to heat up on Sunday nights after church when we get home, and it makes an easy lunch or dinner on Monday when we're recovering from the busy weekend!

Sunday--Casserole or Crockpot (usually we have people over on Sunday so I need a lot of food and something easy to prepare ahead of time)

For breakfast we have a rotating menu of oatmeal, grits, eggs, yogurt and granola, etc.  (I'll have to share more about this in another post.)  Lunch is usually always PB&J, or leftovers.  Exciting, I know.  I'm working on that one!

The Money

We've used cash to pay for groceries since we were married almost 11 years ago, and hubby has always given it to me on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, whatever the grocery plan has been for that season of life.  Since handing over the entire month's budget at once can be a bit much, we decided to go with 2/3 of the budget for the initial "big" shopping trip.  (Our grocery budget increased this year and is now about $20 per family member/per week...you do the math.) =)  

Since it is inevitable that we have to run errands at some point every week, we've split up the remaining 1/3 of the monthly budget between the remaining three weeks to be used for milk, eggs and fresh produce.  This also helps with things that we need that would have been impossible to foresee when I did the monthly menu. 

Usually this mini shopping trip ends up taking around 15 minutes in the store. It's an in and out type of thing.  And if we don't need to go because we have enough produce, milk and eggs on hand, we just don't go.  It's wonderful to have that option!  (And I'm so excited that in a few months we won't have to worry about buying eggs since we now have chicks!)

Once a Month Cooking

I don't actually cook for a month at a time.  I should probably say that from the get go. My cooking for a month is more of a hybrid version. 

Instead of cooking all of my meals ahead of time, I prepare all of my meals ahead of time.  Sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but here's what it looks like.  Say I'm having Chicken Noodle Soup one Saturday.  I'll chop up all of my onion, celery and garlic and put it in a ziploc bag labeled "Chicken Noodle Soup" and stick it in the freezer.  That way all of my chopping is done and I just have to dump it into the crockpot with the chicken to make soup. If you take an hour and chop everything that will be cooked for the month, you'll save yourself a bunch of time!

 Or perhaps I'm going to have four meals during the month that call for ground beef.  I'll go ahead and cook all of the ground beef for the entire month, separate and freeze it.  Or make up a bunch of homemade cream of chicken soup, or whatever.  And if you're going to be eating the same recipe twice in one month, go ahead and make two while you're at it. =)

{a weeks worth of chopping plus chicken marinating in a freezer bag (crockpot meal) and a pan of granola bars}

Just getting the prep work out of the way makes it so much easier to chunk your meal in the crockpot and not make a mess in the kitchen!  Only one big mess a month is SO much better than a mess every day. 

There are things though that I do make for an entire month like Simple Granola and Chewy Granola Bars, or Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars. (They are SO good!) Granola can be stored in an airtight container or in the freezer and granola bars can be frozen as well.

How to Keep Everything From Being Eaten

This actually was my hubby's only concern when I unloaded my "Once a Month Plan" on him.  First off, chopping and preparing things to stash in your freezer for meals handles a portion of that.  Also freezing things like cream cheese, butter or shredded cheese will make those foods not as accessible.  You can even take a sharpie and write on the bag/box what meal it's supposed to be for before you stash it in the freezer.

But you want to know what I did with a lot of the dry goods like cheerios, tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, raisins, coffee, etc?  I put it into paper bags and stashed it away in my closet!!  
{This was one of the bags, about two weeks into the month}

It's really a mental thing.  If there is only one jar of salsa in the cupboard or refrigerator, you automatically have a "make it last" approach, but when you see 4 jars, well, you feel like you can go to town!  

"Shopping" out of my closet and refilling the cupboard as needed worked GREAT. I will definitely be doing this again.   

So there you have it...everything you ever {or never} wanted to know about my "Once a Month Plan" for menu planning, shopping and cooking. Hopefully your brain isn't exploding.  Because mine almost did while attempting to write it all down. =D

Seriously though, I hope this will be a help. We're all busy, and when I've found a way to simplify and save my sanity, I want to share it with you in hopes that it will help you, too!

If you have any questions or ideas for me, let me know in the comments.  Also, if you have a few minutes, share in the comment section what you do to manage menu planning, grocery shopping, etc.  We always can learn from each other! So don't be shy....=)  


  1. What a great idea, and thank you for writing this out like this. I have found that school with kids getting older actually takes more time (I guess I have more students, too!) than it used to, and my husband's schedule is crazy. Plus, summer activities make a regular schedule impossible. I might have to try this... Thanks

  2. I do something very similar but for two weeks worth of meals simply because we don't have freezer space right now. Hiding the food in the closet is an idea that I may steal though! Outta sight, outta reach of hungry hands! ;)

  3. I had to start doing this when we moved to Brazil. It took a while to get used to, but I think I'm in a good routine now. I do the same with the snacks too, but no matter how hard I try the last week of the month still gets a little bare. ;)

  4. Sounds great. Can you share menu ideas and recipes?

  5. This is Jennifer Harper


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