First of all let me be clear- I don't sit down and plan out the entire month's dinner menu because I like to. I actually get really annoyed with it. I do it for two major reasons:
1.) Grocery Shopping with three kids ages five and under, by myself, while trying to stick to a budget is like trying to herd cats while wearing a blindfold. Once a month is more than enough.
2.) The way our budget is set up, and the timing of our paychecks sort of dictate when we can do major grocery shopping trips- once a month. Granted we end up having to run to the store for milk or eggs in between trips, but it's nice to know we have everything we need for our dinners and lunches ready to go in the pantry.
This is my November dinner menu. Obviously it's a little on the skimpy side. Because I got a late start this month, and I took Thanksgiving into account, I didn't have to plan out as many dinners. Hopefully you will get the idea though!
There is a method to my madness, I promise. Normally I try to plan at least four crock pot meals (one per week) which helps keep my weeks a little less hectic, and a few "Nolan friendly" recipes which help keep his nights less hectic when I have to work (two nights per week). I also try to make sure at least half of my meals will have enough leftovers to feed us the next evening. I think this is the key to keeping the budget on track. Other than that I just try to choose recipes that don't call for mass amounts of weirdly expensive ingredients, and of course are delicious!
The above menu is for 17 nights (six of those meals will create two nights worth of food). The ingredients for those meals, plus groceries for lunches, snacks, home made baby food and breakfast for those 17 days came to a grand total of $160. Honestly I've done better as far as the budget is concerned, but $160 is still pretty good for a family of five!
Hope my tips help those of you attempting to plan a whole month at a time!