How to Plan a Month of Meals

plan a month of meals 1984

Plus, 17 ways to use a rotisserie chicken

Fall is the time of year I’m determined to plan dinners in advance, shop for everything at once and serve healthy meals every night. That usually lasts a week before I throw my hands up and order pizza. Sound familiar?

I know I’m not alone when I say I am both intrigued and aggravated by bloggers who share monthly meal plans. In theory, they are amazingly planned out with a shopping list and sometimes a nutritional chart. But when I look at the recipes, I know my family of picky eaters will only eat half the dinners suggested. This year I came up with a plan that will work for my family. Here are suggestions to plan a month of meals that your family will eat.

  1. Make a list of your family’s go-to meals. How many times do you make them each month? I make eight family favorites twice a month, which satisfies 16 days. Next, make a list of meals you make only once a month like a ham, pot roast or something that takes several hours to cook. Then, add in some simple, quick meals that can be cooked in 15 minutes (see sidebar for ideas). Finally, choose a few crockpot meals your family enjoys.

  2. Create a calendar. Write each dinner on a separate Post-it and put them in order on a calendar. As you arrange (and rearrange) the days, be realistic about your family’s schedule. If you will be occupied from 3­–6 p.m., don’t plan a dinner that takes hours to prepare. When you lay out your calendar, plan meals with similar ingredients in the same week to avoid waste. For example, if two recipes use ½ can of tomato paste, put those meals next to each other on the calendar.

  3. Make a shopping list for the month. Shop for all non-perishable items at once and shop weekly for fresh produce and dairy. Meat can be purchased ahead of time and frozen or purchased weekly. As you see a pattern forming for your staples, pick up extras at the store. With unpredictable schedules of my teens and their friends, I keep extra frozen burgers and packages of rice or pasta to supplement a meal if we have extra guests.

  4. Leave flexibility in your schedule. If you know a night will be too busy to cook, plan leftovers by making a double batch the night before. If your child’s late afternoon lessons and are next to your favorite take-out restaurant, plan that into your menu every now and then. If there is a great sale at the grocery store one week, feel free to adjust your plan. When the cost of eggs dropped drastically in my area, we ate breakfast for dinner a few nights instead of our regularly planned meals.

  5. Consider cooking a week of meals at once. While I have yet to master this, some families spend one long afternoon chopping, mixing and cooking dinner for the whole week. It is a great time saver for the busy afterschool rush. Grill more than one kind of meat, chop all veggies for the week’s menu, or make soups, casseroles and sauces to freeze for later.


Having dinners already planned and prepped provides time to help with homework, play a game with the kids or just put your feet up and relax.

17 Ways to Use a Rotisserie Chicken
Every grocery store has grab-and-go rotisserie chicken, side options and bread to complete a meal. While this is an alternative to takeout food, rotisserie chicken can also expedite a home-cooked meal.

  1. Shred chicken for fajitas.

  2. Add to pasta or a green salad.

  3. Mix with mayo, celery and hard-boiled eggs to make chicken salad sandwiches.

  4. Roll up in wraps.

  5. Add to rice, eggs and soy sauce for chicken fried rice.

  6. Cut up and add to soup.

  7. Mix with Red Hot sauce and top with blue cheese and coleslaw for buffalo chicken sandwiches.

  8. Place on pita bread with tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce for chicken gyros.

  9. Add barbecue sauce to make chicken sliders.

  10. Make chicken pot pie by mixing with frozen veggies and baking in a pie shell.

  11. Use in any casserole recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

  12. Make white chili with navy beans, white corn, sour cream and chicken broth.

  13. Mix with black beans, jicama and cilantro for chicken tacos.

  14. Stuff green peppers with a combination of chicken, beans, rice and tomatoes.

  15. Make chicken and dumplings.

  16. Press chicken, pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes between Italian bread for a Panini.

  17. Create a white pizza with chicken, mozzarella, garlic and herbs.


Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of three. When she isn’t running a carpool or supporting her kids on the field and on stage, she looks forward to cooking meals that her family enjoys.

Published October 2016

 

Authentic Mexican Street Corn

Authentic Mexican Street Corn

This Mexican Street Corn recipe is made by grilling corn on the cob and coating it with a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, Cotija cheese, chili powder and lime. Also called elotes, this easy-to-ma . . .

Read more

San Diego Restaurants with Kid-Friendly Play Space

San Diego Restaurants with Kid-Friendly Play Space

Hey, foodie parents. Skip the dollar menu this weekend. These local restaurants feature real chefs, great food and play spaces for kids. Officine Buona Forchetta2816 Sims Rd., Liberty StationThis che . . .

Read more

Chocolate Chip Cookie Hearts

Chocolate Chip Cookie Hearts

Chocolate Chip Cookie Hearts2 1/4  cups all-purpose flour 1  teaspoon baking soda 1  teaspoon salt 1  cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 3/4  cup granulated sugar 3/4  cup . . .

Read more

Valentine's Day Lollipops

Valentine's Day Lollipops

Homemade lollipops are fun valentines treats for kids to pass out to their friends and neighbors. The strawberry flavor makes them extra special, but choose whatever flavor you like best. Makes 12 l . . .

Read more

Strawberry Shortcake Hearts

Strawberry Shortcake Hearts

Individual heart-shaped desserts couldn’t be easier using refrigerated canned biscuits filled with fresh, sweetened strawberries and whipped cream. Serves 8 1 (16 oz.) can refrigerated biscuits . . .

Read more

Snacking with  Joy: Bento Box Valentine's Lunch

Snacking with Joy: Bento Box Valentine's Lunch

Give your child this healthy Kale Salad Bento Box lunch with "candy hearts" for dessert. IngredientsOrganic kaleSweet red peppersJicamaSharp Cheddar cheeseOrganic, free-range hard-boiled eggSeedless . . .

Read more

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Looking for clever ways to include fruits and veggies in your kids diet? Try this juice recipe from “Best 100 Juices for Kids” by food blogger and San Diego mom, Jessica Fisher. The beet lends a . . .

Read more

Snacking with Joy: Sweetheart Pancake Breakfast

Snacking with Joy: Sweetheart Pancake Breakfast

Surprise someone you love with this delicious and nutritious Sweetheart Pancake! It’s a healthy and adorable way to say I Love You!IngredientsOrganic blueberriesOrganic strawberries Seedless water . . .

Read more

Glazed Brownie Hearts

Glazed Brownie Hearts

Glazed Brownie Hearts Prep Time: 30 minutesTotal Time: 2 hours 25 minutesMakes: 14 brownie hearts What you need: 1 Box Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix (with chocolate syrup pouch) o . . .

Read more

Super Bowl Football Cupcakes

Super Bowl Football Cupcakes

SuperBowl Football Cupcakes 3 ounces white candy coating, coarsely chopped, divided 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 3 teaspoons vanilla extract 2/3 cup crushed granola ce . . .

Read more

Sweet Potato Bisque

Sweet Potato Bisque

The sweetness of the potato and the tartness of the apple join forces with the aromatic spiciness of the cinnamon and nutmeg for a beautiful and soul satisfying soup. Serves 8 1 cup diced yellow . . .

Read more

Creamy Cauliflower

Creamy Cauliflower "Baked Potato" Soup

Celebrity Chef Melissa d'Arabian shares her recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Soup: There are few soups more decadent than a classic baked potato soup, loaded with cream, Cheddar cheese and smoky b . . .

Read more

Chicken-Chile Pozole

Chicken-Chile Pozole

Melissa d'Arabian's Chicken-Chile PozoleThis brothy Mexican soup is chock-full of hominy, mild dried chiles, and shredded chicken or pork. Shredded chicken and mild New Mexico dried red chiles make . . .

Read more

Buttermilk Scones

Buttermilk Scones

Melissa d’Arabian’s Buttermilk SconesMakes 122 cups all-purpose flour, plus more fordusting6 tablespoons granulated sugar2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda2 tablespoons dry butt . . .

Read more

Melissa d’Arabian’s Potato Bacon Torte

Melissa d’Arabian’s Potato Bacon Torte

This is my signature dish, and may actually be the recipe on “The Next Food Network Star” that won me my own cooking show, Ten Dollar Dinners. 6 servingsFor the crust2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour . . .

Read more

Chef Matt Gordon's Famous Cinnamon Rolls

Chef Matt Gordon's Famous Cinnamon Rolls

Chef Matt Gordon’s cuisine dazzles diners every day at his three San Diego restaurants—Solace & the Moonlight Lounge, Sea & Smoke and Urban Solace. (Author’s note: the warm cheese bisc . . .

Read more

How to Plan a Month of Meals

How to Plan a Month of Meals

Plus, 17 ways to use a rotisserie chicken Fall is the time of year I’m determined to plan dinners in advance, shop for everything at once and serve healthy meals every night. That usually lasts a . . .

Read more

Confessions of a Weekday Vegan

Confessions of a Weekday Vegan

A semi-vegan approach for healthy kids and a healthy planet Scroll down for a list of kid-friendly vegan meal ideas. For the third time in my adult life, I’ve rewritten my weekly shopping list t . . .

Read more

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Lettuce wraps are a delicious way to celebrate Chinese New Year at home! Omit the cayenne pepper to make a milder version of the sauce.Ingredients3 - 6 oz. chicken breasts1 Tablespoon soy sauce1 Tab . . .

Read more

6 Grab-and-Go Breakfasts for Hurried School Mornings

6 Grab-and-Go Breakfasts for Hurried School Mornings

Despite the fact that we have a solid morning routine, sometimes we get sidetracked and don’t have time to eat breakfast at home. Eating breakfast in the car isn't ideal, but it’s better than sk . . .

Read more

10 Easy & Nutritious Afterschool Snacks

10 Easy & Nutritious Afterschool Snacks

My daughter eats lunch at school at 10:30 in the morning. Afternoon snacks are not given. She’s starving by the time she gets home from school at 4:00, but the rest of the family isn’t home and . . .

Read more

52 Easy School Lunch Ideas

52 Easy School Lunch Ideas

Get kids excited about taking lunch to school by offering plenty of variety. Tailor this list of 52 lunchbox ideas to your child’s preferences. Discover her favorites and plan them once a week. Co . . .

Read more

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican Hot Chocolate

This Mexican hot chocolate recipe can easily be whipped up at home.Makes 4 Servings Ingredients 
32 oz. milk
1 Cinnamon stick
1 Chocolate Bar (such as Hershey’s) Directions
Heat milk on . . .

Read more

Apple Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

Apple Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

This upside-down apple blackberry cake looks impressive enough for company, but is so easy to make! Substitute frozen cranberries for a twist in color and flavor. Serves 8 Ingredients1½ cup flour . . .

Read more

21 Ways to Make S'mores

21 Ways to Make S'mores

I understand that for some, messing with traditional s'mores is downright wrong. But if it's the taste of s'mores that you crave, you're probably open to venturing outside the box (or in this case, th . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!