I sat down with my pen and paper because I needed to see the month on paper and "sketch" it out. I drew out the month of July and dated each square. Then I checked my calendar to see if we had any plans that might interfere with dinner at home.
Next I decided to assign themes to the days of the week. We have swimming lessons on Monday and Wednesday nights which means that we do not get home until 5:30 which is Molly's dinner time. I need dinner on the table, FAST! That is where my trusty crockpot steps in. So Monday and Wednesdays are crockpot and leftover meal nights. Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays which I stretched to Mexican. Saturdays are eat out days. Fridays are Pizza night. I didn't have themes for Thursday or Sunday. I decided to wing those nights.
After assigning themes and identifying any scheduling issues, I started writing down meal ideas. I did them by themes. For crockpot nights, I got out my favorite cookbook, Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever with More Than 400 Easy-to-Make Recipes. This cookbook saved my butt when Molly was a newborn and I've loved every single recipe I've made from it. My only complaint is that the recipes are usually for 6-8 people but I think I solved that problem by planning leftover meals! I also used The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together, Weelicious and Practical Paleo as my other cookbook guides.
Next I made my shopping lists. I separated them into Costco vs the regular store and then separated the regular store by week. This part took the longest because I had to organize the lists. This will be a HUGE help when I go grocery shopping each week. All in all, the entire process took about an hour and a half. I think it could go quicker if my little helper hadn't refused to nap and hadn't decided to 'help' me plan our meals.
You can see my July Meal Plan on Evernote. What do you do to save time and money with meals? Do you like to meal plan?