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Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to deal with the hassle of figuring out what’s for dinner every night?  Part of the reason that folks find it difficult to stick with a real food lifestyle is that it’s hard to create, shop for and prepare real food as you need it.  Eating real food often requires planning in advance.

Planning meals on the fly is a task for even the most creative cooks.  In addition, planning meals on the fly is a huge waste of time and money.  Menu planning once per week — or better yet, just once per month — is a much easier, time-efficient and financially-wise way to plan your meals.

It’s not a secret that I find meal planning to be a critical piece of sticking to a real food way of life and of eating real food on a budget.  I use a combination of my favorite online real food meal planner and recipes that I collect from Pinterest to plan out all of my family’s meals and snacks for the entire month.  This requires me to sit down once for about an hour and chose the meals I want from Real Plans and those I want from my personal Pinterest board.

We eat meat every other day, so I plan almost even amounts of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.  I arrange them so that we don’t have similar proteins too close together.  (To see how I plan breakfast, lunch and snacks, read my post on how to meal plan.)Then, I post the menu on the wall in our kitchen so that my family always knows what we’re having to eat.

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In addition, having a menu that is created by the month allows me to take advantage of sales.  I know what items I’ll need as the month goes on and if a perishable item goes on sale before I’ll need it, I can always switch the meals around and use that item sooner than planned.  That helps to keep our real food lifestyle more frugal.

I have created a free, printable monthly meal planner and weekly meal planner for easy download.  I kept them simple so that they would be frugal to print.  I hope you find them to be helpful!

Free Printable Monthly and Weekly Meal Planners

Photo Credits: Jetkassettakorn Pongjivanich

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