I have been making a meal plan for about 6 months now, and I have experimented with different ways to do it, seeing which would be more applicable to my lifestyle, etc. One thing I can say even before we start discussing what types of meal plans are the best, is that I recommend making plans for everyone, no matter your financial situation or your daily schedule.
I go through full-time school and a full-time job, and I bring both at home with projects and exams, and lesson plans for work, so I understand what it is to have no time to do anything (believe me you, my social life has greatly suffered). So when I sat down for the first time to write a meal plan, I thought it was going to be a waste of my time that I could be spending doing a million other things. I mean, how hard can it be to look in the freezer and take out one thing to defrost? The problem came when I had forgotten to make groceries and there would be nothing to defrost, or when I had run out of the house without taking anything out, or when I has no spaghetti to go with the sauce I had taken out, etc etc. I could only picture the chaos when I would have little ones clamoring for their meal! So I said why not, and sat down for 20 mns and just wrote out meal ideas, then fitted them in our huge calendar. The result? Less time stressing over what the heck was for supper, less forgotten meals, less chaos.
Same thing for budget problems. God knows how many stupid things I have done with grocery shopping. Like spending too much on stupid food (i.e. brand name vs no name), or like buying food when I could have made it at a much better price (i.e. bread). I just bought when I went regardless of sales, and I went often because I had no plan. Now, I am much more budget friendly and with the help of this lovely tool plus fliers and lovely coupons (for all those who are laughing at me for cutting coupons, check this out) I save money instead of wasting it. I go grocery shopping once a week (sometimes), and I know what I have to get because of my meal plan (which helps me build my grocery list) and buy the fresh produce maybe twice a week.
Spending that 20 - 30 mns making my plan helped me save time and money, not to mention reduced stress.
So going on to the type of meal plans that one can do, Ive tried the weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly plans, and for myself, I have seen that its a mix between the weekly and monthly plans that work best for me. I love being able to sit down and fill out the entire month's squares on my calendar, however I am absolutely aware that that is counter-productive when it comes to saving money, considering that the flier specials are weekly. So what I do is that I have a list of the meals I can make off the top of my head. I add in 4x leftovers (once a week) to the list, Veggie Night, and Tryouts (where we try a new recipe). That gives me easily 30 meals, especially since I usually eat Sunday meals at my parents, a tradition which I love and will never give up. So I have my list of 30 meals, and then I look at the weekly specials and plug in the meals according to the specials. Then, in pencil, I fill in tentative meals for the next three weeks, and then I just have to check out the specials and switch it up according to the specials or what I already have. Simple and effective (for me anyways!)
There are tons of websites that help to plan a meal plan, if one finds it too difficult or complex. In all, there is really no reason why one cant make a meal plan. Its so worth the time and effort put into it!