Meal Planning 101

500x750We’ve all been there. It’s 5 pm, you’re exhausted after a long day and staring blankly into the pantry wondering what to make for dinner.

Ugh. Let’s see…I have spaghetti sauce, ranch style beans and chocolate chips. *sigh*

This is the last place anyone wants to be. Your brain is fried from and entire day of decision making, there’s no way you can be expected  to construct something edible. Forget delicious, not gonna happen.

I’ve found myself in this situation more times than I’d care to admit but it didn’t take long to learn that planning our meals in advance is a fairly easy solution. With a meal plan, I know that my family will be fed healthy, home cooked meals every night and it’s cheaper than take out.

I grocery shop once a week, on Monday, so that means planning our weekly meals on Sunday night. When I’m planning I try to keep in mind how long perishable food keeps in the refrigerator and plan accordingly.

I plan the meals whose ingredients spoil quickly earliest in the week (like fresh fish, meats and veggies) by the time we get to Thursday I’m using using what’s left of our fruit and when the weekend finally rolls around I’m digging stuff out of the pantry and eating up the leftovers.

If weekly decision making is holding you back or if meal planning for you is well intentioned but rarely accomplished consider making a recurring meal plan. Sit down with your cookbooks and plan two weeks of meals then rotate through those 14 meals in the same order over and over.

For a long time I would plan different meals each week but recently I created a four week meal plan which I rotate through. I found I didn’t make more than 28 different things anyway and now I don’t have to decide what to make on which day. Now I check the meal plan, double check our schedule for the week to make sure it all fits and and make my list.

Weekly Meal Rotation

I left Saturdays open for going out and Sundays open to allow us to go through leftovers or to try new recipes.

I switch things up occasionally out of need. For example two weeks ago we went out of town on Friday and missed grilling fajitas but we didn’t want to wait an entire cycle to get back to them so instead of going out last Saturday we grilled fajitas instead.

I put the recipes for each of those meals in a notebook, arranged in order by week in my kitchen so it’s easily accessible for cooking. I put each recipe in a page protector (just say no to grease splattered recipes!) and labeled the page protector with the week and day the recipe is used. When I’m ready to switch a recipe out in my notebook I can just remove the old one from the page protector and slide in the new one. No digging for recipes, looking up stuff online or remembering which cookbook it came from. Grab notebook, turn to correct page and go.

weekly rotation recipe notebook

The rotating meal plan is never finished. Just like our food preferences, it changes with the seasons. For example, I know our Friday night grilling session will change when it starts to get colder but that means we can add more soup to the schedule and I LOVE soup.

Creating a recurring meal plan might not be right for you, perhaps you have an erratic schedule or someone in your household travels unpredictability but please give meal planning a try. You’ll be surprised how much more peaceful your evenings become!

What about you, do you use a weekly meal plan? Have you ever tried doing a meal rotation?

Share this: