By: Meriel Bradley
My 8-week rotating meal planner was a tool and routine that I developed when my kids were young.
With a super busy schedule with work and the kid’s activities, it wasn’t always easy to find the time – or energy – to prepare and serve a meal made from scratch.
But I knew I had to figure out a meal planning system that works because;
- I wanted to know every ingredient in my meals
- I wanted to figure out how to double up and have home-made lunches from leftovers
- I wanted to save $$
Today I want to share my meal planning system with you so you can enjoy all the benefits and make mealtimes fun and stress-free!
The 8-week meal planner takes a bit of time upfront, but once you have built your own customized planner you won’t look back.
- You can adjust it to get it perfect and tweak it as your family schedules change
- It will be filled with your family’s favourite meals and recipes
- You only have to make the planner once and you are good to go for 8 weeks and then you just start the cycle over again
- You can try new foods and add in new recipes, but your foundation is there as your go-to base
- It will build up a go-to supply of freezer-ready meals
- It will give you a lunch schedule that you have already planned with the dinner menu in mind
- And it takes into account your own personal family activity schedule
- This works if you are cooking for one, two, or your family
What’s not to love? Ready to get started?
How to Build Your 8 Week Meal Planner
The first step is to build a list of your favourite go-to dishes
- Make your lists with the protein as the key ingredient – so chicken, fish, pork, beef, vegetarian or other
- Don’t forget to list pizza night, eating out and other fun foodie events you like to do
- You can also list snacks, side dishes, brunches, and desserts if you want to refer to those as ideas
- We did this as a family even though the kids were young, it was nice for them to have an input into the plan
Now you can flag those meals that are freezer-friendly to make a double batch and ones that you can make enough for lunches.
- If you make a lasagna, make 2 large lasagnas and freeze one. Then the one that you cook that night can be used for some hearty lunches during the week.
- Or maybe you are going to marinate a triple batch of pork chops, BBQ one meal, and freeze the other 2 so they can be defrosted and cooked quickly with a quick salad to be ready in 20 minutes start to finish.
Now you are going to create a framework for your meal plan over 7 days and decide what main ingredients you will use each week.
- You may choose to have 2 meals with chicken and one 1 with beef, pork, fish, vegetarian, and other for a total of 7 meals in a week.
List your family activities so you know on what days you have to plan easy dinners.
Now you are going to build out your plan week by week using your main ingredient framework, family recipes and activity schedule as a reference.
- Take it 1 week at a time using your main ingredient outline and activity chart to help you
- Try to have one meal a week that uses the Freezer column – cook or use
- Plan your double-up days on a day where your schedule is pretty clear
- Work until you have 8 weeks completed
You can now create a rotating index card stack. I liked to have my meal plan on the fridge where everyone could see it.
- Make an index card for each week
- Stick a magnet to the back of each card
- Stack the cards up in week order – 1 to 8
- Once the week is past, move the top card to the back
- Plan your shopping days to ensure you have all the ingredients to hand
- Keep it simple to start with – I focused on Dinner, freezer, and lunches to get me going and added in baking and weekend treats later
- Refer to your planner when making your shopping list
- Go shopping with a list – it makes sure you buy exactly what you need and is a budget-friendly way to shop
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