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!

Quick Review

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

Step 1

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.

For example

    • 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.

List Example

Step 2

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.

For example

  • 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.

Step 3

List your family activities so you know on what days you have to plan easy dinners.

Step 4

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

Step 5

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

Extra Tips

  • 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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