Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Perfect Meal Plan System

I've been a stay-at-home person for almost a year now, and one thing I've gotten really good at is meal planning. I've developed a system that works so well for me that (even though this has nothing to do with writing or history), I'm going to post a series about it for the next month. It'll end right before I leave for the HNS Conference, so I'll get right back to topics on writing and history as soon as this series is over.

Here's a quick summary of how it works:

Whenever I had to make a grocery list, I got overwhelmed trying to decide what meals to make. Nothing in my recipe book ever sounded good. It seemed like I made the same stuff over and over, and I often forgot about meals I really liked. Meal planning was stressful!

Then a friend told me about the Three Week Rotation system where you make the same thing every three weeks. You don't have to stress about what to buy or what to make because you just go down the list. You don't get into a funk of making the same thing all the time because you only eat a certain food once in the rotation.

Problem: I get sick of foods easily. There was no way I would enjoy repeating the same foods that often. Besides, I had more meals I liked than would fit in a three week rotation.

Solution: I grouped all the foods I make according to their type. For instance, I have a Casserole Day. On that day, I can choose between four different casseroles depending on the mood I'm in. That way I'm still going through a rotation, but there's a lot of variety, and one month might be very different from the next.

I've been much happier and relaxed since I started the rotation, and my husband says he's never had so much good food!

How to Get Started on the MEAL ROTATION SYSTEM:

  1. Write down every meal you make on a regular basis. Don't include special meals that you only make for guests or holidays. Include restaurants if you go there a lot (if your family eats pizza once a week, write that down). Include simple meals you eat too, even if it's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or canned soup.
  2. Keep adding to the list as time goes by. Odds are you won't remember all the meals you make off the top of your head, so if you cook something for dinner that isn't on the list, write it down.
  3. Organize the foods into groups. Perhaps you have several pasta recipes and would like a Pasta Day, for instance. If you wouldn't want to eat two meals right next to each other because they're too similar, they probably belong in the same group. 
  4. Put all the recipes in one easy-to-find place (a Pinterest board, a Word document, or printed in a binder).
  5. Next time you go grocery shopping, buy at least five meals at the top of the list. Post the names of the meals on your refrigerator so you remember what you bought. Once you've made and eaten them all, buy the next five.
  6. Keep changing and adding to the list until it best fits your family.
Don't stress if your rotation seems small at first. I'm going to share all the meals on my rotation with you for the next month so you can build your menu. Also don't stress if this is overwhelming at first; it's a process, and it'll take some time to evolve until it perfectly fits your needs.

Benefits of Using the MEAL ROTATION SYSTEM:
  • It's easier to plan meals. All your recipes are in one place, and you don't need to think about what you're going to make next.
  • It's easier to cook meals. The more you make a dish, the better you get at it. Pretty soon you'll know the recipes in your head and cooking them will take half as long.
  • It's cheaper because it uses up everything I buy. I have only one recipe that calls for dill weed and if I only made it once, buying the dill weed would be a waste of money. Since I make that meal at least once every two months, I know eventually I'm going to use it up. That same recipe calls for broccoli and the leftover broccoli usually goes to waste, but with the system I can plan a meal right after it that includes the leftover broccoli.
  • It's cheaper because I don't eat out as much or buy already prepared food.
  • I cook less often. When I'm in a rush to throw together an easy meal, I don't usually plan for leftovers. With the rotation I always plan for enough leftovers to have for at least one other meal. That means I only cook three to four times a week and the rest of the week is leftovers.
  • It's healthier. Not only am I eating more home-cooked meals, but I can see on my list if   there are any food groups missing and if I need to make changes to my diet.
I hope this was helpful and I'm excited to share the details of my system with you for the next few weeks!


  1. This is perfect - I am planning my meals today! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Awesome! I've been in a funk lately cooking wise so I think this will definitely help. Looking forward to seeing your recipes!

  3. I keep a 'meals log' so I don't eat the same meals more than 2 - 3 times in a in a way, a different version of what you do.....

    This helps me keep variety in my meals, also.....which is very important!!

    and I did learn some new things from you that will improve my eating plan!! thanks........

  4. My gf and I are going to have to adopt something like this since we're getting in a meal-rut and also are both currently a little heavier than we'd like to be.


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