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Step By Step Tutorial on How to Create a Rotating Menu to Meal Plan

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Meal planning can be so overwhelming especially if you are new to the whole meal planning scene.  We all know that meal planning and eating at home saves money, but sometimes just sitting down to create a meal plan just sucks.  In this post, I am going to show you how to meal plan and save TONS OF TIME!  


To be totally honest, I used a meal planning service for a while because I was so stressed out with the thought of planning meals and it helped me from feeling overwhelmed.  I used the plan for about 6 months, printed out the recipes and now I have a ton of meal ideas and recipes from the $5 Meal Plan because I kept the recipes in a binder.  So cool!


I have a little trick you can use below that will still save you a ton of time in the meal planning department.   I have a favorite meal bank and I use a rotating menu.     If this  sounds unfamiliar, that’s ok.  I am about to go into detail of how to meal plan and use a  rotating meal plan that you and your family will love.    


Step by Step Rotating Menu Tutorial

  First, write down a list of all the meals that your family loves.  Think about every meal that your kids cleaned their plate.  Every meal that your husband raves about.  Every meal that was easy on the budget and still tasted good.  Here is a list of 21 healthy dinner ideas if you need a jumpstart.    


You can use a regular old sheet of paper or you can use this sheet.    What I want you to do is sit down with your family and let them tell you what they enjoy eating. What meals do you make that are total hits with your family?  What meals are easy to make?  What meals can you make in the crock pot for when things are super busy after work?  


Think about these and write them down on this Favorite Meals Sheet.   If you have a bunch of meal ideas, print out a few copies of this sheet.  I have 3 of these sheets and I love it because it gives me tons of meal options.  


This is your meal planning bank

Every time you need to sit down and plan meals, you come back here.  This will save you so much time instead of having to look through recipe books or think of something out of thin air.  To go a step further, I usually make sure I know how to make most of the meals on this sheet by memory.  There are probably 5 meal ideas on all 3 sheets that I will need to go back and look up the recipe.  It just makes it quicker.


If you like to try new meals, consider trying them on the weekends when you have a little more time.  Then, commit that recipe to memory or make it when you have more time in the evening if you  need to use a recipe.   S   Second, bust out a monthly calendar.  Look over what you have going on for the month. 


If you have a planner, you can use the calendar in there to plan your meals.     Next, look at the meals you have written down and see which meals would be the easiest for you to cook for each night depending on what you have going on.  You can choose to schedule out only one week or 2 weeks at a time if you would like.


 If you like to experiment with new recipes over the weekend, leave the weekends blank.       Bottom line just fill in meals for each night of the week that you think are reasonable.  Now, if you have soccer, dance and a PTO conference all in one night, it probably won’t be reasonable if you want to make a meal that will take 30 minutes to prep.  If I were you, I would stick to a crock pot meal for that particular night.   


Just put some thought into which meals make sense for each night of the week.  This will reduce the temptation to stop at a drive through or order pizza.  

Third, you can use those same meals to plan the next 2 weeks of the month.  You can simply use every single recipe or meal idea you used the first 2 weeks or you can throw another 1-2 new recipes in there.  Or, heck, you can come up with another 2 weeks of meals from Pinterest or a meal planning service you may have used.    


Look at the image below.  I used purple ink for the first 2 weeks and then I used pink for the second 2 weeks of meals, but they are the exact same meals.  You just use them in a different sequence.  It makes it so easy!  I didn’t add any new meals here just to show you how easy it is.  Like I said though, you can swap out meals that weren’t a hit if you want to.       

  If you don’t want to use a calendar, no sweat.   Here is what I do.  I literally write down every meal I plan to make over 2-3 weeks on a notepad and keep it on my refrigerator.  If my husband is home, I ask him each morning what he feels like eating that night for dinner.  I give him 2-3 options on the list and he chooses one.

Most of the time, I only give him options of something that takes very little prep unless I happen to have some time that morning to whip it up or if I know we have nothing going on that night.


  I have complete control over what I feel like making and what works for what we have going on that night and it is WONDERFUL!  


If Greg is out of town, I literally scale back our meals to basic kid foods like homemade chicken nuggets, baked potatoes or grilled cheese.  My kids could really care less what we eat- most of the time my oldest will want pizza if I ask him what he wants.  (He takes after his Dad).  


I will tell you first hand that this had significantly reduced my stress level with meal planning.       I used $5 Meal Plan for about 6 months and I kept a lot of the recipes and I still rotate those recipes into my rotating menu.  I have all of the recipes in a binder which I keep in my kitchen.  I would recommend you have a binder or a folder just to stay organized.  It doesn’t have to be fancy,  it just has to do the job, k?


For me, dinner is the most stressful meal.  Breakfast is easy here.  My kids will usually eat toast or a piece of fruit or sometimes both.  Alternatively, they also may eat a yogurt.  These are all things that require little to no effort on my part.  I do have to pack a lunch for my youngest each day because he has food allergies and most of the time, I try to make it leftovers from dinner the night before.  (His preschool warms up his little lunch:)  


Dinner used to totally stress me out and I would feel so overwhelmed and now I literally spend about 15 minutes a month thinking about what I will make for dinner. If dinner stresses you out too, try this method and let me know how it works.  I can’t wait to hear all about it!   What meal planning system do you use in your house?

Below are some of my favorite cookbooks where you will find tons of healthy recipes to plan your meals.

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