Originally posted as How to Create a Rotating Meal Plan March 15, 2019 | Revised and reposted August 30, 2022
Hey beautiful friend, I’m so glad you’re joining me here in this digital space. I’m Brittni Clarkson and I’m all about making daily mom-life as simple as possible. I’m not going to give you a ton of fluff here to convince you that meal planning is the best way to save your sanity in the kitchen – you’re here, you’re already into that kind of thing. I’m also not going to go unnecessarily in depth on things, meal planning can feel overwhelming and it absolutely doesn’t need to be, the whole point is to take some stress off your plate, not add to it. Let’s get into it.
There’s a number of ways you can make a meal plan and I’m about to give you the simplest run down of each of these so you can see what they look like, pick what works best for you, and have a few options on standby in case you need to shake things up later and use another method. Keep your eye out for free planning templates throughout this post!
We’re going to cover the basics of The Rotating Meal Plan, The Roulette Meal Plan, The Themed Meal Plan, The IDGAF Meal Plan, as well as the option of boxed dinner delivery.
I have a feeling you’re going to LOVE this podcast episode.
36: How to Meal Plan When You Hate Making Decisions – an honest talk on real life in my kitchen – Meant to Bloom
Get the Templates Here:
Snag this free download to get started meal planning!
Anyway You Plan It – Here’s What You Need to Know First
In any of these meal plan options there’s just a few things that will always overlap and be beneficial for you to think through ahead of time.
- What foods fuel you and your family? I’m not one to advocate for strict diets, but it definitely helps my meal planning process and execution if I’m planning to use foods that make me feel good – not ones I know I’m going to have digestive troubles after dinner.
- Create a family menu – this is a list of all the meals your family likes to eat and you don’t mind cooking (or maybe you actually like cooking). Pinterest gives us too many new options for dinners and it can be super overwhelming to have so many options in front of you. Create your basic meal plan from your family menu – which is tried and true dinners you already know how to cook. If you’re into trying new things, make one day of the week your “new recipe night.”
- Decide when you’ll do your grocery shopping. This one is pretty important to making this meal plan thing work for you. You make the plan, you make the grocery list, then you get the groceries once or twice a week (whatever it is that works for you) and don’t have to be running back to the store all week long for pieces of dinners that you forgot to get. This is the key step that really saves you time and money when it comes to meal planning.
- Know yourself. Don’t dream up the perfect dinner plan for the perfect wife and mom who cooks 3 course meals each night in her apron and high heels with her perfect bouffant hairstyle. That’s probably not who you are. Know who you are in the kitchen when dinner time rolls around. My guess is: tired from a full day of living life, trying to hold it together while a toddler screams at your ankles, or possibly just getting in the door after picking the kids up from soccer and dance classes. Know what kind of time and energy you will have for cooking dinner each night of the week and plan accordingly. Busy day out? Crockpot meal is probably your best option. Behind on laundry and going to spend all day catching up? Sounds like a pizza night. Save those more complex dinner options for the nights you’ll have more energy. Know who you are in the kitchen.
I believe that we, especially as mamas, are called to do things from a place of peace and love. We’re not supposed to be constantly on edge, stressed out, burnt out, and flat out angry all the time. We get to set the tone for our home and that’s such an amazing privilege. If you’re not doing things from a place of love, rethink them. How can you make it easier on you? How can you lower your stress? How can you better show up for yourself and others? How can you change the tone and energy in your home? Just some things to think about.
Want some help to Embody Love in your everyday mom-life? Check out this workbook I made specifically to help with that! Embody Love Workbook
Wanna hear how I’m currently handling the meal planning process in my own home? Listen to this episode here (episode live Sept 1, 22)
For all the templates and journal prompts you’ll need to really get your meal planning down to a science, check out this amazing guide I made just for you! Download from Etsy here
The Rotating Meal Plan
(taken from the original post from March 15, 2019) Freebie: Download the 6 week meal planning template here!
- Are you ready to always have an answer to this question: “what’s for dinner?”
- Are you ready to not only KNOW what’s for dinner, but to be prepared with all ingredients on hand after only ONE weekly trip to the grocery store?
- Are you ready to create a life changing meal plan that’s going to save your family time, stress, and money?
I’ll be honest, creating this meal plan initially took me a couple of hours over the course of a few days – but I also didn’t have anyone walking me through the process. I’m all about this new concept of paying it forward – to YOURSELF. Put in maximum effort right now, so you can chill later, knowing that “what’s for dinner?” is already taken care of.
- Brain dump your meals.
Write out a list of every meal you know your family already likes and the ones you’ve been wanting to try out. Any meal you can think of, just write it down.
Need some ideas? Scroll down to the bottom of this article for a list of some of our favorite meals, plus links to all recipes!
- sub step: if you’re trying to eat healthier or follow a specific diet, cross off every meal that doesn’t work for your diet. Think outside the box though, there may be a lot of meals that don’t work for YOU, but still work for your family and can be modified by plate. For example, tacos may not work for a carb free diet, but it’s just as easy to make a carb free taco salad with most of the same ingredients. Keep those sorts of meals in your plan.
- Structure your week.
Pull out your calendar or planner and look at your week. Be realistic with your time and your energy when you consider this: what sort of meals can you make each day?
If your day is chaotic and full of errands, you probably don’t want to make an elaborate meal. You’ll likely only have enough energy and the time to make a 30 minute, 1 pan meal.
If you’re home all morning but gone the rest of the day, until dinner time, then a slow cooker meal is more realistic for that day.
If it’s a day when the whole family is home, that’s probably a good day for a more difficult meal.
- Plug it all in.
Now assign every meal to a day. Don’t over plan though. Only plan 4 or 5 days of meals each week. This gives you 2 or 3 nights each week where you can fill it in weekly, go out for dinner, have a frozen pizza, or leftovers.
The Roulette Meal Plan
This one is fun and super simple. Take all those recipes you put on your family menu, write them on individual pieces of paper or popsicle sticks, and put them all in a jar. Just draw at random to choose your meal plan.
I’m not a huge fan of repeating similar meals back to back nights, so I used different color paper for each kind of protein base we typically cook with. (pink = pork, yellow = fish, blue = beef, orange = chicken).
The Themed Meal Plan
(originally posted here Sept 30, 2017)
As a guide there are two options for an easy, themed meal plan: regionally inspired or protein based.
An example of Regionally Inspired would be
Monday – Italian
Tuesday – Mexican
Wednesday – Soup
Thursday – Chinese
Friday – European
Saturday – Mexican
Sunday – US
The other option is Protein Based
Monday – Chicken
Tuesday – Beef
Wednesday – Bean
Thursday – Chicken
Friday – Fish
Saturday – Beef
Sunday – Pork
Then you just plug in the recipes. I always ask my hubs for one or two requests for what he’d like to eat in the next week, and I try to pick at least one new recipe from the Pinterest board full of recipes that get otherwise ignored.
I went ahead and pre-plugged in some recipes that actually work for BOTH these meal planning guides.
Monday – Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
Tuesday – Beefy Enchiladas
Wednesday – Taco Soup
Thursday – Gen Tso’s Chicken
Friday – Fried Tilapia and Fries (Fish and Chips)
Saturday – Taco Salad
Sunday – Pork Chops
This is where I really set in my plans. Go through and assign sides to each meal. I usually try to have a leafy green salad and vegetables with each meal.
The IDGAF Meal Plan
If you honestly don’t care very much about repeating meal types or what sides go best with each thing, this might be the plan for you. This barely even qualifies as a meal plan, in my opinion. All you do is head to the grocery store and buy a week’s worth of meat, pasta/rice/potato sides, and various veggies. Then you just say IDGAF and make any combo you feel like for dinner each night.
If cooking dinner doesn’t stress you out already, don’t get in over your head with some complicated meal plan that’s going to make you more stressed. If you don’t care about the variety of recipes, then don’t start caring. Let it be easy. Easy is good. Life has enough hard spots already, don’t go looking for ways to complicate it more. Love you, friend!
Boxed Dinner Delivery
These days there is no excuse for stressing over what to make for dinner or how to find time to get the groceries for dinner. Boxed dinner delivery is an amazing 21st century innovation. Services like HelloFresh and it’s cheaper, baby sister Every Plate, can make dinner time so much easier – especially if you’re feeling in a recipe rut but new meals kind of freak you out. They give you 20-30 options to choose from each week, then mail you all the ingredients you’ll need with these recipe cards that I’m in love with.
So cooking from recipes always gave me anxiety because I was trying to cook 2-3 recipes at the same time, with these dinner service boxes the whole meal is broken into 6 steps on the recipe cards. It’s so much less stressful! I’m sold on it.
One take away I want you to walk away with today: let it be easy. You don’t have to do everything the most difficult way possible. You’ve got a profound role in your home and you really don’t need to be wasting so much time and energy on things that don’t lift you or your family up higher. If you’re stressed and yelling at everyone, no one is having a good time and you’re missing opportunities for connection and nurturing your most loved little humans. Let dinner time be easy. Let that stress go. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either! We’re supposed to have a whole village, not just Pinterest How-Tos to make mom-life easier. Community is key.
Here’s the thing, I know it’s not really about meal planning… Theoretically, dinner time is easy, making decisions is easy, cooking is easy, and yet… It’s the roughest part of the day for so many of us moms. Because it’s not about the meal – yes, planning takes one thing off your plate 😉 but it’s not always the real, bottom-line solution.
There’s a thousand events in a day that can add up to your breaking point. I see you. The history with anxiety, depression, struggle with self worth and accepting love and help from others might be a contributing factor as well. Toss in a couple of tantrums from teething babies and toddlers refusing naps… I get it. Take a deep breath, mama. (snag this mindset workbook here for free – and get this print out of simple stress management tips).
I want to share with you the things that help me cling to my sanity – and when practiced often, will actually create a sense of peace and joy in your daily life. The keys to that secret sauce are gratitude, intention, and affirmations. I’m encouraging you to dig into these concepts and read the free blog posts I have available here for you linked in the words above, and if you want extra help you can check out the Everyday Joy Planner, The Guide Bundle, and the The Happy Mom Method for more support in your happy mom journey. I love you friend!
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Hi, I’m Brittni, a mom who’s determined to share my light, wisdom, and joyfulness with every mom. My desire is that every woman knows she is worthy of ease and joy and finds the encouragement and motivation to pursue her best life possible.
I live in rural Oregon with my husband and 3 sons. I never dreamed of being a boy-mom, but now I can’t imagine life not surrounded by toy dinosaurs, race cars, and fart noises.