Kim here- to talk meal planning with you today! Here at Girlxoxo we love food. I might even consider food another love language that I very happily speak. I love cooking meals at home and in the past I’ve been pretty good at planning what we would have for dinner each week. But just like anything, when you have to do it nearly every single day, it becomes a chore.
A couple of years ago I got so tired of making the meal plan every week that I turned to a meal planning service to help me out. It was wonderful! But it cost money and the recipes weren’t always what my family liked to eat (two young children make that significantly harder). So I went back to doing my own planning, only this time I decided things would be different. Here’s what I did to plan the entire year of meals all at once:
The Plan + Setup
ONE. I started by making a list of dinners/meal ideas that my family likes to eat and that I like to cook. I ended up with about 35 in total. It sounds like a lot but I bet you could come up with that many if you thought about it. For example- there are lots of different ways you can make curry or tacos or soup.
TWO. I created a separate Google calendar within my main Google calendar and titled it “DINNERS”.
THREE. I started plugging my recipes into my Dinner Calendar. I decided to add three of these meal ideas per week. I figure meals like this- 3 nights for meals that I know I’m going to plan for and cook. 1-2 nights a week that I would decide on a dinner on the fly based on what we were in the mood for or what the kids requested that week. And then the weekends are always left blank because we either eat leftovers or go out. In the end, filled up about three months worth of meals with 3 meals per week.
FOUR. So by doing this, January through March was planned. I just needed to do the rest of the year. Easy! I just set each meal to repeat every three months. Don’t worry about the exact day that it will land on 3/6/9 months from now. It doesn’t matter right now. You’ll see why in a minute. Boom, the entire year is planned!
FIVE. Okay, now once per week I take a look at my pre-planned dinner calendar. I make adjustments as necessary. So I might move our pre-planned meal of hamburgers from Tuesday to Wednesday because I know we’re having company, or we have wrestling lessons that night, or whatever. I make what we already have planned for that week work during the week. HINT- Google calendar will ask you if you want to move every instance that this meal is on the calendar. Say ‘no’ you only want to move it this one time. Some weeks, it all looks good and I don’t have to move anything.
SIX. Now I have some open nights on my calendar. I take a look at what I’ve got in my fridge and plan a meal that will use up stuff. Leftover shredded chicken from last weeks tortilla soup? I’ll use it to make a chicken pot pie this week. This leaves about 2-3 nights where we either order pizza, eat out, eat leftovers, try a brand new recipe, or do something easy like grilled cheese.
Lastly… add recipes to your yearly calendar as you try them and fall in love with them. Remove recipes that your family no longer likes and/or is tired of.
Why This Works
Bottom line- I’m not reinventing the wheel each week. I no longer sit down and have to rack my brain thinking ‘What did we eat last week?’ ‘What haven’t we had in awhile?” “What do I still like to cook?” and on and on.
Every week I do a simple check in and adjust as needed. This takes me 5-10 minutes as opposed to the 30 min – 1 hour that it used to take me to meal plan from complete scratch every single week!
You can choose how many pre-planned meals you want to plug into your calendar. Three per week works beautifully for me.
If you’re worried about doing an entire year at once just set up a rotation for three-six months and try it out!
So, what if?…
What if you aren’t in the mood to eat or cook what you have planned for that week?
If you’re mostly a mood eater this can still work for you. Instead of being super specific with your meals and putting ‘Bacon Ranch Chicken Tacos’ on your dinner rotation, consider only putting ‘Tacos’. I can think of ten different taco variations right now, so when you come to the week that has tacos, you get to mood eat by deciding whether you’re going with chicken or carne asada; hard shell or soft shell; etc.
What if your schedule doesn’t fit what you’ve got pre-planned that day?
Move it around on the monthly calendar. You’ve already got 10-12 meals on that month to choose from. Still so much easier than starting from scratch every week.
What if I find a new recipe I like or want to try?
Cook it on one of your unplanned days that week and if you love it, add it to your rotation!
What if I cook more/less than this per week?
It’s your calendar! Plug in as many pre-planned meals per week that you want.
What if you realistically eat French Dip Sandwiches every single month, not every three months?
Put it on the calendar to repeat religiously every three months- then manually add it in whenever you want to eat it in addition to that. That’s what those empty dates are for!
What do you think? Could a variation of this meal rotation method work for you?