2/25/09

Meal Planning: The Rotating Menu Plan

About 9 years ago, I decided to create a rotating meal plan. I was using the crock pot nearly daily at the time. I had 4 children ages 4 years to 10 months, one whom was medically fragile and had lots of special needs and required so much of my time and effort: even more than the baby!! I set up a six-week rotating menu plan using mostly crock pot recipes.

I was inspired by two books: Managers of Their Homes by Steve and Teri Maxwell, and The Organization Map by Pam McClellan. In MOTH, Mrs. Maxwell has a chapter about getting organized in the kitchen. In chapter 7, “Scheduling in the Kitchen”, Mrs. Maxwell suggested having two or three family-favorite meals that are the same every week. This would limit how many meals you would have to plan each week, making meal planning easier. She said “this idea works for lunches, too, but with lunch you can take it even further.” She suggested that you plan the same thing for lunch every Monday, and something different for Tuesday but have that every Tuesday and if you do that for every day of the week you would have 7 different lunches but you would not have to worry about planning lunches.

Ms. McClellan, in her chapter “Meal Planning Made Easy” she describes the rotating meal plan and how to set it up. She advocates a 4 week plan but one night each week is leftovers so you do not have to plan out 28 meals. I like trying new recipes and we like more variety so I did a 6 week plan. I prefer the 6 week plan.

After awhile, we got away from the rotating meal plan. I had a couple of different rotating meal plans that I used over the years but found different seasons of life required different approaches to meals. One thing has remained constant: PIZZA NIGHT.

One more idea that I picked up from Ms McClellan had to do with creating a theme for each day or as she said “choose certain nights for certain types of meals” Even when I “got away” from doing the rotating meal plans, I still kept up the idea of having certain types of meals on certain days because that really helped with weekly meal planning. I had things like Pasta—which wasn’t just spaghetti but I would also plan things that use egg noodles like “tuna” casserole or hamburger stroganoff. We had “stir fry night” which wasn’t always stir fry but was sometimes fried rice or chow mein or sweet and sour.

A few months ago I was getting tired of meal planning. I had kept up with the idea of themes but had gone back to planning meals weekly or worse not planning at all! I started playing with the themes again to try some new ones and that helped a little bit. We added a “bean night” a couple of years ago and it would go away for awhile and then it would come back again. We started doing Taco Tuesdays (but really it was just Mexican or tex-mex style).

Finally about 7-8 weeks ago, I bit the bullet so to speak and involved my whole family and we created a 6 week rotating meal plan that I expect to use until summer. Then I’ll create one for summer and when the weather changes again I’ll pull out this “winter” one. I’ll post separately about the process we went through to create our current 6 week rotating meal plan.

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