Meal Planning: Methods

Now that you've gathered and organized your recipes, it's time to choose a method(s) that will work best for you.
I have seriously done a lot of research on this topic, and have found there are quite a few different ways you can create your meal plan. 

There really isn't a "right" method; its all about individual needs and being able to personalize methods to fit those needs.

I'm all about simplifying and I feel that lists and steps makes the process so much easier, so bear with me :)

STEP 1 | Think about your lifestyle

Are you a working or stay at home parent? How much time do you have each day/week to shop and prepare meals? Do you enjoy cooking or is it more of a necessity? 
What is your purpose for meal planning? E.g. save money, save time, make healthier meals, simplify your life or add more variety.
Are you single or married? No kids or lots of kids? Are there days that are busier than others?
How often do you need to shop for groceries? Do you enjoy leftovers? Can you get by cooking three large meals a week and eating leftovers the other four days?

STEP 2 | Pick a method that fits your needs

  • Numbered List - Take out a piece of paper and label it breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Number 1 through 30 (if planning monthly) or 1 through 7 (if planning weekly) under each menu list. Then start going through your list of recipes and write down a different recipe under each number.
  • Daily Theme - Monday: meatless dishes, Tuesdays: pasta dish, Wednesdays: crockpot, etc.
  • Seasonal – Use recipes in rotation that use seasonal ingredients. Change recipes and rotation each season.
  • Similar Ingredients– Plan your weekly/monthly menu around recipes that have similar ingredients so you waste less perishable items. For example, I'm using cilantro for enchiladas, but I'll have some leftover so I'll plan to make curry the next day so use up the rest.

STEP 3 | Start adding recipes to your rotation

Once you've found a method that you'd like to try you need to decide if you want to make a weekly or monthly rotation. And then, start adding your recipes to your meal plan! 
I like to save rotations so that I can easily use them next time.

My Experience

I enjoy cooking, but since I have a needy toddler I try to limit the amount of time I cook. I plan for freezer meals and leftovers so I only have to cook 4-5 times a week. Healthy, well balanced meals are the most important to me. Inexpensive meals are also important so those are the driving forces behind my decision to meal plan. I don't mind taking extra time to bake whole wheat bread, pitas, and pizza dough so I take time to make those at home to save money and be healthy. If saving time is your reason to meal plan you may choose to buy those items to save time. It's all about what is good for you!
The method I use is a mixture of Seasonal and Similar Ingredients (healthy and saves money). My rotation is monthly, so I choose 20 dinner recipes for the month and then use those 20 recipes each month for the entire season (March-May, June-Aug, Sept-Nov, Dec-Feb). So each recipe gets used 3 times during the season.
I've found some ways to simplify my shopping and meal prep, I'll share those tips in a later post. 

Hope this has helped! Again, if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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