Creating a Monthly Meal Plan: Step 2 – Scheduling Meals

In the last post, I described how our family collected recipes in order to create a rotating meal plan. This post will describe the next step: deciding side dishes and scheduling meals for each week of your rotation.

What you will need:

  • Your collection of recipes written on sticky notes and organized into categories (see last post)
  • White board or poster board (can be the same one you used in previous step)
  • Pen

The Process:

  1. Each sticky note currently has the name of a main recipe. Now, you are going to write which side dish(es) you typically eat with the main recipe. For us, that was usually a vegetable and/or a starch like rice or couscous. If your side dishes are little more involved, then you will want to indicate any fresh ingredients you don’t usually keep on hand, much like you did in the previous step with the main recipes.
  2. Next, you’re going to simply rearrange the sticky notes on your posterboard. Each row across is a week. There’s no right or wrong arrangement, and you don’t need to necessarily decide what you will have on a particular week night, just what you will have during Week 1, Week 2, etc. Here are a few suggestions to help you in the process.

Look for common ingredients in your main and side dish recipes.  For example, we have a few recipes that call for fresh cilantro. I clumped those recipes together in the same 1-2 week period so that all the cilantro will get used and not go to waste. (This post from Simply Recipes tells how to keep herbs fresh.)

Use your categories to vary your weekly menu.  I still used the columns of sticky notes on my whiteboard for the different categories (beef, chicken, pasta, etc.).  That way we don’t have a week of lots of pasta, a week of mostly pork, etc.

The Result

Now you have scheduled your complete meals for a month (or whatever number of weeks you desire).

The Next Step
Creating grocery shopping lists

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