Great for: organisers, rigid schedules, people who like routine
Back in the day when there was just my husband and me at home, we were decidedly creatures of habit. Our jobs and hobbies were regular and so we could guarantee that our late nights home from work, early starts, nights out, and ordering in always fell on the same respective days. That meant that meal planning was an absolute breeze.
I soon developed a system to enable us to do the meal planning and food shop as painlessly as possible and I’m going to share it with you today. I call it the Rotational Menu.
Good Food on Your Terms
The plan does exactly what it says – rotates a set number of dishes from week to week.
If you have a fairly rigid, established schedule, then it’s a great way to get started with meal planning for your household. It’s similar in style to having ‘theme nights’ for food, only more tailored to how much time you have to cook and what sorts of meals best suit your schedule. So your plan will look nothing like your friend’s plan, but it will work perfectly with how your household runs from day to day.
The Rotational Menu: Where to Begin
You begin by writing down each day of the week on a large piece of paper, and next to it you put one comment that sums up your time constraints for the day e.g. Monday: me late in; Friday: takeaway night – or whatever works for you.
Next, you think about what kinds of dishes are best suited to that arrangement. For example:
· Would you benefit from popping something in the slow cooker before you head out in the morning?
· Do you need something that can be prepped and cooked in 20-minutes flat?
· Should you cook something on the weekend and freeze a few portions for later in the week?
These are all examples of the different ways you can approach your week, and you need to think about what will work best for you and your schedule.
That’s it! The great thing about meal planning by rotational menu is that dinner is always ready for you when you want it. What’s not to love about that?!
What to Choose for YOUR Rotational Menu
Like Theme Nights, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like; I know a couple that always cooks the exact same seven main meals week in, week out (so Monday is always Spaghetti Bolognaise; Tuesday is always Fajitas etc.). On the other hand, I used to have a pool of four or five different meals in each day’s category that I would pick from each week, guaranteeing that we never repeated a meal FOR THE WHOLE MONTH.
One of the main reasons I hear about as to why people don’t meal plan is that they find it hard to fit the preparation and cooking around their busy lives. Sometimes, it’s just easier to call a takeaway – I get it! – but if you can think ahead just a little, you will find ways of fitting meal creation around your busy schedule and you will get into a great routine.
I’d love to give it a go!
If you’re ready to move to the next stage, why not get my free guide to Rotational Meal Planning with 100+ ways to get ahead in the kitchen?! Think how smug you’ll feel at work knowing your hot, home-cooked meal is waiting for you. Plus, Rotational planners love to be organised so my guide contains a whole host of ideas about how you can do your prep in advance and get ahead in the kitchen.
And here’s mine!
I promised you a look at my old Rotational Menu, and so here it is: my month’s worth of easy meals. Remember, this is from before we had kids, so there was just the two of us to cook for and our schedules were set in stone. I hope it provides you with some ideas for your own meals:
Monday – He was in really late so he’d usually just have a sandwich. I’d use this time to sneak a more-complex vegetarian meal that I love, but he hates: Vegetable Lasagne; Vegetable curry; Melanzane Parmigiana; Squash and mushroom risotto; Vegetable enchiladas; Hearty vegetable soup. Vegetable pizza with goat’s cheese. I’d often use the leftovers the next day for lunch.
Tuesday – I would be working late so I’d cook something really quick after I finished. It was usually a simple one-pot dish in under 20 minutes: Stir fry; Chicken satay; Tuna steaks and vegetables; Paella; Sirloin steaks.
Wednesday – I’d be going out for the evening to choir practice so I wanted to eat something quick and light before I went: Thai curry; Turkey schnitzel; Caesar salad; Salmon fillet.
Thursday – Both working late, so we needed something done in the oven that could be prepared early and could cook while I worked from home: Lamb or pork casserole; Stuffed chicken breasts; Chilli con carne; Fish pie; Pasta bake; Ratatouille.
Friday – Staying in (but resisting the takeaway), we’d cook together while we shared some wine:
Pizza; Burgers; Fajitas/enchiladas/nachos; Ribs and sweet potatoes. Plus ice cream sundaes – all eaten in front of a TV binge!
Saturday – It was usually get-ahead fish and I’d do the prep in the morning and leave it in the fridge while we went out for the day: Cod fish cakes; Prawn chowder; Homemade fish and chips; Spanish fish stew; Crunchy cod.
Sunday – The big family meal of the week as we had the time to prepare it; usually at my mum’s and we’d all pitch in: Roast beef/lamb/pork/chicken; Lamb with cumin and garlic; Moroccan Tagine; Cassoulet; Steak pie.
Or if you’re still struggling to get started with meal-planning, I’ve compiled a list of the Top Ten Meal-Planning Problems and How to Solve Them. You might just find something that sounds familiar