Menu and meal planning can be lifesavers for busy families. It can help relieve you from worrying about “what’s for dinner?” and saving you money from making stops at restaurants.
If the thought of planning for the entire week freaks you out, take a breath. It doesn’t have to be scary or stress you out.
Even if you hate to cook or you have picky eaters in your house, spending a few minutes once a week can help you reduce overall kitchen time.
Meal planning basics to get you started
Let’s face it, it can be tough especially with a family. Busy schedules, kids activities and time constraints can sometimes make it seem like it’s just easier to pick up a meal on the way home somedays. And although that can be true, it doesn’t always have to be true.
1. Print this weekly family meal planner
2. Check your local grocery store ads. Buy protein that is on sale and pair it with seasonal vegetables.
3. Add a carbohydrate like rice, potatoes or pasta to fill out your plate.
Add fruits and vegetables
You can add fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruit. I usually have a combination of fresh and frozen in my meals.
Before you put your groceries away, take 15-30 minutes to meal prep vegetables. If you aren’t ready for cooking meals ahead, cut and prepare your vegetables before storing them in the refrigerator.
I also keep frozen vegetables including green beans, cauliflower rice and broccoli in the freezer. I also try my best to keep peppers, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lettuce in the refrigerator. You never know when you want to add some color and flavor to a dish.
Items in the pantry to fill out your plate
Keep rice, pasta, potatoes and beans in your pantry. They are easy and quick to prepare.
This week I wanted something a little different so I bought a bag of quinoa to add to the mix. I like to pair it with chicken and some fish.
Red and sweet potatoes can be baked, smashed or even tossed into the air fryer.
Meal ideas for the week
Menu planning is a combination of what you want to make as well as what’s on sale each week, specifically the protein and produce. I prefer to buy protein that’s on sale. Then pair it with seasonal produce or frozen veggies that are on sale.
Choose easy, familiar dinners you can make, that your family enjoys. Even if it’s macaroni and cheese, pizza or soup from a can.
For example, if chicken breasts are on sale, I usually buy a couple of larger trays and then break it down into several recipes: chicken tenders, fajitas, grilled chicken or oven roasted chicken. If ground beef or ground turkey is on sale, I use my go-to recipes burgers, chili, spaghetti, tacos and meatballs.
Add pantry items including canned goods, pasta, rice, chicken stock and oatmeal.
Does meal planning help?
I have found that it definitely can save time in the long run.
Your meal planning can be done as you decide on what you are headed to the grocery store for that week. I definitely would allow for some wiggle room because you may not want exactly what was planned on that day. But by having staples in your fridge, freezer and pantry, it allows for some creativity.
And let’s face it, there will be some days that you want to eat out.
As far as reaching your health and fitness goals, we have all heard the saying, “You can’t out train a bad diet.” Well, it’s true. You can work out for hours on end but if you are putting the wrong things in your body it is pointless.
Planning does not have to be elaborate. If you are making meatballs, one dish can spaghetti and meatballs while the other can be meatballs with potatoes and a vegetable. If you are baking chicken, the second night meal can be chicken burrito bowls or nachos.
A little bit goes a long way. And when you can’t prep your meals ahead of time, you can use these tips to help stay on track.
What are your tips for meal planning?