Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families

Does planning and making family dinners get you overwhemed? Learn how to take control of dinner time with these easy family meal planning tips!

Easy Meal Planning Solutions for Busy Families #ideas #easy #weekly #groceryshopping

Easy Family Meal Planning Strategies


Review the Weekly Calendar

First things first, when I am coming up with the menu for the week, I take a look at our calendar. I see who has activities and which nights are our busy days. This step helps determine how many meals I actually need to decide on. If we are out of the house all weekend long, I know I don’t need to worry about those days. Or if I know we are having a crazy evening, then I will be sure that the meal for that night is super easy!

When I want to try out a new recipe or a recipe that takes a while, I am sure to schedule that recipe for a night that we do not have anything going on!

Seek Input

Next, I see if anyone has any requests for a particular meal. I’ve said this before, when I talked kids school lunches, but it is important to find out what everyone actually wants to eat! If you have picky eaters like mine, the “short” list of what everyone will eat is always changing!

We generally stick to our weekly dinner themes (more on that in a minute), so it makes picking recipes a little easier.

I also love pouring through cookbooks when I have the time! Of course Pinterest is full of inspiration (sometimes too many ideas!), but I love the activity of leafing through a cookbook!

I am always on the lookout for new cookbooks. Ones that have fresh, real ingredients and are not overly complicated. (I’ve got a kids cookbook review coming later this week–so stay tuned!)

Stick to Meal Themes

As I’ve mentioned in the past, we try to follow set weekday dinner themes each week. Our themes change a little bit depending on the season. In the summer, we swap out soups for grilling. In the fall and winter we rely on crockpot meals more often.

I like that meal themes give us a general direction for what to make each night. Taco night can mean anything from a nacho platter, to fajitas or taco salad bowls! I try not to repeat the exact same meal two weeks in a row unless everyone wants that!

Simple dinner themes that make meal planning easy! #mealplanning #dinnerthemes #dinnerideas

Keep things Simple

All this being said, our dinner are pretty simple! We are currently in a season of life that require easy, healthy meals. I’d love to spend more time on fun and complex recipes. But I’ve got fairly picky eaters and I’m lacking on a lot of time in the evening for dinner prep.

When I am in the mood for making a more labor intensive recipe, I am sure to schedule it on the weekend, usual on Sundays, when we have less going on!

Meal Prep

Finally, I try to get as much done ahead of time for dinner as possible! This preparation makes those busy nights run a little bit smoother. If it’s taco night, I cut up veggies and sometimes even brown meat ahead of time.

When it’s salads for dinner, I cook the chicken and eggs (for cobb salads) in advance. All of these little meal prep steps save you time in the long run!

On weeks when I am really on top of things, I do my meal prepping on Sunday. I don’t necessarily make entire meals in advance, but I do get many of sides and snacks ready. I shared some of my favorite make ahead snack ideas HERE!

I’ve been pinning Make Ahead Snack and Meal ideas too!

These days, I make things even easier in our meal planning by using Instacart. This grocery delivery service has been a game changer in my weekly routine! I have been using this service for the last few’s months and I am still a happy customer! All week long, I can add items to my grocery list and then when I am ready to order, my list is all set! Lately, I’ve ordered our groceries for Sunday or Monday morning and have a full fridge for the school week! So after, I come up with my meals for the week and create a grocery list, I add the items to my Instacart list and I wait for my groceries to be delivered:) 

Instacart keeps track of what you have purchased in the past, so it is easy to reorder the same items. (I love this feature!). You could even create set grocery lists, so if you were interested in alternating your meals back and forth each week, you could just pick one of your saved grocery lists and reorder!

You can use my affiliate link for $10 off your first order!


That wraps up my ideas for saving time and sanity when it comes to easy family meal planning! I definitely feel that our evenings run a lot smoother if I plan ahead.

What strategies do you have for meal planning?

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Must have strategies to succeed at family dinner planning #momhacks #dinnerideas #organization #kids #family



  1. October 9, 2018 / 7:41 am

    InstaCart sounds super handy; I like that it saves previous orders. I need to do better with meal planning; it would make things easier.


  2. candy
    October 9, 2018 / 8:48 am

    Getting everyone involved is important. My family writes down meal ideas on a board when they think of meals they would like to have for the next month.

  3. October 9, 2018 / 9:14 am

    It definitely helps to have a plan, I try to write a list when I do the food shopping so that I know what we’re having each day.

  4. October 9, 2018 / 1:41 pm

    Thank you for these easy to implement ideas. I have honestly never thought about a weekly theme to help me organize our menu. I will be trying this right away.

  5. October 9, 2018 / 6:47 pm

    I’ve never heard of Instacart. I’m anxious to look into it! I was just talking to a friend about how I needed to order my groceries online more. I’ve done it a handful of times and each time I do, I’m glad!

  6. Bailey
    October 9, 2018 / 8:25 pm

    Meal planning makes a WORLD of a difference in my house! I haven’t heard of Instacart either. Is it similar to Shipt?

    • Jaclyn
      October 9, 2018 / 8:42 pm

      Hmm I don’t know about Shipt! Instacart is linked to a grocery store near you.

  7. October 10, 2018 / 8:09 am

    I LOVE the idea of themed nights! Just started meal planning more intentionally and it’s tough! This is a great post!

  8. October 10, 2018 / 8:54 am

    This. Is. Awesome. I have been wanting to do meal prep forever but I always feel overwhelmed and never know where to start. I really like the idea of themes! I will be implementing your tips. Thanks for the great article!

  9. October 10, 2018 / 3:12 pm

    I love asking my family for ideas for meals. It makes my life so much easier and keeps them happier. What great tips!

  10. October 10, 2018 / 3:41 pm

    New visitor, here! I just had to say that I LOVE Instacart. I have a 17 month old and it has to be one of the best things we did for ourselves as new parents. Thanks for sharing!

  11. October 10, 2018 / 4:35 pm

    I absolutely LOVE meal planning. I like how you have theme nights and my kids definitely love breakfast for dinner! I’m going to incorporate that into my meal plan this week! Thanks for the tips!

  12. Shannon
    October 10, 2018 / 6:59 pm

    Wow you’ve got a great system going!!! Breakfast for dinner would definitely be on my meal list!!!

  13. Andrea
    October 11, 2018 / 6:58 am

    Thanks so much for all the good info. Love the idea about sticking to a theme , I feel like that really helps with coming up with dinner ideas easier !

  14. October 11, 2018 / 7:00 am

    These are great tips to get food on the table most nights. I just love your site! so happy and helpful! 🙂

  15. October 12, 2018 / 8:33 am

    I love the daily themes and try to do that when I’m trying to think of what to make for a week, but in general I’m awful at meal planning! I’ve been doing grocery pick up from Walmart which makes it easier to remember everything I need to buy at one time!

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