Does planning and making family dinners get you overwhelmed? Learn how to take control of dinner time with these 5 easy family meal planning strategies!

5 Easy Meal Planning Strategies for parents #moneysaving #timesaving #momhacks #dinnermenu #familydinner

This post was originally posted on October 8th, 2018. It has been updated with additional resources and ideas.

Why Meal Plan?

Summer is a time for no schedules and relaxed routines. But by the time the first day of school rolls around, our family is ready for some structure. One way I provide a sense of routine and consistency to our family’s day-to-day is to have a dinner game plan for the week.

Every Sunday, I sit down with my Family Recipe Binder and plan out a week’s worth of meals. It is a time that I look forward to each weekend and if I do not get to start the week meal planning everything else seems to fall out of place.  We have all been caught in the situation when 5 p.m. on a weeknight rolls around and we have no plan for dinner! Everyone is hungry and is asking when dinner will be ready. Those nights really leave me frazzled.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Easy Family Meal Planning Strategies

Getting dinner on the table each night is no easy feat! There are so many factors that make it challenging to prep and cook dinner these days. Kids have evening activities, parents are busy and let’s not forget we have to manage those picky eaters!

Sometimes the biggest dinner challenge is deciding what to make for dinner!


1. Review the Family Schedule

First things first, when you are coming up with the dinner menu for the week, take a look at your family’s schedule! Check to see who has activities and which nights are our busy days.

This first step helps to determine a few things. You will know which nights you might not even to make dinner. It also helps you figure out which nights you have more time for meal prepping than others.

Pick those easy meals for busy nights and more time intensive recipes for nights you have no where to be! When you want to try out a new recipe or a recipe that takes a while, be sure to schedule the meal for a night that you have a lot of time!

2. Ask Your Family What They Want to Eat

One practice that can often be overlooked is actually asking your family what they want to eat for dinner.

Each week, take into account your family’s individual requests. You can even create a Family Recipe Binder so you have a collection of your family’s favorites in one place!

If your family is in a dinner time rut, get out some cookbooks or scour Pinterest for some new ideas. You could even take turns letting each of the kids pick out (and help with) dinner.



3. Establish Weekly Dinner Themes

To make it even easier to come up with a weekly dinner menu, you will want to create Weekly Dinner Themes.

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

This is the most game changing step of family dinner planning!

Weekly dinner themes make it so easy to plug and place in a dinner idea. You can rotate your weekly dinner themes by seasons or monthly. But the general idea is that you have specific dinner “themes” each night of the week. You might have pasta night assigned to one night. That might mean lasagna one week and spaghetti another week. Taco night can mean anything from a nacho platter, to fajitas or taco salad bowls!

It is still easy to have variety with dinner themes!


4. Keep Meals Simple

If you are in a season of life that is very busy, give yourself grace when it comes to meals! Healthy meals can be easy. So if your goal is nourishing, healthy meals, then let go of your own notions that your meals also need to be fancy or complex. Save those elaborate recipes for another time.

Maybe you have some extra time on weekends. You could pick one day a week to try a new recipe or a recipe that is more labor intensive.

If you need some new cookbooks, check out these top family cookbooks that offer fool proof meal ideas!


5. Prepare as Much as You Can Ahead of Time

Lastly, once you have your dinner menu planned and you have the ingredients in your refrigerator, you can save yourself some time by prepping in advance. You might carve out a few hours on the weekend to dinner prep for the entire work. Or just carving out a few minutes in the morning to get a few things ready for dinner that night can save you some dinner time stress!

Does your dinner call for cooked chicken? You can prep a big batch of chicken in advance for a few meals worth of meat. You might want to chop up veggies for a few meal’s worth of ingredients. While you already have out the cutting board and kitchen tools, it is nice to prep once for multiple uses. All of these little meal prep steps save you time in the long run!



When you get organized with your dinner time process, you can experience the joy of peaceful family dinners with your family! Imagine if you didn’t have to panic each night about what to make for dinner and wonder if there will be enough time to make dinner. By implementing these easy meal planning strategies, you can actually THRIVE instead of barely survive your family’s meal time!

Looking to save even more time with meal planning? Get your groceries delivered through Instacart! You can save hours each month with this easy shopping hack! Save $10 on your first order with this affiliate link !



What are some of your top easy meal planning strategies?

More Posts You Might Like:

How to Create a Family Recipe Binder

Meal Planning for Overnight Guests

How to Save Money on Groceries (Without Cutting Coupons)

Let’s Stay Connected!Instagram | FB Group: Mom Life Simplified |FB Group: Homegoods HappyPinterest


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


  1. Holly Breton @ Pink Lady on October 9, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Sunday is our day to get organized too! Makes the weeks so much less stressful 🙂

  2. ShootingStarsMag on October 9, 2018 at 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.


  3. candy on October 9, 2018 at 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.

  4. Sarah | Wake up and Blog on October 9, 2018 at 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.

  5. Colleen on October 9, 2018 at 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.

  6. April at LoveOurRealLife on October 9, 2018 at 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!

  7. Bailey on October 9, 2018 at 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 on October 9, 2018 at 8:42 pm

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

  8. Nicole Kauffman on October 10, 2018 at 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!

  9. Samara on October 10, 2018 at 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!

  10. Samantha on October 10, 2018 at 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!

  11. Brittany Shivers on October 10, 2018 at 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!

  12. Sarah on October 10, 2018 at 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!

  13. Shannon on October 10, 2018 at 6:59 pm

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

  14. Andrea on October 11, 2018 at 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 !

  15. shan on October 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

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

  16. Dara on October 12, 2018 at 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!

  17. Joanne on August 18, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    While I definitely ask my boys what they want to eat each week and to help me with menu planning we don’t necessarily assign a theme for each day. I bet that would help even more! Pinned.

  18. Holly Breton @ Pink Lady on August 19, 2020 at 5:45 am

    Wow- we are definitely on the same page Jaclyn! My post today is all about our meal planning! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  19. Tiffany on August 19, 2020 at 8:03 am

    I tried Instacart for the first time a few months ago during this quarantine and I have to tell you it was life changing for me! I can easily see how people would never go to the grocery store again. I mean, why do you have to really. Great idea with theme nights too!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.