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!
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.
RELATED POST: 7 KID FRIENDLY COOKBOOKS
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.
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!
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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!
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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)
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