Friday, June 4, 2010

Meal Planning

Everyone’s lives are busy, whether you have a demanding job, young children, other major commitments, or all of the above! The key to having a healthy, delicious dinner on the table each night is simple…plan ahead. It is definitely okay to have a left-over night or sandwich night here and there too. You don’t need to feel like every night has to be “gourmet”! Here are some tips to decrease the times you’ll say “what are we going to have for dinner tonight?? Pizza??”

1. Sit down once each week to plan your meals. Yes, this will take some time, but not as much as you think. By doing this, you’ll never be scrounging at the last minute to figure out what to cook and trying to see if you have the ingredients. In fact, the first person to return home can start cooking the meal if you post your plan on the refrigerator. The other plus is that you’re more likely to have balanced and healthy meals because you took the time to plan them when you weren’t rushed and hungry.

2. Make your grocery list after planning your meals and go to the store only once each week. If you are a sale shopper like me, you may do this a little differently. I make most of my meals center around the foods I already have and what is on sale. The main idea here is that if you plan your meals and make your grocery list, you will save several trips to the store each week. If you are crunched for time, the time you spend planning will actually save time.

3. Make a game plan to fit your busy schedule. I can’t tell you exactly how to get your dinner on the table in a timely fashion because everyone’s schedule is different. I’ll give you an example of how I manage. I take the meat out of the freezer that I plan to cook and place it in the refrigerator the night before. To my surprise, after being a working mom for a while, I realized that getting dinner on the table is just as hard when you’re a stay-at-home-mom! To cope, I do a lot of preparation while my son naps. The idea is that when its time to start cooking, I can just bake it, sauté it, grill it, etc. Sometimes I even make a marinade or do some preparation the night before after my son goes to bed. This really makes my life easier at dinner time.

4. Enlist other family members in this process. If your children are old enough, have them each choose a recipe to cook each week. Your spouse is certainly old enough, so he or she can take a night too! With each person planning and cooking one night of the week, the burden can be lifted off of one person and everyone does less work overall.

5. Just remember to plan, plan, plan! If you are not resistant to thinking ahead, your life will really be easier and you will spend less time stressing over what to feed your family when everyone is hungry and tired from the day.

What special strategies do you and your family have in order to get a healthy dinner on your table each night? Please share your ideas!


  1. Couldn't agree more. We definitely try to plan things a week at a time. With 3 boys, it's easy to see how people feel like they don't have time to cook. Even with planning, it's still a challenge for us. And despite the planning, we always forget something or end up needing more of something else, so the main shopping trip is usually supplemented by 1-2 runs/week for just a few items. We'll blame it on fatigue.

  2. One tip we use is that we often pick 1-2 meals per week that we double the recipe. We eat a little that night and then portion out the rest and freeze it. This REALLY helps on those busy weeknights when we are hungry and don't have much time to cook.

  3. I like action plans, and this is a good one. You are so right about taking the time to plan ahead. When I get off track with that it causes frustration and aggravation and ends up taking more time in the long run. I also like to double recipes so that I have emergency meals in the freezer. We also stock a lot of basics so that often we can throw a pretty good meal together even if we get a late start.

  4. Busy-Dad-E: I agree, it can be very challenging to get this all done! Don't you hate forgetting something at the store? I have done that on many occasions myself, but have lately been a little better about it. That really drives me crazy!

    Statmom: What a great idea! We do some of that, but we should do more. I think that is great!

    Erin'sMom:That is another excellent tip to stock up on basics. Buy them when they're on sale and then you just have them, and for a cheaper price! THank you!