It’s that dreaded question. It might be casually asked in the morning before work and quickly brushed off. It might be that mid-afternoon text you’re not sure how to answer. Or it might come from your 7-year-old right when he wakes up because he likes to know what his entire day has in store for him and whether he needs to complain or not. (No? Just me?)
What’s for dinner tonight?
That’s the one. For some people, planning meals can be a HUGE cause of stress. When you’re a busy family with a crazy schedule, planning practical, healthy meals during the week can be a pretty difficult task. But it’s something most of us would like to get better at so we’re not going out or ordering in all the time. It’s also a great way to save some money, eat healthier, and enjoy dinner around the table as a family.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner. So, meal planning has always made sense to me and it’s just something I’ve always done. I usually take some time every Sunday to sit down and check our schedule for the week ahead and plan our meals. I know this doesn’t come as easy for others, so I’ve put together some tips to help ease you into meal planning for your family.
Keep it Simple – Meal planning doesn’t have to be elaborate. I’m definitely not suggesting you plan a meal that will take hours to prepare in the middle of the week after you’ve worked all day. In fact, I suggest you keep it simple. Simple often means healthier too. Grilling some meat and veggies and tossing together a salad is super quick and easy – and also delicious and healthy!
Know Your Schedule – Knowing your family’s schedule for the week is important when meal planning. For instance, my husband usually takes care of the BBQing, so I don’t plan anything that needs grilling on a night I know he’s home a bit later. Our boys play baseball on Mondays and Wednesdays this summer, so on those nights I make sure I plan something quick and easy, or something that’s ready to serve from the slow cooker. Since our weekends are more relaxed, I usually plan meals that require a little more prep time. Like bacon wrapped stuffed chicken with grilled asparagus, or homemade hamburgers and pasta salad! Mmmmmm!
Check Your Freezer – Do a quick scan of your freezer and plan your meals around what you already have on hand. Thaw whatever meat you need so it will be ready to cook when you get home. If you know you’ll be short on time on a particular night, make extras the night before so you’ll have leftovers you can quickly heat up.
Make it Fun! – Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Web Wednesdays – these are little daily things you can do to make meal planning fun and easy! We do Taco Tuesday in our house because we’re all big taco fans! So, every Tuesday, I know what we’re having for dinner. In the fall and winter months, Sunday is usually Slow Cooker Sunday. (It always makes the house smell amazing!)
Involve the Kids – If your kids are a bit older, ask them what meals they want and let each of them plan a meal every week! Not only will it help you plan the week (bonus!), but you know they’re picking meals they actually like and won’t complain about. I let each of our boys plan a whole week every now and then and they love it!
Be Flexible – When you make a meal plan for the week, remember it’s just that – a PLAN. Leave room for flexibility. Sometimes the week will go exactly to plan and sometimes…it won’t. Life happens. Things pop up. Don’t be hard on yourself if a day gets changed here and there. Just adjust the plan and don’t let one little hiccup mess up the rest of your week.
I hope these tips help make dinner time a little less stressful…and a little more enjoyable!
Happy Meal Planning! 😊
By Linsey De Ruysscher
Linsey is a happily married mother of two living in Plainfield, ON. When she’s not busy chasing her two crazy boys, she’s running her own freelance writing company, Little Miss Creative. In her downtime, she enjoys tea, backyard BBQs, watching Friends reruns, and hanging out with her family and friends. Oh, and candy.