Work Week Meal Planning Made Easy

After a long workday, many parents dread the question: What’s for dinner? It can be hard to juggle dinner prep, homework, household chores and extracurricular activities.

Don’t resort to eating out to ease the dinnertime meltdown! With a little meal planning, dinner preparation can be a stress-free event. Cooking at home is healthier and it will save you money!

Create a Menu Plan

The first step in making work night cooking go smoothly is to come up with a menu plan. If you have a set menu, it erases the what’s for dinner dilemma. Plus you can get the whole family involved in meal preparation. Post the menu plan on the refrigerator. The first person home can start preparing the food for that evening.

Meal planning will also save you money. There is less temptation to eat dinner out if you have dinner already in the works. Create a menu plan that encompasses items that are on sale at the grocery store that week along with items that are already in your pantry or freezer.

Have a Back Up Plan 

Sometimes the menu plan just doesn’t work out. A child might be sick, an unexpected event may come up or you just don’t feel like cooking what’s on the menu plan. That’s when a backup plan comes into play!

Have ingredients on hand for your favorite go to fast meals. We resort to tacos, quesadillas or breakfast for dinner as our backup meals. Make a list of your families favorite quick meals that can be made in less than 20 minutes. When your menu plan doesn’t pan out, rely on your quick meal list.

Prep Food As Soon As You Get Back From the Store

If you have a busy week ahead, start the dinner prep over the weekend. Cook extra chicken and ground beef to be used in meals throughout the week. Wash and cut up vegetables for various recipes. If you have meat in the freezer, make sure to defrost the meat by placing it in the refrigerator the night before.

If you are really ambitious, you can cook several meals ahead of time and place them in the freezer. Just pop the frozen meals in a slow cooker in the morning and dinner is good to go!  If you don’t want to slow cook your meals, you can also bake the frozen dinner. Enchiladas, casseroles and lasagna do very well heating from frozen. Just allow extra time for baking a frozen meal.

Plan for leftovers

Most of us have at least some tolerance for leftovers. I regularly cook one or two big healthy casseroles at the beginning of the week and eat off them all week long for lunch. Some people can only eat leftovers for a single night. Either way, try to make your cooking always do double duty. Make a little extra of everything, and if you don’t want it right away, freeze it.

Keep a well-stocked pantry

Meals are easier and quicker to prepare if you keep your pantry well-stocked. Don’t run out of olive oil at inconvenient moments. Have spices ready to dress up chicken and beans quickly. Keep a lemon and a sheaf of fresh herbs in the fridge at all times.

Dinner preparation doesn’t have to be stressful. Take some time for meal planning and preparing items on the weekend. The little bit of planning time you invest, will make for easy meals during the work week!


What keeps you motivated, inspired, and on track with cooking for yourself during the week?


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