Meal Planning/ Recipe

The Real World Guide to Meal Planning Ideas for Families

meal planning ideas for families

I’m sharing my BEST meal planning ideas for families right here – if it’s not realistic, you won’t find it here. Because hey, we’re busy!!

So, your family wants to eat. Like, every single day.

And you – you’re running in five different directions, just trying to keep up with this crazy thing called life.

Well, I’ve got some advice given to me years ago that I’ll pass on from my Mom.

These five little words will help you sleep better tonight, so please, read on…

YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL.

You just can’t.

Meal Planning Ideas for Families

Between family, work, laundry, life, cooking, farming, activities, clothes and grocery shopping, and extracurriculars….Well, we have to pick and choose what we can and cannot do.

And the good news is, I’m here to help with the cooking and meal planning portion of our circus act. Cooking can be adapted to fit your ever changing dynamics to meet your family’s needs.

That’s why I’m here.

So let’s get started with my no fluff, time saving tips for meal planning ideas for families.

10 Time Saving Cooking Tips for Families on the Go

1. Lower Your Standards

Yes, I’m 100 percent serious here.

If you’re spending hours each week, pouring over a detailed seven day meal plan, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Fill in one, two or three days with easy meals you know how to cook and you know your family will love. I actually recommend coming up with a four day meal plan.

That’s all.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you only feed your family part time. You can rest assured your family will eat on the other days, you’ll just choose from meals that you can pull from your fridge, pantry essentials or freezer.

Which takes me to my next point…

2. Stay flexible, and I’m not talking about yoga class.

Part of our on the go lifestyle requires having some “go-to” meals that will become as automatic to us as checking our Instagram and Facebook feeds. 

Think about things that have minimal prep and don’t need a special trip to the grocery store. Some of my favorites:

I make sure I always have certain pantry essentials on hand. Oh and frozen pizza – two, to be exact.

They’ll save you a TON of time and effort in the planning and execution of feeding hungry people.

3. Equip Yourself

Use timesaving appliances to well – save you time!

We’re talking about the slow cooker/crockpot, Instant Pot or Air Fryer. And no, you don’t need ALL of those.

Pick one or two and let those gadgets do the heavy lifting while you do something more worthwhile, like hang with the kiddos, or change into comfy clothing.

Hello, yoga pants!

4. Don’t be a Martha.

There’s a certain Martha on the street and she’s perfect in every way. You know, “it’s a good thing.”

Well, here’s my reality.

We’re feeding people and we’ll feed them again tomorrow. The End.

So don’t burn yourself out striving for perfection. It’s not attainable and it’s just not fun.

You don’t have to make your ricotta from scratch, though you certainly can. I mean, I you want.

Me, I’ll be binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or something of equal importance.

Let’s find shortcuts and actually use them.

Think about pre chopped veggies from the produce aisle, steam-able vegetables from the freezer section (no washing OR chopping). 

Your time is precious, so let’s make every moment count! Trust me, take the help where you can get it.

5. Think thin.

You’re not going to pull off a five pound roast at 6 pm. Nope, not even in an Instant Pot.

Instead, think of proteins that cook fast. Now, I’m a midwestern girl so my mind immediately goes to meats like pork tenderloin, thin pork chops and ground beef.

  • Pork – tenderloin
  • Beef – skirt steak, ground beef
  • Chicken – tenders, cutlets
  • Canned beans – black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans
  • Pre-Cooked or almost cooked sausages

But there are also great proteins like shrimp and fish (super fast!), beans and legumes. Think about incorporating these into your weeknight meals for quick dinner results! 

6. Be a trailblazer.

Part of the reason I LOVE cooking is the ability to make substitutions depending on my mood, needs and level of energy. Baking is precise, but cooking – really all bets are off!

Swap out chicken for pork, use leftover turkey as a substitute in chicken noodle soup.

Remember it’s just food, not an Iron Chef competition. 

7. Eat leftovers.

I know, I know, you don’t like them or your family doesn’t like them. But instead of having a dreaded leftover night, let’s make it a free for all buffet!

Pull out all the leftovers one night away and have at it!  Repurposing Leftovers post opportunity.

Take leftover steak and make it into a steak caesar salad. Turn leftover chicken cacciatore into hoagie sandwiches.

Get creative!

8. Use themed days of the week.

Meal planning isn’t so hard when someone tells you what to do, right?

So turn a few meals into themed dinner nights. There’s a reason why we love Taco Tuesday, or Pasta Wednesday!

9. Recycle.

I’m not just talking about glass and cardboard. Literally, track what meals you actually ate for the week.

Write it down, use an app, put it on a notecard. And then use it again.

Why reinvent the wheel?

I guarantee if you pull it out a month or two later, no one will remember that you served those meals in the same succession before.

If they do, they probably need a hobby. Or maybe they’re interested in taking over the meal planning!!!

10. Meal prep.

Have you seen the perfectly organized fridge with everything its place, organized by color?

That’s what your fridge looks like, right? Yeah, neither does mine.

But we CAN (and should, if we’re being honest), take one hour a week to get ahead in the meal prep department.

We can do this by:

  • Mixing marinades or dressings.
  • Pre-cooking ground beef
  • Pre-assemble freezer meal recipes
  • Making a chicken in the IP or crockpot to use in meals throughout the week
  • Grilling meat or veggies bulk for lunches or sandwiches 

I’ll call these the weekend prep, but you can totally do them on a Tuesday.

I hope these meal planning ideas for families help you tame your dinnertime! If something has you stumped, remember I’m here cheering for you!!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Sue
    February 4, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    Interesting that you posted this. I have a rough estimate of our meals each week but I often forget one of us has to be at a meeting of Dell tickets or whatever. This afternoon I was making scalloped potatoes and ham – two nights woth. I had extra ham so I made a quick breakfast casserole and froze it for another time. I thought of you when I did that. Thanks

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