Tips for Easy Meal Planning

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There’s no questioning the benefits of family meals. Families that dine together generally eat healthier, have stronger connections and children are more likely to do well in school.

But let’s face it, some nights it’s a hassle to get dinner on the table!  Between work, school, extra activities, keeping up with the kids and everything else life brings our way during the day, dinner time comes around so fast some days and we’re left wondering “What’s for dinner tonight?”.

Advanced menu planning can help take some of the insanity out of the dinner time rush.  Cost-conscientious bloggers can tell you how meal planning will save money too.

Does the idea of meal planning frighten and overwhelm you?  Maybe you like the idea, but just don’t know how to get started?

Meal planning doesn’t need to be complicated or incredibly time-consuming.  Once you get a system and routine down, you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t do this sooner.

Each person’s method for creating a meal plan is unique, just like each family is unique.  My own menu planning system has changed and evolved over the years as my family’s needs changes.  You’ll need to find what works best for your own family, but here’s a few tips to keep meal planning low-stress & hassle free:

  • Decide the length of your meal  plan: Some moms like to plan once a week.  Some like to plan for longer periods of time.  Since I don’t have a lot of time to hit the grocery store each week; I plan for 6 weeks at a time, completing a big shop once and then sending my teenager or husband to the store with a list for produce and dairy each week.
  • Be realistic and flexible: You don’t need to plan a meal for every night of the week.  Be sure to account for leftovers and the nights when life throws that curve ball your way.  With my meal plan, that means selecting 5 meals each week, knowing that one night a week we will likely eat out and the other night will be for leftovers.
  • Take a close look at your schedule: Do you have days that are just always busier than others?  Take that into consideration when you plan.  We always have to eat early on Wednesday nights; I know that I need to plan something very quick and easy that day (usually hot dogs or spaghetti).  For me, Tuesday are also very busy; that’s when I schedule a meal that can be thrown in the crock pot in the morning.
  • Ask your family: Let each person pick a meal for your plan.  Since I have 2 kids and a husband and plan for 5 nights a week, that leaves me with only needing to plan for 2 nights.  It’s also a great way to ensure that each person gets their favorite meal!
  • Stay inspired: As you read magazines or see an interesting recipe here on Detroit Mommies, clip (or print) it out and keep them in a folder.  When it comes time to plan, pull them out; one less meal idea to conjure up!
  • Make a list: As you’re planning, be sure to jot down the ingredients you’ll need.  It only adds a few extra minutes and you’ll have a ready-made shopping list by the time you’re done.
  • Keep a calendar: After you’ve written down all of your meals, add them to the family calendar.  This will keep everyone from asking “What’s for dinner?” and help keep you on track too! (extra tip: if you’ve tried a new recipe, place a star next to it on the calendar.  If you’re struggling for ideas later, look at your calendar history!)


 How do you plan for meals?  Do you have any questions or tips to share? 


  1. says

    I just started doing meal planning – and have certainly noticed that my family eats much better when I spend the time doing it, then if I just wing it each night!

  2. says

    Most of the meal planning in our household is done by my husband. He’s more creative with the ingredients whereas I use the in-a-rut recipe list. Having a DH taking the lead is the BEST meal-planning system around, I tell you!

  3. says

    Ha! That probably is a great system! 😉 Unfortunately, if I left it up to MY husband, we’d be eating Fruit Loops & ham sandwiches every night. LOL

    For what it’s worth, I’m a recipe-follower too. But, I’ve subscribed to one of my favorite cooking magazines (very home-style cooking, nothing fancy) for 17 years now and I’ve amassed quite a collection of recipes, so we’re always trying something new.

  4. says

    I’m so glad you found this helpful! Feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@MrsStrick) if you have any questions or want to swap recipes!

  5. says

    That’s a really great idea too. I’m just getting ready to start planning my new meal plan this week. I’ll definitely put that tip to good use!


  1. […] at the idea of having everyone together, but my challenge was that I didn’t have anything planned for dinner except for leftovers.  Knowing that leftovers wasn’t going to lure the family to the table, […]

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