Planning out meals for the week is so important with hectic family schedules.  I like to serve a home-cooked meal about 5-6 nights a week.  While this may seem daunting if you are not used to cooking, know that there is a way to do this without wearing yourself out.  I’m a big believer in “Cook Once, Eat Twice.” Having meals do double duty means that your family can eat your good home cooking even on busy nights (without having to hit the drive-thru!) Making one big list means less trips to the grocery store, too.  See my post from last week on making a grocery list. When I am deciding what I am going to make for the week, I first look at the calendar and ask myself:

1)   What days will I have less time in the evening, and when will I have more time? Stews, soups and casseroles make great leftovers for nights when we have a lot of activities.  Warm up leftovers and serve with a quick side salad and crusty bread for a 5-minute dinner.

2)   What does my husband’s schedule look like?  My husband works many odd shifts, and when he’s working at night I may not want to make a big dinner.  I will plan to have leftovers or quick easy meals for those nights when I’m doing kid duty alone.

3)   Which dinners can carry over into lunch?  If I don’t think I will have enough leftovers for a for dinner I might pack up them for the kids’ lunches the next day.

4)   How can I make sure that I can get those veggies and fruits into every meal?  I need to have a strategy for easy sides like salads, veggie side dishes, or one-pot meals that incorporate enough plant foods. I keep the USDA’s Choose MyPlate icon in mind so that my meals are well-balanced.

5)   What easy snacks can I make or organize so that the kids have healthy food to eat when they get home from school?

6)   What meals can be cooked in the crockpot so that they are ready when we get home from busy after-school activities?

7)   Is there a night I get a break from cooking?  I might plan an evening out with friends, or an evening when we take the kids out to a fun restaurant.  I try to have this in mind when I’m planning my week, and know that I can hang up the apron on that night!

This is how I have planned a typical week this month. Even if we veer slightly off our plan, at least I have a rough idea of how a week goes and how I plan meals:

What meal planning tips can you share?


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