Meal Planning with your Family 


Have you ever gotten home from picking up the kids, looked in the refrigerator and thought “What’s for dinner tonight?” Or, maybe you are in the car driving home and you get a call that asks what’s for dinner, but you have no response? Then, you are not alone! Most Americans do not know what dinner will be until it’s time to eat. Meal planning can seem overwhelming, but there are a few basic steps you can take to plan and not wait until everyone is hungry and fast food seems to be the answer.

Meal Planning 101:

  1. Pick a day during the week when sitting down to plan meals makes sense. You could decide that Sunday is the day you will plan for the next few days or maybe Friday works best so that you can shop and have food at home on the weekends. Every family is different. Find out what day works best for your family and be consistent each week with sitting down to write your plan. 
  2. After you plan it, you also need to shop for it! Shopping may happen on the same day as meal planning, or it may need to happen on a different day. Find out what works best for you. And, if you have a meal plan, online grocery shopping can also help you be an efficient grocery shopper and help you save time and money. 
  3. If you are new to meal planning, worry less about the nutrition of the food and more about the habit of meal planning. We can get caught up worrying about making a balanced and nutritious meal which then stops us from moving forward with the habit of planning. Start by creating a list of your favorite meals at home as a family, and then plug them into a few days that week. 
  4. Think through your family schedule for the week as you pick out your meals. If there is summer football practice one night and dinner is after practice, maybe that is a night you need to pick a meal that can be cooked quickly. Or, maybe you make it a leftover night. (Yes, you can plan for leftovers!) Pick your meals around what your evening activities look like. 
  5. Include the whole family when planning meals for the week. You may be surprised how excited your family gets when you ask them to think ahead for the week! Not everyone has to love the meal plan, but they should be able to make-do with some of the dinners that you have planned. It’s helpful to be considerate to the requests of the entire family but not cater to everyone. Some families have a running list of meal ideas that stay in the kitchen. As a family member thinks of a meal they’d like to have soon, they write it down! 
  6. If your budget allows, don’t forget to plan for take-out or going out to eat. Just like you can plan when you have leftovers, you can plan when you go out to eat as well! Got church one night or play practice another night? Plan to pick up food. 
  7. Keep your written or digital meal plans from week to week. This will help you with ideas for future meals. Once you have a few weeks of successful meal plans, you can put them on repeat. You can use the exact same week of meal ideas if your schedule is similar! Add in new meals here and there as you try new ideas. 

Meal planning can help you save time and money as well as decrease your evening stressors. Putting energy into picking a day to sit down and plan and then grocery shop will remove the stress you feel each evening when asked the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” Surprise your family and have an answer next time! 


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