Meal Planning Tips for Busy Weeknights


Finding time in your busy schedule to make dinner for your family and actually sit down together can seem next to impossible. Between the time you spend at work and the time your kids spend at school and doing their favorite activities, you may feel tempted to pick up dinner instead of cooking yourself. With some meal planning tips, you can put dinner on the table for the family without ever going through the drive through.

Use Basic Recipes

Do you have a habit of saving recipes that look delicious then never actually make any of those dishes because the recipes are so complicated? If you have limited kitchen skills, you should start with some basic recipes that make use of your skills and slowly work up to more advanced dishes.

Use a Slow Cooker

If you have a few free minutes in the morning, you can put dinner on the table if you use a slow cooker. Slow cookers let you add all the ingredients that a recipe calls for in the morning, turn the heat to low and come home to a delicious meal. Pot roast is one of the easiest slow cooker recipes that you can make. Toss potatoes, carrots and onions on the bottom of the slow cooker, place the roast on top and add beef broth or tomato juice. Some websites even offer slow cooker recipes that you can use to make healthy breakfasts that you can prepare the night before.

Choose Cold Over Hot

Cold dishes aren’t just for hot days in the summer when you can’t stand the thought of eating something hot. Choosing cold dishes over hot dishes can save you time too. Try making a cold noodle salad with leftover noodles that you cooked the night before and store in the refrigerator. When it is time to serve, you can toss the noodles with some chopped veggies, your favorite bottled sauce and have dinner on the table in minutes.

Make Rotisserie Chickens Your Best Friend

When you’re really pressed for time, buy a rotisserie chicken. Did you know that you can pick up a fully cooked chicken that can feed the entire family for less than $10 at most grocery stores? Serve the chicken hot with steamed veggies or mashed potatoes that you can quickly whip up in minutes before dinner time. Rotisserie chickens also work great for cold dishes too. Remove the meat from the bones and serve over vegetables for a quick salad. You can even use a rotisserie chicken for tacos or pulled chicken sandwiches topped with BBQ sauce.

Plan Ahead of Time

Smart cooks do all their shopping at one time. When you buy everything you need for meals the coming week, you can avoid any last minute trips to the grocery store. This also reduces the risk that you might skip cooking because you don’t have time to go to the store. Create a list of the dishes that your family loves and try changing up the menu by incorporating a new recipe each week.

Cook on Weekends

If you have no time in the middle of the week to cook, you can take some time on the weekends to cook for the coming week. Lasagna is a great dish that you can make in the oven and keep in your freezer until you get home from work. You can customize the dish to include the meats, cheeses, sauces and vegetables that your kids love. Any type of casserole will freeze well, but you might consider making a pot of soup or stew that you can freeze in individual size portions.

The Night Before

Send your kids off to school with healthy lunches and make-ahead breakfasts that you packed before going to bed. Layer your favorite fruits with some spices, milk and oats in a glass jar. When you get up the next day, you can pop the jar right in the microwave and have delicious oatmeal in minutes. Glass jars are also the perfect size for creating a layered salad for lunch too.

Cook in Bulk

While buying in bulk is a great way to ensure that you always have staple ingredients on hand, you should also consider cooking in bulk. Since you already have all the ingredients, it is not that hard to prep a second batch or dish that you can serve at a different time. If you have less space in your freezer, consider cooking the staple ingredients in advance. You can cook up a batch of brown rice that you can use for salads and side dishes in the coming week and cook chicken breasts that you can serve hot or cold.

Make Use of Leftovers

Cooking in bulk provides you with leftovers that helps get dinner on the table faster. If you make a batch of mashed potatoes one night, you can make potato pancakes the next night or turn those potatoes into a quick soup. A batch of pork chops can provide your family with pulled pork sandwiches and pork tacos on other nights. Look for ways to reuse all your favorite leftovers just like they do on Chopped.

Don’t let time keep you from making meals for your family. Use these tips to make delicious meals every day.


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