Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated. If meal planning is a struggle, here are 3 simple tips to make meal planning easier!
Let me start by saying that I love to cook. Really, I do! Okay, I love baking more than cooking but I really don’t mind cooking dinner either. However, there are times when all the meal planning and prep work gets overwhelming. Figuring out what to cook – day in and day out – for my family of 6? That part gets tedious at times. I recently implemented some new meal planning strategies that are helping me enjoy the process again.
Meal planning is necessary because everything goes smoother when there is a plan. But if you are overwhelmed with making a plan? Sometimes it seems easier to scratch everything and just make a frozen pizza or pick up something on the way home from work. With these 3 tips, I hope you will find that meal planning can simple – which will make the dinner hour easy again!
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1. Plan ahead.
As history says, those without a plan are doomed to fail. If you make a meal plan, the wasted time of searching for ideas is eliminated. A meal plan does not have to be complicated to work. The plan works when you make one. In fact, a simple list of the days of the week with a main dish listed beside each one works quite nicely. You can add sides if you like to simplify things further. I like to print out a blank calendar for the month and write in a week’s worth of dinner plans at a time, generally on the weekend, when I am looking at sales and planning for the upcoming week.
Here’s an example of what a recent month worth of simple meal plans looks like for our family. Trust me. It’s simple. Don’t forget to plan for leftovers! That saves me a night of cooking and makes sure nothing is getting wasted!
2. Prep things early.
If you are trying to get dinner on the table quickly, you don’t want to have to start from scratch. Spend an hour a week (anytime) prepping for dinner. Cut your carrots. Wash and cut veggies. Dice and chop onions. Grate cheese. Cut up your meat for two meals. Doing time consuming tasks all at once – for several meals – actually saves you time because you are ready to cook when you go into the kitchen.
One of my absolute favorite prep tips? Cook hamburger ahead of time and freeze it in one pound bags. We make so many recipes with ground beef – tacos, casseroles, sloppy joes, etc. When I have ground beef already cooked, I can get dinner together in a matter of minutes! More about how I cook and prep hamburger here.
3. Cook easy recipes.
Above all else, remember that mean planning doesn’t have to be complicated! For easy meal planning success, make easy recipes for dinner. Your family can be very happy with a simple main dish and an easy side or two. Frozen vegetables and fresh fruit are my go to sides. Simple, and still tasty. Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious!
I am a huge believer in the value of simple recipes. Most of my blog recipes are simple recipes, for that very reason. I love 5 ingredient recipes that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. But when it comes to easy menu planning, what if you want a whole bunch of easy recipes at once?
Enter my new favorite meal planning resource. Eat at Home meal plans.
If you want easy meal planning ideas and recipes, Eat at Home has done all the work for you!
The recipes are so simple and good too. There’s even a whole category of 15 minute meals for your busiest nights of the week. I love using these plans, because it simplifies everything for me. There’s no more searching through countless recipe books or clicking through dozens of Pinterest recipes. Once a month, you get access to 4 different meal plans – each with a different recipe for every day of the month. All you have to do is print the recipes, go shopping and cook the meals.
What does Eat at Home Meal Plans include?
You get instant access to FOUR menu plans – all with different recipes for every day of the month. You can choose from:
- Traditional Recipes
- Slow Cooker / Instant Pot Recipes (Directions include both versions)
- Whole Food Recipes
- No Flour / No Sugar Recipes
Some places make you choose your plans ahead of time but not here. You get access to all the plans every month.
If you are keeping track, that is actually 120 meal planning ideas you are getting each month! There is no way you can use them all, but it is incredibly easy to pick and choose the recipes that appeal to you. There’s even a week’s worth of freezer meals included every month.
Each recipe can be customized to a small family (3-4 people) or a large family (6-8 people). One click of a button will print the appropriate recipe size for your family. This is so handy, too!
The easiest way to meal plan is simply select a week’s worth of menus and print a color coded grocery shopping list (also included for you). Go shopping and then come home and cook. With all the planning done for you, you simply have to cook the meals!
How do you make easy meal plans with Eat at Home?
We already have some favorite meals that my family likes to eat, but I use Eat at Home to find new easy recipes when we need variety. I love it because I get a link at the beginning of each month and I can easily print my favorite recipes that I want to add to my meal plan.
At the beginning of each new month, I like to go through each week of menus for each meal plan. We normally eat the traditional and slow cooker recipes, but I have found some good ones in the no flour / no sugar plans as well. I go through all the pdf files of the recipes and print off the recipes that appeal to me. Next, I give the recipes I print to my husband and ask him which ones he wants me to make. He’s a less adventurous eater than I am, preferring some of the same recipes week after week, so this process helps us both to be happy with the recipes I choose.
Once I have narrowed down the recipes we both like, I add one or two to our menu plans for the week. This gives my husband and kids the recipes they know and love, but allows me to easily try some new recipes too. It’s the combination that works best for our family. Eat at Home can be used in so many ways and I love that!
It’s really that simple. Pick the recipes you want to cook, go shopping and cook the meals.
What types of recipes are included? Are they really easy?
All the recipes are easy recipes – with regular ingredients! That is really important to me as a busy mom with four little ones. After using quite a few Eat at Home recipes for several months, I can truthfully say that the recipes really are easy!
Depending on the meal plan you choose, your recipes will vary. Plus, every month you get access to a whole new month’s worth of menus plus you can still use any of the previous month’s recipes.
Some of our favorite Eat at Home recipes include:
- Cheddar and Bacon Stuffed Hamburgers
- Slow Cooker Chicken Fried Pork Chops (now on our menus at least once a month)
- Slow Cooker Buffalo Ranch Chicken
We’ve tried more but these are some of our favorites that we have made again. Every recipe we have tried has been good, but some definitely make it into our meal rotation again. In fact, the Slow Cooker pork chops are my go to pork chop recipe now!
Is it really a good deal?
I am an incredibly frugal person, but even I can see the value in this subscription. For as little as $1.61 a week, you get access to all these amazing plans and resources! Even better? Right now, Eat at Home meal plans are on sale for 30% off – which means you are paying only $1.13 a week for this resource!
Think about this. If you eat out with your family, it is probably close to $40. Maybe less with coupons, but it still adds up quickly. If Eat at Home saves you from eating out just twice this year, you will have paid for a whole year’s membership!
Not ready to commit to a whole year? Eat at Home plans are available as a monthly, quarter or yearly subscription. The yearly plans are the best deal, but you can easily try it for a shorter length of time to see if it works for you. A monthly plan is $14 and a quarterly plan is $31 or a yearly plan (the best deal) is $84.
How do I make meal planning easier?
Plan ahead. Prep early. Cook easy recipes.
These 3 simple tips will save you countless hours of time! You can do it on your own, or use Eat at Home to help you!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments and I will be happy to answer! If you have any other easy meal planning tips, I’d love to hear those too!