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Dinner time is one of the most hectic, crazy times, of the day in my house as I’m sure it is in a lot of houses. Everyone is getting home, dinner needs to be prepared and put on the table, homework needs to be completed, sports practice, etc. It is easy to order out or make a stop through a drive through to grab some dinner on the way. However, I found one of the easiest ways to get a healthy dinner on the table quickly is to plan ahead! Meal Planning is one key component of getting a healthy dinner on the table and ensuring the family has time to sit down and eat together before continuing on with the nightly routine.

Meal Planning may not be natural for you. You might be like me and your taste change and the thing you had planned for that night, might not be what you want to have. There are many ways to set up your meal plan to accommodate your lifestyle, preferences, and needs. For me, I grocery shop on Fridays so Friday morning or Thursday night, I look at the schedule for the next week. I see when we will have practices, extra curricular activities, and I take those in to account in my planning by putting leftovers or quick easy meals on those days.

Every other Monday, my daughter has Girl Scouts after school. I participate with her so I know we won’t be home until 5pm. To make things easier on those nights, I fix a meal on Sunday night that we can re-heat as left overs on Monday so dinner is quick and easy. Friday nights tend to be our Spaghetti or Ravioli night since it is the end of the week and I’m usually tired and don’t want to cook. I keep jar spaghetti sauce on hand or have homemade sauce in the freezer that I can thaw and re-heat.

When I was working, I did most of my prep work and cooking on the weekend for the week ahead. I would make double batches of recipes, fix casseroles and freeze them for later in the week, and chop up any vegetables ahead of time that I was going to need during the week. Anything you can do on the weekend to make the week easier, do!

I have used many tools to meal plan/menu plan in the past – everything from a scrap of paper to just a Word document to creating my meal planning sheet. I have included a basic Weekly Menu sheet for you to download for free to get you started! It includes space to plan for your entrée, sides, and even some lunch and breakfast ideas. Yes, I sometimes plan for breakfast and lunch as I look at my week so that I can ease some of the chaos out of meal time around here.

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The great thing about planning your meals ahead, it makes the grocery list easier to put together and you can eliminate all those unplanned stops at the store to pick up a few things (which often leads to a lot more items and more money).

If you need additional inspiration, you can use some of the online services that are available. I have used eMeals in the past to get some new recipes in to our dinner rotation. eMeals is a monthly subscription service that will send you a menu as well as grocery list for the week in several different categories such as Slow Cooker, Traditional, Low Carb, Paleo, etc. If your family is flexible and open to eating a variety of foods, this can work great for you! Unfortunately, I have picky eaters so we found this didn’t work for us long-term and I was often preparing two meals each night.

However you choose to plan your meals, planning is the key! How do you normally do your meal planning? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? Leave me a comment below!