Creating a tried and true quick and easy (and Healthy) dinner idea makes cooking dinner simple for you and your family. Today, we are going to share with you how to create a meal planning system and give you tips on some easy meals to add to your weekly routine. Follow along and create a meal planning system that works!
If you do not have a dinner plan in place, everyone may start snack binging with whatever is in the refrigerator and pantry. It may be difficult for you to plan a meal because the ingredients you thought were in there are now mysteriously gone. So planning and gather the dinner menu stapled items, so people do not use them is key.
Get your meal planning bins in order
First, let's find a place for these meal planning bins. Meal planning bins can be placed in the fridge or the pantry, depending on where the majority of the items are located. These bins can be acrylic or plastic, long or narrow, shallow or deep, and with color or clear. Stackable bins may be an issue if you have ingredients that are tall. It's your choice! Below are some I found on Amazon (affiliate).
Wherever you place these bins, add a label for each day of the week you plan on cooking. No one likes to cook every day! Some people have a few days they order out or eat leftovers. So, just buy bins for the days you will be cooking. If you have space for several bins in both your pantry and refrigerator, this option may work better for you to do weekly planner. Below are some I found on Amazon (affiliate).
You can also add the phrase "Tonight's Dinner" to the front of the bin if you only want one in the pantry and one in the refrigerator. Note: you will need to pull out what you need for dinner the night before and place them into these bins if you do it this way.
After you get these bins in place in your fridge and/or pantry, it's now time for you to decide on your menu.
Decide on the dinner meals you will pull from each week.
This is where you need to do some investigating. Some people have go-to healthy meals each week; others (like my family) prefer variety each week. Creating an arsenal of healthy meals that you and your family love is key to keeping your family healthy, reducing time prepping, and be more money-conscious.
For one month, print out this page and write the recipes that your family enjoys. This can be done seasonally as well. Some people, love to cook differently throughout the year. Some may want to use their grill more in the summer, others may want to use the slow cooker during the winter. You can make your own like the one below or do a screenshot of this one.
***AD*** from Released Repurpose Reorganize: My List Simplified journal is a wonderful organizing tool for planning a move or a renovation. Use it to corral all the to-dos.
On this sheet, you can add up to 10 dinner meals per type, but you do not have to use them all. If you feel comfortable with 5 dinner meal ideas per category, that works too. I added a vegetarian column that can hold anything not meat-based. And, since people may eat a variety of meat in a month, I included the most popular types of meat-eating options. If you find that you eat something more unique like duck often, just replace the column with that category name.
If you are still stumped on what meals to add to your meal planning arsenal, you can pick some of our easy dinner recipes below.
GLUTEN FREE PASTA E FAGIOLI RECIPE
CARIBBEAN SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN STEW RECIPE
Dinner Recipes with Chicken:
CHICKEN CACCIATORE IN THE SLOW COOKER
GRILLED ROSEMARY GARLIC AND LEMON CHICKEN RECIPE
Recipes with Turkey:
ONE PAN TURKEY BREAST WITH BRUSSEL SPROUTS AND CARROTS RECIPE
Beef recipes for Dinner:
DELICIOUS SUNDAY BEEF ROAST RECIPE
KETO STUFFED PEPPERS SOUP RECIPE
Pork recipes for Weeknight Meals:
PORK SAUSAGE MEATBALLS YAMS CAULIFLOWER RECIPE
Now, it's time to plan your meal for the week.
Pick a day that is not busy for you. Pull out this list and create a menu for that week's dinner. Add each of the ingredients to the bins for that particular day. If you want you can have bins in both places, labeled the same day. Or you can have one bin labeled "dinner for tonight" in the fridge AND the pantry. Then, place the items needed for that dinner in those bins. Remember to place your "Meals my family loves list" in a safe place so you can refer to it often when you are planning that week's menu.
The above sheet can be used to help you and your family figure out what dinner is going to be and where the ingredients are. For each day of the week, I added a dinner menu title column, a Where are the ingredients column, and a where is the recipe column (if you need a recipe). I hope this helps keep you on track with the meal planning for each week.
By adding these columns, it will assist you to allow for delegating. Maybe establish a system where each family member cooks one day a week. You can also write on this dinner menus sheet when you plan on doing take out during the week.
I hope this meal planning system helps you and your family make healthy choices for your dinner meals.
Below are some meal ideas I found online to get even more inspired.
12 Fast & Frugal Meal Ideas for Busy Moms
Stacey Agin Murray
I love your printables! I think many of your readers will be able to ease themselves into meal planning with those worksheets in front of them. I have a child with food allergies and I can't imagine what dinnertime would be like if I didn't meal plan!
I have always loved meal planning, but I never thought to use a basket system for the ingredients. Good idea.
A nice straight forward approach. I love the idea of having a go-to list of favorite recipes. My husband was just talking to me about that the other day! No sense re-inventing the wheel every week. I have found that if I ask my family, "What do you want for dinner this week?", everyone looks at me with blank stares, but if I hand them a list of favorites to choose from, they have no problem providing imput or making requests.
You spelled everything out so clearly. I live alone, I'm a vegetarian, and I don't cook, plus I have never once "known" what I wanted to eat more than an hour before dinner, and any attempt at planning ahead has proven fruitless. (I can plan one thing, but I never ever find that's what I want by the time dinner rolls around.) All that said, this is the exact kind of advice I love to read so that I can share with clients with more typical dining lives. And I love the acrylic bins!
Keeping a list of favorite recipes has saved so much time when I meal plan!
Love these tips! I spend way too much at the grocery store since I'm not as well prepared as I should be. Definitely need to try these. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Those bins are a great idea, Sabrina and I would be using my fattest marker pen and strongest duct tape for "Tonight's Dinner" so all my prep work didn't go to waste as people got used to the system!
What a clever idea to use bins to store ingredients for a particular meal. That way, no one will accidentally eat something you need for cooking. I can see the bin idea useful in a household with roommates. Each person can have bins containing their own food, and any 'non-binned' food is considered "community" property.
I agree! My daughter has food sensitivities and must have her food separated from others. So, I purchased the acrylic bins to use for this purpose in the cabinets and refrigerator, so she and her roommates knew what was hers. Thanks for commenting!
Very interesting idea. I never have used the bins for the ingredients for today's meal, but I do put the ingredients out in one section of my counter if I know I'm going to have a busy day and will need everything ready to go.
Another idea is to do some measuring of dry ingredients and put these into your bins. That would really speed up the actual food prep.
I love seeing what products you like best!
That's true! Prepping dry ingredients will definitely speed up time. Thanks for commenting.
Diane N Quintana
I could have used the bins idea when my boys were teens and food left my home as quickly as I could bring it in! I will absolutely recommend this idea to clients who struggle with meal planning.
Great ideas. I love the idea of the containers to hold the ingredients for upcoming meals. I plan my menus for the week, then do my grocery list. I post the menu on the fridge so family can know what to expect.
There are only two of us, so the bins would be overkill, but I love our idea of keeping a chart of favourite meals to refer to when making my weekly/biweekly plan! Not sure why I never thought of doing that, but thanks for the inspiration!