Keep family meal planning simple

family dinner family meal planning family meal plans

Did you know as of mid-January, over half of resolutions have already been abandoned?

I'm a big believer that you can start building a new habit at any time. And if that habit falls apart, you can just start again.

Is saving money, eating healthier, or spending more quality time with your family on your list of habits to start building? Cooking more at home can help with all of these goals. But sometimes meal planning can seem really daunting.

Today I'm sharing my tips for keeping meal planning for your family easy!

Start with one more. That's it. Just one more home cooked meal every week. I'm not even suggesting you do one more this week, then add another next week, and the next, and so on. Look at your life now and how much you typically cook at home - is it twice per week?  Okay, so go for three. And then just do three for a month. Once three feels "normal", go for four. And after four becomes routine, go for five.  Then stop increasing and just be happy with five.

Why stop at five?  Well, this is just one busy mom's opinion, but stuff happens. I hate wasting effort and food, and the reality in our family is that I need a break from cooking one night per week, and there is always some night that just does not go as planned. Someone stays at work late, an appointment pops up, or something. I used to try to plan six nights per week, and it just created more stress.  One of my kids' favorite things is when we have an unexpected night to eat at home, and we just raid the fridge, freezer and pantry for odds-and-ends. "A whole dinner of snacks!" they excitedly request.

Any plan for a meal counts.  What I mean here is that eating out, getting delivery, eating leftovers, grabbing something from the freezer, cereal, "fend for yourself" night.... they all count.  You can (and should!) use these options as part of your meal plan rotation.  The point is that they are PLANNED, which means you have a better opportunity to control how often you are using them, so they don't take over as your "regular". We usually have two of these nights every week. 

Have a rotation. I have found that planning from a list is so much easier than feeling like we're starting over every week.  There are a couple of ways to approach this.  One way is to look at basic types of meals like:

  • Taco night
  • Pasta night
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Meatless Monday
  • Asian-inspired
  • Mexican-inspired
  • Soup and sandwich
  • ...and more!

Just referencing a simple list of meal ideas like this can help get your brain going. There are SO many different ways to make these different meals!

Another way to get a "rotation" going to help with meal planning is to keep a list of meals that your family likes. This could be a note on your phone, a Google sheet, a binder, or a hand-written list you keep on the fridge and add to. Once you build up to about 20 meals you will REALLY start to see how easy meal planning can be!

Embrace repeats. When I talk to busy moms about their challenges with meal planning, I notice they often put pressure on themselves to come up with something different every night.  While you and your family probably don't want to eat the same seven dinners every week, repeating every few weeks is totally fine. You might get bored of something eventually, true. But, the benefit to repeats is that you make things you know your family will eat, and you will get faster at making that meal over time.  It helps build confidence in the kitchen and it makes it a lot easier to cook meals for your family overall!


Building a new habit is HARD, but it is worth it!  By keeping meal planning simple, you can build the habit over time - saving money, time, eating healthier, and connecting with your family over great meals.

To get started, grab my free 2-week family meal plan!  This plan is done-for-you and includes eight great family meals for you to try so you can experience how great having a meal plan can be!  Click here to get yours!