A Basic Planning Guide to Building a Stress-Free Week of Meals

It’s 4 o’clock. You’re hungry. Your family is hungry…and your pantry is not providing any support in solving the problem. What went wrong? You shopped for groceries over the weekend, and yet there’s simply nothing on hand for dinner. It’s a familiar scenario but not one without a solution. What’s the key to avoiding this dinner dilemma? Meal Planning!

Meal planning can mean starting (and ending) the week with healthy meals that are easy & budget friendly. Check out these tips & never be caught again without an answer for “What’s for dinner tonight?” #cabotcheese Click To Tweet

While “meal planning” may signal to some a need for prepping ingredients over the weekend for the entire week, the most important aspect of meal planning is simply the planning. It’s asking the question, “what’s for dinner,” one time rather than every night. Lastly, it’s about being sure you have the ingredients on hand throughout the week to carry out that plan.

Where to begin?

While meal plans can help alleviate a good bit of weeknight stress, they can’t be all things to all people. By this we mean it’s important to take stock of what’s most important to you and your family before beginning your plan. Do you prefer budget-friendly meals? Are you looking for high-protein meals? Is time the most important consideration? The answers to these questions and more will help you refine your recipe search.

Recipe Search

One of the first things to do before beginning your recipe search is to determine how many recipes you need. There are 7 days in a week, but most of us probably don’t want to commit to 7 nights of from-scratch meals. (If you do, then please invite us over to your house. We bet you’re a great cook!) Think through commitments you have, appointments, long work days, extra soccer practice, etc., and build your meal plan to include those gaps. Have a plan for how/where dinner will be eaten, but know that some nights you don’t actually need a recipe.


For nights you DO need a recipe, keep in mind the parameters mentioned above and then, think through numbers. Are you feeding three people each night? Then a dish that serves 10 may only make sense if you’re planning on multiple nights of leftovers. Likewise, consider the role one meal can play on another meal. Baking chicken tonight might mean chicken quesadillas tomorrow night. Lastly, give yourself permission to “go with what you know” — leaning heavily on family favorites and tried/true dishes. It can be tempting to try 5 new delicious looking dishes, but even the best laid meal plans need room for the type of familiarity that breeds culinary success.

To get you started, here are 5 of our tried & true favorites your family is sure to love.

Baked Beef Tacos

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Mini Patty Melts

Frozen Bean & Cheese Burritos

Before You Go…

To help you jump start your meal planning routine, we’ve developed a Healthy Family Meal Planning guide,complete with Tips & a meal planning worksheet. Download your copy for FREE here.

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