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What’s for dinner? How meal planning can save your sanity and your budget!

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What’s for dinner? How meal planning can save your sanity and your budget!

meal planning

What’s for dinner?  At the end of a busy day, that question puts panic in the hearts of tired parents.  Gotta feed the family, but time and energy are both running low.  So, we resort to take-out, which usually isn’t best for nutrition or the budget. 

Here’s a suggestion to reduce the take-out temptation: on an evening that’s not super hectic, bring a notepad to the dinner table.  Ask your family to help you come up with a list of their favorite meals.  Try to get 20-25 possible meals on the list, ranging from simple to special.  After dinner, take your list and sort it into categories: Quickies, Crock Pot, Make Ahead, New Recipe Ideas, etc. and hang the list somewhere handy.

Check your idea list when you make your shopping list each week to see which items you can pick up on sale or add to your stockpile.  If you have the items for quick meals on hand, you won’t be as tempted to order out on busy nights.  Check your list in the morning for an idea, and you can pull out frozen meat to thaw or throw a few things in the crock pot so dinner’s ready when you get home.

Keep an eye out for coupon/sale matchups on quick fixes too, like frozen meals that take minimal prep time.  Other time-savers include microwavable veggies or rice, bagged salad, and those steam-in-bag potatoes for real mashed potatoes without all the prep work. 

Here are few of the faves from my family’s Dinner Idea List.  We round things out with veggies and/or fruit (and some options are healthier than others).  Having ideas at my fingertips helps remind me of my options when the clock is ticking. 

Quickies: Breakfast for dinner, Chicken quesadillas (canned or frozen chicken, cheese, tortillas, taco seasoning), spaghetti or frozen ravioli, fish sticks/mac & cheese

Crock Pot: stuffed pork chops, pot roast, BBQ ribs

Make Ahead/Freezer meals: Poor Man’s Lasagna, spaghetti & meatballs, Chicken broccoli rice casserole, chili

Dinner tonight/Leftovers tomorrow: Roast chicken or turkey breast one night, chicken & biscuits or soup the next, Pot roast one night, beef & noodles the next, Ham one night, Christmas breakfast the next

Family Favorites:  Chicken stir fry, Honey-Garlic Chicken & rice, Meatloaf cupcakes, grilled cheese & tomato soup, grilled hamburgers, chicken, pork chops, or steak

…and a few times a month, we go ahead and get pizza, Chinese, or a dinner out (but you better believe I look for a deal or coupon!) 🙂

Once you have the list of favorite meals, carve out a few minutes each weekend to make your menu for the week, based on what you have on hand, what’s on sale that week, and what your schedule looks like.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or gourmet–just make it work for your family.  Armed with your game plan, you’ll feel ready to tackle the week, and it’s great for both your sanity and budget.  Let us know how it works for you!

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