If you’re anything like me, my day is filled with taking care of children, working, working out, grocery shopping, laundry, running kids to and from sports activities, and the list goes on and on and on. By the end of the day, fitting in time to make a delicious, healthy dinner for the family can be one of the last things I have the energy to do. But I do love cooking and am committed to a healthy lifestyle, so I had to find a way to organize my life in such a way that dinner didn’t feel so overwhelming (or take up a ton of time).
3 Steps to Healthy Meal Planning
Make a list of your favorite family meals
Group similar dishes into like categories
Make your calendar (and use fun, easy to remember names!!!)
So, the first thing I did was a make a list of all of our family’s favorite meals. None of our favorite dinners take a lot of time, because let’s face it, at this point in our lives no one has that kind of time to spend on making dinner. It was a list of probably around 25 dinners, but I was able to group them into like categories. For example, I noticed that Healthy Pad Thai, Thai Peanut Chicken Salad, and Thai Quinoa were all Thai dishes. Turkey Taco Salad, Fajita Salad, and Enchiladas were all Mexican foods. There were a bunch of healthy meatball dishes – Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, Turkey and Spinach Meatballs, and Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash. Then I had my normal, not so fancy but still delicious Grilled Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Salad, Grass-fed Organic Burgers with Sweet Potatoes and Salad, and others. Typing all of these dinners is totally making me hungry right now! Anyway, I’m a list kind of person and I love catchy phrases. That is how my Meal Planning Calendar was born.
Every weekday, unless something happens out of the ordinary, here is the general calendar I came up with. It makes meal planning and life so much easier. It gives me a category to follow, but I can change it up so we aren’t eating the same thing every single week. On top of that, I pretty much always plan on making leftovers so I can put them on top of a salad the next day for lunch. Add that to a On-The-Go Power Smoothie or Hot Vegan for breakfast, a couple go-to trusty snacks, and your week is totally set!!! Check out all our Healthy Recipes for some great ideas!
Any of the above-mentioned healthy meatballs, either served with rice, quinoa or sweet potatoes and broccoli or salad.
Check out this Gluten Free Spaghetti and Meatball recipe
Any of the above-mentioned Mexican dishes can fit into here, but I had to make it say Taco because that’s close enough for Taco Tuesday, right?! I always make a salad to go with the turkey or chicken meat, and then add rice and beans. We don’t even use dressing, just a glop of guacamole!
This gives me a chance to throw in our classic favorites, like grilled chicken or bun-less hamburgers, usually served with roasted sweet potatoes or quinoa and salad.
I’ve recently fallen in love with Thai food. We have a delicious Healthy Pad Thai recipe on Propello’s IG page, and Trader Joe’s has an amazing Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette that is SO good with chicken on top of salad.
MYOP (Make Your Own Pizza) Friday
Again, Trader Joe’s to the rescue. They have a sprouted pizza dough that we love – just add sauce and whatever toppings you want, cook for 10-15 minutes in the oven and they’re done! Add a salad or fresh cut veggies and you’re all set. Make them with your kids (and set the fresh cut veggies out early so they mindlessly snack on veggies while helping with the pizza. So much fun and so much healthier than ordering pizza!
relax - it's the weekend
Over the weekend, it totally depends on what we have going on. But I do like to add in fish once a week or other favorite dishes we didn’t have during the week.
We have found that we don’t go out to eat as much, because staying home is healthier, it’s cheaper, and our taste buds have become accustomed to our way of cooking. The dishes are another story, though… It might work better for your family to go out more, just make sure you are still eating a healthy meal!
what about the kids?
Also, I’m not going to lie and tell you that my kids eat all of these meals. They can be super picky, and I never know what they are going to eat. They seem to like something one day, and then the next day they won’t touch it. So, what I do is I make our dinner, and then I modify it for them. Usually that means I deconstruct the meal (because for some reason, our crazy kids won’t eat anything that is mixed up. The Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowls I made last night were delicious, but for the kids I had to put the chicken, rice and broccoli in different sections of their plate, and they wouldn’t touch the sauce. I also usually add some fruit for color and make sure they have enough fat that their growing bodies need. BUT I don’t make them a totally different dinner, I just work with what we have.
Anyway, this is what works for our family. Do what works for you! Make a list of your favorites and create your own calendar. We do have those days where life is too crazy to even cook dinner, but this gives us something to follow. Some nights we don’t eat until 7:30pm when soccer practice is over, and some nights we pack up dinner and eat in the car. But as long as you plan ahead, you won’t be stuck going trough a drive-through last minute.
Keep it simple, and make it work for you. 😊