Pick fruits and veggies that can be prepared quickly and simply.
When meal planning for a young family, simple is often best.
Think berries, grapes, and apples for fruit – Carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, celery for veggies. I try to buy double what I need for fruits and veggies. I wash and prep half for meal and snacks for the adults and my toddler son. Peeled and sliced for snacks. For meals, I love roasting veggies with a little olive oil and simple herbs and spices (makes for great leftovers too). What is left gets steamed and pureed for our 6-month-old daughter.
Cook a larger piece of meat early in the week.
On Mondays, I cook a medium sized beef roast, a 5 pound chicken, or a 3 pound pack of chicken breasts. This provides dinner for Monday night and lunches for the rest of the week. We get creative with fixing for wraps, sandwiches, and salads.
Prepare a “base breakfast” in large quantity.
For us, this is either old fashioned oats or egg muffins. I cook a large batch and store it in the fridge without anything added. I will tailor each to fit each member of the family in the mornings. My oats usually have flax seed and berries, while my son loves banana and peanut butter. My egg muffins are chock full of veggies, and my son’s have a few veggies and plenty of cheese.
Have a meal-type calendar. Here is mine:
M – Big Meal (This is my roast, chicken, etc. with one or two side dishes. I count on this meal for leftovers.)
T – Tacos (We are really creative with our tacos. Sometimes they are shrimp ceviche tacos and sometimes the are made with venison from my husbands’ hunting)
W – Burgers (Again, we think outside of the box. Don’t limit yourself to a beef patty and American cheese. Mix it up. You can make anything into a burger.)
T – Meat and Veggie (This is where I get to turn my brain off. Steak and asparagus. Chicken and broccoli. Salmon and green beans. This is my simple meal.)
F – One pot Meal (fried rice, any type of casserole, crock pot meals)
I don’t plan a meal for Saturday or Sunday because usually in our house, something comes up during the week and we end up not eating dinner at home. So I will move a meal from the work week to the weekend and no food is wasted.
Plan and Prep Snacks
Early in the week, I wash and cut carrots, green peppers, berries, or pineapple. Having them ready to eat helps me choose better snacks for myself and my son. However, we also do a lot of snacks that don’t require any prep. Apple sauce, apples, string cheese, yogurt. It’s really just about making sure you have healthy options so that you don’t make bad choices. I pick two or three snacks for a week and that’s all I buy.
Check the Freezer and Pantry First
This tip comes straight from my husband. I keep a lot of meat and veggies in the freezer and canned in the basement. (My husband is a hunter and we have a big kitchen garden.) I try to make at least one meal a week in which most of the ingredients come from what we have already.
Change it up!
I tend to get stuck in ruts with my recipes, so flipping through an old cookbook or scrolling through Pinterest before I sit down to plan my meals helps inspire me to try one new recipe a week. I also like to make notes when we go out to eat of anything we have that I think I could make at home. My husband and I enjoy making dishes like Pad Thai, fried rice, and sushi.