Now that it’s back to school time again, it’s time to get things back on a schedule.  For many of us, that means meal planning so that we can have a healthy, nutritious meal on the table for our families and still have time for homework, kids activities and a regular bedtime.

These simple strategies can help make it easier to get dinner on the table and don’t require a lot of thought or effort.  Think of it as a basic formula for meal planning.

  • Theme nights.  Have a specific theme for each night of the week.  This makes it easier to select the meal for that evening.  At my house, we have Taco Tuesdays.  To make sure we don’t get burned out by having tacos every week, we switch up the tacos.  One week might be turkey soft tacos while the next might be crispy beef tacos.  Other theme nights could include meatless Monday, pasta night, soup night, leftovers night, crock pot night.  Get creative and make it fun!  Check out a couple of my family’s favorite Taco Tuesday recipes here and here.
  • Cook once, eat twice.  This might sound like leftovers but it’s not!  Certain meals are easy to repurpose into an entirely different dish.  For example, a large pot roast one night can be made into brisket sandwiches the next day.  You’ll only cook once and with little effort you’ll have two meals ready to go.
  • Keep a well-stocked pantry.  Sometimes the day doesn’t work out the way you want it to and you have to change your dinner plans.  Having a well-stocked pantry with a few staple items can help you throw together a dish in a pinch.  Check out my well-stocked pantry here.
  • Have a regular system for meal planning and grocery shopping.  Trying to fit meal planning and grocery shopping into your schedule may seem impossible but having a regular system and schedule makes it a priority and makes sure it gets done.  It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for your family, but you’ll find it saves time, money and aggravation.
  • Use the slow cooker. My slow cooker is probably my most useful kitchen appliance.  It’s so easy to throw a few items in the slow cooker in the morning and have dinner ready when you get home.  Find some easy family favorite slow cooker recipes here.
  • Create a shopping list.  Having a written shopping list can be a life-saver, not to mention money-saver.  Use a printed list to make sure you have everything you need for the week and avoid those extra items that get thrown into the cart.  Download my free printable meal planner below to help you make your list.

What is your biggest meal planning challenge?  How do you meal plan?  Tell us in the comments below!

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