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7 Meal Planning Ideas for Busy Weeknights

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These 7 meal planning ideas will help make your busy weeknights less stressful and full of easy and delicious meals your whole family will love.


A bag of flowers on a table

Meal planning sounds like an easy way to never waste food and save money, right? But actually making the time to plan a menu, do the grocery shopping and then follow through is hard. Instead, we find ourselves reaching for the most convenient option, like cereal, and calling it a day.

Busy moms need a meal planning strategies that you can implement for those busy weeknights. This will keep you from the drive-thru and help you save your sanity!

7 Meal Planning Ideas for Busy Weeknights

a plate of pot roast cooked with veggies

#1 Choose meals that will give you an abundance of leftovers for the week
There will be nights where you don’t have the energy or the time to cook. Save your cooking for the days when you have a little more time, but choose recipes that allow for an abundance of leftovers to enjoy during the week. Recipes such as lasagna or pot roast will allow at least one or two nights of leftovers that you can use for the hectic nights when you don’t have time to cook. Then schedule a leftover night on your menu. Thursdays make great leftover nights. 

#2 Cook Ahead
If you know you are going to have a busy week, cook some of the ingredients in  your meals ahead of time. If all you can do is brown some of your ground beef, you will save yourself hours in the kitchen during the week. Be smart with your cooking and see if there are ways to bulk cook any ingredients for the week. My sister used to grill chicken in batches and use the chicken all week long for meals. 

shredded chicken on a plate with a slice of lime on top

#3 Plan to Use Leftovers
Not huge fan of leftovers? Plan to reuse them in another dish. Make a batch of 30 Minute Instant Pot Mexican Chicken . Have chicken tacos the first night. Then use the meat to make a salad for lunch or dinner another night. Stretch it even further and make it into Chicken Enchiladas. Too much for one week? Make extra and freeze it to use for later.  Rice made as a side dish can easily be made into fried rice for another night. Leftovers can be your best friend.

#4 Add a few easy meals to your meal plan for busy nights when you can’t cook
Busy nights are going to happen, but if you are prepared for them, they won’t be so bad. Add a few simple meals for your meal plan for the busy nights when you likely won’t be able to even spend 30 minutes in the kitchen. Sloppy Joe Meatball Subs are easy with a bag of frozen meatballs.  Pasta is always quick and easy. Try this 15 Minute Chicken Bacon Alfredo Pasta Recipe for a fun change. 30 Minute Pressure Cooker Chili Recipe is really easy too. You can make this on the stove top by letting it simmer for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. 

sausage and peppers in a slow cooker to make lentil soup

#5 Don’t be afraid to use kitchen tools to aid your cooking
Slow cookers and Instant Pots can save you from having to break your back, trying to get dinner on the table when things get busy. If you have free time in the morning, start your slow cooker and let the slow cooker prepare dinner for you. If you are short on time and need to get dinner on the table as soon as possible, consider using your Instant Pot instead. Both of these small kitchen appliances will make your life so much easier. 

bags of freezer meals on a kitchen counter

#6 Make Freezer Meals
If you have put off making freezer meals – stop putting it off. Freezer meals will save your life. You can make freezer meals for the slow cooker, for the stove top, for the Instant Pot and for the oven.

The internet and Pinterest are full of ideas for freezer meals. But it can be overwhelming to start. We love the My Freeze Easy site. They’ll send you a menu plan every month with freezing instructions. You can also build your own plan based on what you want to eat.

And they have a mobile app! So you can plan and then shop right on your phone. Seriously check this out and get a free guide to freezer cooking. It’s made my life so much easier!

If all else fails, eat out
There is nothing wrong with using a coupon to order pizza or grabbing some food to go – as long as you budget and plan for it. If you don’t have time to make it home to put dinner on the table, then grab something instead. Life is busy and crazy. Show yourself a little grace and be OK with eating out when life just does not go as planned.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult for busy nights. If you do a little prep work ahead of time, you’ll be ready for anything those busy nights throw your way.

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