I don’t know about you, but I often times find planning easy weeknight meals overwhelming or time consuming. After a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is start pulling out a thousand ingredients from the pantry and start cooking. I’d honestly like to have a sit down meal with my kiddo in our kitchen on a regular basis, but I find myself running out of ideas of what to make. What about you? Need a little motivation like me?
Easy Weeknight Meal Planning
What if I told you that simply eating meals with your children would bolster the opportunity to establish a stronger relationship with them? If I took it a step further and told you that eating meals with your children would possibly increase your child’s academic achievement and lower your child’s likelihood for at-risk behaviors, would you then be more inclined to set aside those times to eat meals together and pre-plan a little? Now…that’s motivation! Research has indicated that regular meal times with your kids do all of the above. After hearing about these studies, I made a resolve to have more regular meals at home with my son. As a single parent, focusing on completing homework, getting things organized for the next day, and possibly juggling evening activities makes this simple task easier said than done. And…for me, the biggest obstacle to meal prep is the planning part. I hate standing in the grocery store aisle, looking at the items on the shelf, and asking myself : “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?” After work, I don’t want to start thinking about what to make and gathering ingredients; I just want to come home and start cooking. So, I set out to create a monthly dinner menu that I could mindlessly follow, and I want to share it with you to take the guesswork out of meal planning.
Can I use the easy weeknight menu plan if I’m on a budget?
Absolutely! Easy weeknight meals are not hard to be budget friendly. The menu is designed to build upon itself. You’ll find that many ingredients are used again in week 2, 3, and 4. So, if you have to purchase a new spice in week 1, you’ll more than likely find that you’re using it again later in the month. (In fact, you’ll probably find that most of the spices you already have on hand). Also, depending on the size of your family, you may be able to freeze leftovers and pull them out in a couple of weeks without having to re-cook. If you’re really savvy, you may even be able to take the leftovers and re-create a new dish. For me, I just freeze and warm up in a couple of weeks, or I take leftovers to work with me for lunch during the week.
You may also want to check your grocery store and see if it has a “manager’s special” section of meats. Those are typically meats that are close to the sell date so they are being offered at a discounted price. If you find a particular cut of meat on sale, you can go ahead and swap out a set meal on the menu for one that comes later in the month! Sometimes, meat can be discounted as much as 50% off!
What types of weeknight meals are on the plan?
I try to include a variety of meats and cooking times in the menu because I don’t like to get bored with what I fix from night to night! The most important thing…it has to be an easy weeknight meal. You’ll find that every week has at least one chicken, beef, and seafood based meal. Most of the meals include a non-starchy vegetable and a starchy vegetable or rice (unless it’s a casserole dish). If you don’t like a specific type of meat, just swap it out with a different item in one of the other weeks. I have also included some quick meal ideas at the bottom of the post as well that you can use for easy, last minute ideas.
I don’t like to spend hours at night cooking after work. So, I use my slow cooker a lot. Each week includes at least two meals that use the slow cooker. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can still prepare the dish either stovetop or in the oven! Time saver tip: sometimes I will double the recipes in the slow cooker so I have them ready to go the next week and don’t have to prepare it later. I especially like to do this with the spaghetti sauce so the spices have a chance to mesh together! I try not to include too many meals that require a lot of chopping or preparation. But, for the ones that do, keep in mind that you can always do the chopping and organization on the weekend so all you have to do is dump it all together on the night you want to fix it.
How do I find the recipes for the weeknight meals?
The table below includes links to sites that you can click on that will take you directly to the recipe! From there, you can read any reviews on the recipe that may tailor it to your taste. I seem to like things a little more flavorful, so you may want to alter the amount of spice you put in your recipes!
Shopping List for Easy Weeknight Meals
To help you in knowing what to purchase at the store for the week, I’ve put together a shopping list for each week. Don’t stress when you see the list! It looks like a lot of items. However, many of the items on the list are spices that either a) you already have in your pantry or b) you’ll use again in future menus. Also, if you want to cut down on some of the items, you can always repeat some of the vegetables you don’t want and prepare a different kind of veggie. The same is true if you have a smaller family and think you’ll have leftovers. If your kiddos don’t need a lot variety in the same week, you can always cut out a meal and have the same thing the next night or later in the week. For my family of two, I usually freeze what is leftover (or take for lunch the next day) and then pull it out later in the month! Now, that’s a time and money saver!
Want a digital download of all of the menus and a shopping planner to go with it? Click below to sign-up for your digital download!
Other ideas for quick, easy weeknight meals:
If you need additional “go to,” not fancy ideas for quick dinners, here are some staples!
- Ground Beef Tacos
- Pancakes and Eggs (you can use Aunt Jemima mix…super easy! Throw in some fruit..done!)
- Pan Fried (or grilled) hamburgers (you can get pre-made patties at the store)
- Sloppy Joes
- Chicken or Beef Fajitas (pre-marinated chicken or beef at the grocery store)
- Stuffed Baked Potatoes (you can even use some of the leftover meat from another night)
- Finally…you can always call in pizza!!!!!
Do you have good recipes for quick, easy weeknight meals?
I’m always looking for really good easy weeknight meals to fix for me and my son! The best place to get recipes are from people whose own families enjoy them! You’ll notice I’m not well-versed in vegetarian meals, and I’d love to get some great recipes that are meatless. So, if you have a dinner recipe that is a “go to” for your family, please please please share it with us!