Gone are the days of leisurely preparing a meal around 7 p.m. for just your husband and yourself to enjoy in peace. Kids are in the picture now and dinnertime can be nothing short of chaotic if you don’t plan well. Children (and husbands) can get awfully opinionated about their meals, and you’re just trying your best to keep your family happy and fed with at least moderately healthy foods while maintaining your own sanity.
Meal Planning Strategy
Meal planning has been a passion of mine for years, even before I had children of my own. But it’s importance has only grown more valuable to me as I now have two daughters to feed.
One of the biggest challenges, as it approaches 5 p.m. on a weeknight, is: What’s for dinner?! If you make a meal plan at the beginning of the week, it takes the last minute decision making out of the equation. When you plan ahead, it also means you can often do a little food prep earlier in the day (take advantage of naptime!). You may be surprised just how helpful it is come dinnertime when all of your veggies are already chopped and seasoned!
I typically start my planning process on Saturday. I look at my calendar for the coming week and plan what we will have for dinner each night, starting with Sunday. Then I go meal by meal and make the detailed grocery list for my shopping trip the next day.
When I was young, my dad always made spaghetti on Monday nights. Several months ago, I implemented the same for our family and haven’t looked back. It is so helpful to have one night’s meal taken care of each week without any thought and only helps further that spaghetti is so easy to throw together.
Whether it be spaghetti or something like “Taco Tuesday” at your house, I strongly recommend dedicating one night a week to the same meal. Worried about getting bored with the same thing? Make small swaps each week to switch it up and keep it interesting (for example, I use different types of noodles for our spaghetti each week, or alternate between meat and veggie).
All that being said, I hope you will find the meal plan below helpful! I’ve included minor changes to the main meal that you can use as a guide for the young/picky children in your house. Please share your favorite quick and easy, family-friendly meals in the comments!
5 Weeknight Meals
Monday: Spaghetti Night
Everyone knows how to make spaghetti, right? I won’t share one specific recipe, just make it your own! I switch it up every once in a while, but my favorite way is to make it meatless, with sautéed veggies hidden in the sauce.
Cook the spaghetti or any other noodles. Sauté bell peppers, onion, and broccoli in olive oil over medium heat. Once veggies are softened and turning brown, mix in the marinara. Combine noodles and sauce, and serve over steamed spinach for added greens. Bake garlic bread for dipping in extra sauce.
For the kids: Serve noodles with butter and grated Parmesan instead of marinara. Broccoli and garlic bread on the side.
Tuesday: Rice Bowls
This is another very versatile meal that can be altered in many ways based on what you have in your kitchen.
Our favorite combination is brown rice, chicken sausage, broccoli, sweet potato, and onion.
Chop your veggies, add to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder. Roast the veggies in the oven for 25-30 minutes, throwing in the chicken sausage (sliced into “coins”) for the last 8-10 minutes. Toss it all together and top with a heaping spoonful of hummus or a sauce of choice. Drizzle with sriracha for added heat.
For the kids: Serve each component of the bowls separately (if your children are anything like my toddler, foods must be kept separated as much as possible!).
Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner
Breakfast for dinner was a favorite of mine growing up. To this day, pancakes hold a special place in my heart and I love to make them for my family. Stir seasonal fruit into the batter (it’s strawberry season!), and serve with bacon and scrambled eggs. Done and done. No special version for the kids needed.
No shame in using a store-bought mix (try Kodiak Cakes Protein Pancake Mix or Trader Joe’s Toasted Coconut Pancake Mix!), but if you want to make yours from scratch, Joanna Gaines’ recipe from Magnolia Table is well worth it. You can find the recipe shared on Caramel and Cashews blog.
Thursday: Spring Pasta with Blistered Tomatoes and Eggs
This is a tried and true recipe from a favorite food blogger of mine. This may feel a little fancier than the other meals I’ve suggested, but it’s still fairly simple, making it great for a weeknight meal.
For the kids: Like Monday, serve noodles with butter and grated parm. If your child won’t touch asparagus (mine won’t), steam some mixed veggies like peas/corn/carrots for an easy side dish. Instead of a fried egg for the top of the pasta, scramble a couple of eggs for a side dish. Or, heat up some frozen chicken nuggets.
Let’s be real, who wants to cook on a Friday night? I’d rather spend my night crawling up into the play area to pull my defiant toddler out when we are trying to leave. 🙃 OK, maybe I don’t look forward to that part, but it’s hard to go wrong with Friday night Chick-fil-A. I love pairing one of their awesome salads with a side of fries for the perfect balance of healthy and indulgence.