I have to be honest, I have a lot of people roll their eyes at me when I tell them that I meal plan for our family. For some it’s a daunting task, others have tried it and it hasn’t worked out, and some people just think that I’m a crazy organized fool.
OK, so that last part might have some truth to it. But I’m totally ok with that 🙂
Anyways, I wanted to share with you why I do meal planning and give you a week-long example of what it looks like for our family. Because sometimes meal planning can seem so overwhelming. But for me, the benefits far outweigh the anxiety of the planning part of it. My friend Elizabeth over at Simple Life Dreamer put together an awesome post about how to meal plan the most effective way for YOU. It’s a great post and I would highly encourage you to read it before you begin your meal planning scheming.
So here is what a typical week or meal planning looks like for our family of four, two adults and two children. These meals are kid-friendly and most of them work great to double as freezer meals. The number of meals that I make every week may seem a bit overwhelming, but my husband works from home and eats every single meal with us. And because every family is different, you can make your meal plan any way you want it to be to whatever fits your family. I’ve also included the recipes to some of my family’s very favorite meals to give you a head start if you’re stuck on what to make. So let’s get started!
Lunch-Spaghetti and meat sauce, steamed broccoli, garlic bread, chocolate pie
Chocolate Pie Recipe:
- Mix 1 package instant French vanilla pudding and 1 package instant chocolate fudge pudding with 2 cups whole milk.
- Add 2 cups softened vanilla ice cream, stir to combine.
- Pour into graham cracker crust (I LOVE the Pioneer Woman’s recipe).
- Top with Cool Whip
- Sliver Hershey’s bar on top
Dinner-Cold meat sandwiches
Lunch-Tuscan Chicken Pasta, mixed fruit (strawberries and peaches), garlic bread, leftover chocolate pie
Tuscan Chicken Pasta Recipe:
1 (16oz) box of bowtie pasta
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
½ tablespoon dried basil
8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 8 pieces
8-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, drained and chopped
2 cups milk
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup of chicken cooked and cubed
1.In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the cloves garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. Stir in dried basil.
2. Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it will become a smooth creamy paste.
3. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.
4. Still at medium heat, add the milk and whisk quickly and constantly until it blends into the sauce.
5. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency, about 5 minutes.
6. Add cubed chicken and pour over hot noodles. Fold in to combine.
7. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
Earlier this week, I doubled this recipe and made it into three separate meals; one to eat on Tuesday in a 9×9 pan and two into 2-9×9 tin foil pans.
Dinner: Grilled cheese sandwiches with Campbell’s Tomato Soup
Lunch-Meat Lasagna, green salad with homemade blue cheese dressing, garlic bread, steamed cauliflower, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Meat Lasagna Recipe (makes one large 9×13 deep dish OR two 9×9 deep dishes, I prefer to make two 9×9’s and stick one in the freezer)
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 15 oz cans Prego meat flavored spaghetti sauce
16 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
20 oz cottage cheese, small curd, (or ricotta cheese)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1 24 oz box lasagna pasta
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a large pan, add olive oil, chopped onion and garlic. Saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add ground beef and cook until browned, then drain. Return to pan.
- Over low heat, add spaghetti sauce to meat and simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
- While making meat sauce, cook pasta according to packaging directions, rinse with cool water and set aside.
- In 9×13 deep dish OR two 9×9 deep dishes, place a small amount of meat mixture in the bottom of the pan and spread around to coat.
- Add one layer of lasagna noodles (I usually use about 4-5 noodles per layer, they need to overlap each other).
- Spoon half of the cottage cheese on top of the pasta layer and spread out evenly across the noodles.
- Next spoon 1/3 of the meat mixture on top of the cottage cheese.
- Sprinkle lightly with 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, then with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat the above steps with another layer of the pasta, cottage cheese, meat sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
- The last layer is pasta, covered with the remaining meat mixture and remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
- Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, taking the foil off the last 10 minutes.
Dinner: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green salad, dinner rolls, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Thursday (Thursdays are a super busy day for us with Mom’s Group in the morning and Bible study in the evenings):
Lunch AND Dinner: Left overs from the first part of the week – options from Tuscan chicken pasta, lasagna and fried chicken meal. This usually gets rid of most of our leftovers by eating them this day, eliminating a lot of wasteful cooking.
Lunch – Pancakes (this is always a family favorite and super easy!) with fried eggs and bacon
Dinner – Ham balls, green salad with blue cheese dressing, dinner rolls, corn, chocolate sheet cake.
Ham Balls Recipe:
Mixture of 1 pound ground lamb and 1 pound ground pork sausage
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup milk
- Mix all of the above ingredients together.
- Form into balls and place in a greased 9×13 pan (makes about 16 balls).
- Pour over top the following mixture-
1 can tomato soup
1/4 cup vinegar
1 TBSP mustard
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
4. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, basting every 15-20 minutes.
Lunch-leftover ham balls
Dinner- Out to eat! I’ve cooked all week and I’m usually tired of it by Saturday night.
Lunch-we eat Sunday lunch at Eric’ parent’s house 🙂
Dinner-pop corn, ice cream and candy 🙂
So there is a tangible example of what a week’s worth of meal planning looks like for our family plus some of my family’s very favorite recipes that are in our usual line up. I hope that seeing this gives you an idea of how you too can meal plan week in and week out, save money AND give yourself some sanity during your already hectic work week.