Simplifying Meal Planning So You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel Each Night

This evening I had to throw out two pounds of salmon that went bad in the fridge because I waited too long to use it. About 15 minutes after dinner was supposed to be ready, I returned home with take-out Pad Thai in hand.

Cooking is not my strong suit. Give me an event to plan, a group to lead, something to organize, I’m your girl. Hosting a dinner party gives me a panic attack. Seriously. Not because of the mess or the entertaining, but because of the food. I get nervous and sweaty when asked to bring a side dish or host a dinner. I love having people over, but if food’s involved I struggle.

I am not confident in my cooking abilities and feel like a fish out of water in the kitchen. If I do have people over or host an event, I either buy premade food or delegate food to my volunteers. It’s the first thing I love getting off my list. However, I can’t completely get out of it.

I’m a stay at home mom so cooking is like 1/3 of my job. After eight years I thought maybe I could avoid it. Yikes. Ok, I’ve got to get it together. So this week I compiled a big list of all the recipes I enjoy. Once it became about organizing instead of cooking, I was motivated.


1. USE WHAT WORKS: Go through your recipe books and tab everything you’ve tried and like. Make a list of your usuals. Call grandma and mom about your favorites from childhood. Write them down on these recipe cards:

2. CREATE A MEAL PLAN CYCLE: Print out the calendar below and fill in the blanks with meals. Print a second month if you need it. Otherwise, rotate through the month once you’re done.

MONDAY – THURSDAY: Homemade meals rotating through meat, poultry, and seafood.

FRIDAY: Order pizza or some other delivery. Make a family night of it! Play a game or watch a movie.

SATURDAY: Leftovers and grill out. Double up during the week to have leftovers to use for lunch. If your husband likes to grill, nominate him for dinner on Saturday nights!

SUNDAY: Keep it simple. Sandwiches for lunch and something quick and easy for dinner.

Fill in any blanks with any of these ideas:

  • CHICKEN: casserole, baked, fried, stovetop, stir fry, shish kabobs, salad
  • PORK: ribs, sandwiches, sausage, spaghetti, chops
  • BEEF: steak, tacos, chili, meatloaf
  • TURKEY: tacos, chili, spaghetti
  • SHRIMP: old bay, scampi, teriyaki
  • FISH: salmon, tuna, tilapia, cod
  • GRILL: steak, chicken, shish kabobs, veggies, pork chops
  • SANDWICHES: ham, PBJ, egg salad, grilled cheese, chicken salad, Reuben
  • QUICK: breakfast dinner, premade rotisserie or sushi, soup, salad

3. PLAN YOUR WEEK: Now take your month’s plans and break them down by week. Start with the first week and write down the meals. Post them on the fridge next to your grocery list.

4. BE FLEXIBLE! Give yourself permission to go out of order or change up the menu as needed. This is a tool to help simplify dinnertime, so make it easy on yourself. Cross off each meal as you go and make sure to thaw something out beforehand.


My favorite thing to do is grocery pickup. I order Sunday night and pick up Monday morning. I use the Kroger Pickup App. We don’t have to get out of the car, they take coupons and the app offers a ton of digital coupons! The fee is $5 but my coupons always exceed the cost. Many times if they take more than ten minutes or substitute more than 5 items, they take off the fee!

Many stores are jumping on this trend, so check out your local stores for this game changer!


Now that you’ve got your meals organized, let’s work on your Cleaning Schedule!

You’ve got this!


    • Thank you! It has transformed my dinnertime and I hope it helps yours—I hate cooking mostly because of having to make decisions when I’m ready to take a nap at the end of the day!

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