We all have days or weeks where we struggle to come up with meal ideas for our family. Sometimes we can get in a rut eating the same meals and foods. With more adults working from home and kids doing virtual learning, families are eating at home for almost every meal. This means more meal planning and meal prepping. You may ask yourself “How am I supposed to constantly come up with meal ideas everyday for my family?” Read on to see where you can find lots of easy meal planning ideas.
Besides coming up with meal options, the meal needs to be relatively easy and quick to prepare. No one has time, on top of everything else, to spend an hour in the kitchen preparing every meal. Here are a few places to find easy meal planning ideas.
Make a Meal Idea List
First, start by making a list of what you currently make for meals. I like to list my meals out by time of day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. However, I do cross the meals with different times of day. We will have a breakfast casserole for dinner every once in a while.
Next, add in your favorite meals and meals that are super easy to prepare. Then, take out your recipe cards and books and add them to your meal idea list.
My 2020 meal planning list includes over 80 meal and snack ideas. To get started on your meal plan list, I am sharing my meal plan list plus an editable meal plan list template to customize for you family all for free. Simply sign up below this paragraph. I know how difficult meal planning is so I wanted to share the list I have for my family.
I like to make a new meal idea list each year because the list will change. Some meals phase in and out, favorites change and family tastes change. In addition, some ingredients become obsolete or get too expensive that you may not have that specific meal anymore. Lastly, after time certain cookware or kitchen utensils break that you may have used for specific meals and replacements aren’t available, so the meal can’t be made anymore.
Weekly Meal Planning Sheet
Use a weekly worksheet to plan your meals for the week. Then keep the sheets for a month or two and look back at them to get easy meal planning ideas. It is easy to forget what you had and when you had it. Furthermore, when you see how often you have a meal you can grocery shop and buy ingredients when they are on sale accordingly.
In addition, make notes on your weekly meal planning worksheets as you prepare a meal. You may have something you want to do differently next time or an idea that would make meal prep easier or faster. Also, you may have an ingredient you want to change or try with the meal the next time to compare.
Grocery Store Ads
Next, check out your local grocery store ads for easy meal planning ideas. Some ads have meal ideas right in their ad with which ingredients you need to prepare the meal. When you look through the ad and see what is on sale certain meals may pop into your brain. In fact, using grocery store ads can help you save money with meal planning because the items you see are usually on sale.
Surf the internet for recipe ideas. I do this all the time. If there is an ingredient I need to use up, a leftover, or have a lot of an item I will google “What to make with X”. Many options usually come up and each recipe is rated so I know if others who have tried it like it or not. When you are searching recipes check the ingredients list first. If it includes ingredients you do not like, have in your house or use then go to the next one.
There are times where a recipe is a bust, but on the other hand I have gotten some of my favorite recipes online. To make the recipe fit our ingredients or our tastes I may edit the recipe for my liking. Sometimes if I find a recipe that I have all but one or two ingredients, I will substitute an ingredient or leave it out.
Ask Your Kids and Partner
Ask your family what they want to eat. In fact, your kids may give you an idea from something they had at school or at a friends house. You may be racking your brain trying to come up with new or different ideas when they are ok eating the same thing every week or two. In addition, they may give you an idea that you haven’t thought of or a meal that you forgot about that you have made before.
Ask Friends & Family
When you have something to eat at a party or gathering and like it – ask the host for the recipe. If someone else brought it, ask who made it so you can ask them for the recipe. Moreover, if they say it was easy to make and didn’t take much time that is a bonus and could be added to your meal list.
In addition, part of the regular conversation I have with my family is around food and meals. I talk to my mom, dad, and sister about meals they prepare and eat because it gives me ideas on what to make for my family. Also, they share inside information about the meal prep or cooking that they learned so it makes it easier on myself.
Make Variations of Meals You Already Have
For example, let’s say you make beef tacos for dinner. There are many variations you can do with tacos. Try using chicken, pork or fish the next time. Another option is instead of tacos, prepare nachos, taco salad or breakfast tacos with sausage, bacon, onion, peppers, scrambled egg and cheese.
Use different meats, vegetables or grains to give a meal a whole new look and taste. Your family might not even recognize they are eating the same thing they did last week if you make one small ingredient change.
Get easy meal planning ideas from restaurants you go to. If there is an entree you get from a restaurant that you enjoy try making it at home. Browse the entire menu the next time you are at a restaurant for easy meal planning ideas. Then, jot the ideas down or type them in a note in your phone so you have it when you get home.
Meal Planning Apps & Services
There are different meal planning apps that give out tons of meal planning ideas. If you google “meal planning apps” a long list of free and paid apps will pop up. Personally, I do not have any specific apps or food bloggers that I follow, but these can be great ways to get meal and recipe ideas.
Besides apps, there are full meal planning services available for purchase. These meal services mail you the ingredients and recipe and all you have to do is minor food prep and cook or bake the meal. The down side to using a service like this is it can be expensive and the shelf life of the food you receive is not very long.
Final Thoughts on Easy Meal Planning Ideas
Whether we like it or not meal planning is a big part of our daily lives. However, meal planning does not have to be stressful or take a lot of time and energy. Use these tips above for easy ways to find meal planning ideas and bring your family together with fun new foods at meal time.
Get over 80 meal and snack planning ideas, an editable meal plan list to customize for your family, plus many other free printables and checklists in my planning resource library by signing up below.