Fall Meal Planning for Families
Whether you’re a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, tackling planning for dinner is something no one can really avoid. From the moment my kids wake-up, the question that is top of mind is “what’s for dinner?” When they get off the bus, their question is always the same one. It’s one of those questions that I rarely have a ready answer to, but honestly, for my own sanity, I should.
CREATING A MEAL CALENDAR
Last fall, for maybe a couple months, I would write out a dinner calendar on a dry erase board. My kids would could see what I planned to cook. This helped reduce complaints about menu preferences for a particular night because they could see a favorite meal somewhere on the horizon. But it was hard to keep up with…coming up with so many meals all at once was time consuming. And, we’d be halfway through the month before I’d realize that I hadn’t updated the list (or simply ran short on a key ingredient). My kids were particularly disappointed when I changed the meal schedule on the fly.
WISDOM OF THE CROWD
A friend of mine recently asked a group of parents connected on Facebook for their favorite go-to family meals. I wrote down all the great ideas that they posted. My plan is to use these ideas to kick-start a fresh dry erase board calendar this fall. I also plan to start cooking and freezing meals so I have an easy back-up plan when I run out of ingredients.
FAVORITE MEAL IDEAS
Here’s a quick list of favorites of family dishes from my group of Facebook friends. Do you have other meal ideas that I can add to my list?
- Tacos – beef, shredded chicken or turkey. On occasion I will throw a couple chicken breasts in the slow cooker, dump a jar of salsa on it and by dinner time I can use a blender to shred it up for tacos
- BBQ Pork or Beef – cooked in a slow cooker and served on rolls
- Bow Tie Pasta with Spinach and Prosciutto
- Macaroni & Cheese – try different cheese combinations, including sharp and blue cheese!
- Chicken Nachos – keep it simple: bag of Tostitos, rotisserie chicken, shredded Mexican cheese. Place Tostitos on plate, cover generously with cut up chicken (to make it feel as healthy as possible). Cover with shredded Mexican cheese. Microwave for 45 seconds.)
- Pasta with Meatballs and with a GOOD bottled marinara sauce
- Taco Salad
- Pesto Pasta
- Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches
- Grilled Cheese – consider adding ham, tomatoes or avocados for additional flavor or try a different type of cheese!
- Rice/Quinoa – keep a container in the fridge, cook up a bag of frozen veggies then you just add beans or meat.
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Homemade Pizza – my kids love homemade pizza with diced chicken nuggets and pepperoni. Plus, I can make a small portion full of all the veggies I like.
- Pot Roast in the slow cooker
- Turkey Chili with Beans…and lots of veggies
- Pesto Seafood Pasta (always have a bag of frozen shrimp hand).
- Homemade Chicken Soup
- American Chop Suey – brown either ground beef or turkey, add tomato sauce, bring to a boil, and add the macaroni, salt, pepper, garlic, onion and if you want random vegetables. You may need to add water too.
- Turkey Sandwiches – served open faced with gravy
- Stir Fried Rice (and whatever veggies I have on hand)
- Pasta Salad – cook pasta of your choice and sauté green onion and garlic in a combo of butter and olive oil. Add steamed broccoli and cooked asparagus cut in bite size pieces into the sauté pan, then toss cooked pasta along with parmesan and seasoning (Tony Chachere’s for example)
- Corn Chowder
- Salad with Grilled Chicken (use rotisserie chicken to make it quicker)
- English Muffin Pizzas
- Chicken Cacciatore
- Braised Pork Chops
- Hamburger Stroganoff
- Beef Stew
- “Zoodles” – zucchini noodles which not only cook in 5 minutes but can also be zoodle 1-2 days ahead of time.
- Penne Pasta with 5 Cheeses – this delicious meal can be made up ahead of time and frozen. Because cheese tends to come in blocks, I’ll make up 4-5 batches and add shredded chicken. The meal is heavy so no large portions necessary!