• Ann Kaplan

What the Heck is for Dinner?!? 6 Meal Planning Tips!

Updated: Oct 20, 2019

Today on the blog, I'm welcoming Jessica Stembridge from Biscuits 'n Crazy to share her best meal planning tips for busy families. Enjoy!


What the heck is for dinner? It’s the question muttered nearly every day, by nearly everyone. And if you’re a mom, chances are the responsibility of getting this question answered is on you. But it’s not all doom and gloom.


Figuring out dinner each night does not have to be a life sentence of misery or like a scene fresh out of Groundhog’s Day. With some intentionality and a plan, you can take back control of your dinnertime.




Here are six tips to help you get there:


Stop being negative about dinner.


Just like conquering most hurdles in life, your attitude has got to be the first thing to change. Do you frequently badmouth your dinner responsibilities? Do you make excuses about why dinner is such a chore? What if you stopped all that? What would happen if talking bad about dinner was forbidden? If every time you went to make an excuse, you stopped? The thing is dinner will never be a positive experience if you only talk negatively about it. After all, your attitude is one of the only things in life you have complete control over. So get control over the narrative around dinner, and watch it transform into a more positive experience!


Start meal planning once a week.


I know, I know. You know you should meal plan already. But seriously, who has time to meal plan? I’ve got another question for you – who has time to think about dinner every single night? What if you set aside dedicated time only once a week to look at your upcoming schedule, figure out a dinner strategy (cook, leftovers or eating out), and figure out what meals you’d make? Can I tell you that (with almost absolute certainty) you will save time? And mental energy. And frustration.

Now instead of 5 o’clock rolling around and you’re asking yourself “What the heck is for dinner?” and realizing that not only must you decide what you’ll eat, but also run to the store, you’ll just cook. You’ll merely be executing a plan.


Start keeping a dinner rotation list.


Now that I’ve got you convinced to start planning your meals (yay!), now the question is what meals do you want to cook? While the knee jerk reaction might be to hop on Pinterest and scour the latest and greatest recipes, let me suggest otherwise. Start with what you know. Make a list of ALL the dinners you already (successfully) make. Create your family’s dinner rotation list. When you go to meal plan, reference this list first. Trying to implement a new meal planning process, at the same time you start cooking all new recipes, is itself a recipe to make you overwhelmed.


When you make a new recipe, score it!


When you do decide to add some variety to your meals, I recommend starting by introducing one new meal a week. If you’re super comfortable in the kitchen and your family is up for new things, maybe two. And when you try a new meal, score it! Ask your family for feedback – did they like it? Ask yourself how easy it was to prepare, and if the cost works with your budget. If it checks those boxes, add it to your dinner rotation list! Keep trying new recipes until you’ve got at least 30 meals on your list.


Let your family help with the meal selection.


The job of picking the meals each week should not fall squarely on your shoulders. In fact, divvying up the responsibility can get buy-in from your family to be more intentional about dinnertime. Maybe you can implement a standing weekly tradition – taco Tuesday, pizza on Friday, out to eat on Saturday. You could also assign your spouse or kids a night where they get to decide. And make sure you tell them (especially the hubby!) “I don’t care, you pick” is not an option. Nice try, honey.


Have a backup plan.


It's inevitable that even with an awesome meal plan in place, life is still going to happen. You may forget to defrost your meat. The veggies you planned may go bad. You may have had to stay late at work. Or you may just be wiped out from a long week and not feel like cooking what you had planned. Prepare for the inevitable by coming up with one or two backup meals. I define a backup meal as something that could be easily made without requiring a trip to the store, but that won’t spoil within a few weeks.

Some of my favorites are breakfast for dinner, homemade flatbread pizzas, and boxed organic tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. When you do your grocery shopping, make sure to include the ingredients needed for your backup meals. With a backup meal in stock, you’re always prepared.


Jessica Stembridge is a working mom of three who knows firsthand the struggles surrounding family dinnertime. As a breast cancer survivor, she also knows the power of a positive attitude, faith, and an intentional mindset to overcome life’s obstacles. Married to a chef, Jessica brings both professional influence and a dose of humility (through her kids’ frequent reminders that, “you’re just a home-cook, mommy”) to her kitchen personality – the know-how, minus the ego! With a career in business management and human resources, Jessica loves connecting people to a process; a skill that manifests in all facets of her life: running a household, leading in the workforce, and in her dinner-dominating meal planning approach.



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© 2018 by Ann Kaplan