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Dinner Menu Planning Made Easy

Dinner Planning Made Easy

Does the thought of menu planning for the week make you a little stressed? Well, I know it does for me if I’m not organized. I tend to get stressed out thinking out too far ahead. I have decided it’s time to make meal planning low stress and easy to manage.

Helpful Tips

I like to sit down Sunday evening and look over recipes, figure out what sounds good for the week and decide what I am going to realistically have time for. Let’s get real and admit that we might not make a homemade dinner Monday-Friday. I am the last person that will judge. Some nights we break open a box of cereal and call it good.

Make your shopping list ahead of time (I find that keeping a list on my phone notes is very helpful). So many times I’ll get to the grocery store without a plan and by the time I get home I’ve already thought of 5 other things I need. Once you get the recipes you want for the week, grab a pen and paper and write the ingredients down in an organized manner. I figure once a week I can organize myself, lol!

When making dinner for the week prep ahead any chance you can. If possible, plan to use your proteins a couple nights of the week. For example, night number one, prepare double the chicken so that on night two or three you’ve got that part of the meal done. I’ll do the same with my ground beef. Make double and save half for another dinner.

Every now and then pick up a couple rotisserie chickens from the grocery store, shred them and place in ziploc bags. Freeze and keep for last minute dinners.

When chopping vegetables, while you’ve got your chopping board and knife out, chop extra and place measured out portions in Ziploc bags. Label them with the date and either freeze them or put them in the refrigerator for a meal later in the week.

Keep your refrigerator stocked with some basics so when you don’t have time to make a homemade gourmet dinner, you can grab some things to whip up quickly. There are lots of pantry basics we can talk about. See my cookbook page 7 to read my favorites. At the bare minimum, can we all agree to always have a loaf of bread, eggs, cheese, condiments, jams, peanut butter, tortillas, an array of canned beans, tomatoes, rice, pasta and a slightly stocked vegetable/fruit drawer? I think that’s safe to say most of the time we can find those things in the fridge. If you’ve got these things, you can pull off a 10 minute dinner when nothing is planned.

Quick fix ideas when you don’t have dinner planned:   Quesadillas, bean burritos, tuna fish sandwiches, pasta with butter and garlic salt, grilled cheese sandwiches, fried egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.


Monday:  Grilled Taco and Lime Chicken for Tacos
Tuesday:  Cheesy Pesto Chicken Spaghetti Bake
Wednesday:  Cheesy Grown Up SpaghettiOs
Thursday:  Feta Sun-Dried Tomato Turkey Burger Sliders
Friday:  BBQ Chicken Pizza Soup

Monday:  Homemade Hawaiian Haystacks
Tuesday:  5 Minute Homemade Mac and Cheese
Wednesday:  Chicken and Black Bean Green Enchilada Rice Bake
Thursday:  Toasted Whole Grain Apple Cheddar Panini
Friday:  Quick Weeknight Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Monday:  Chicken Florentine Bowtie Pasta
Tuesday:  Slow Cooked Green Chili Pork Tacos
Wednesday:  Southwest Chicken Chili Mac Skillet Style
Thursday:  Cream Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Bacon Quiche
Friday:  Bacon and Ranch Cajun Baby Cheeseburgers

Monday:  Mexi Chicken Campanelle Dinner
Tuesday:  Ham and Cheddar Frittata
Wednesday:  Southwest Shredded Chicken 3 Bean Chili
Thursday:  Tillamook Grilled Cheese with Bacon, Avocado and Spinach
Friday:  Pepperoni Pizza Enchiladas





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46 Responses | Comments RSS

  1. 1
    TidyMom says:

    Thanks so much for this Jenny! I just pinned several of these for dinner at our house!!

  2. 2
    Tieghan says:

    This is so helpful! Great tips and the recipes all are amazing! Pinning like crazy!

  3. 3
    Naomi says:

    Okay, I really need to get on this! Sadly, I usually have only 3-4 items stocked and that’s every other week that I have it stocked -eek!

  4. 4

    i love all the tips and inspirations!! all these recipes sound and look delicious! great way to kick the planning into gear 🙂

  5. 5
    carrian says:

    I’m the same, keeping it on my phone and planning ahead keep me sane, and help me to use what’s n the fridge so I don’t waste anything.

  6. 6

    I so rarely plan my meals… but sometimes I think it’d make my life a bit easier if I did. Love these.

  7. 7
    gaelowyn says:

    I’m a HUGE “re-purposer” of dinners. Made homemade sloppy joes the other night. Tonight- I will turn the leftovers into your tortellini chili. Or, it could’ve been made into sloppy mac, chili mac, spaghetti, even taco/nacho meat. Pot roasts and whole chickens are huge cook once, have 2-3 different dinners items. Thanks for the inspiring recipes!

  8. 8

    Oh Jenny. I LONG to be this organized!!

  9. 9

    Love this.

    I hate when I don’t sit down and plan meals and make a grocery list…it makes my week that much more stressful. I love your idea of freezing rotisserie chicken — always handy to have around!!

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    Such amazing ideas and recipes… I LOVE this!!!

  11. 11
    Maria says:

    Thanks for sharing Jenny!

  12. 12

    I agree it’s great to plan if at all possible, but I get stressed out thinking about what to eat 5 days from now – what if the schedule changes, what if a friend invites us here – then I end up not doing it. I like you make a list on my phone, I find it helpful that I don’t forget anything. Also I made our front door into a chalk board so as soon as something goes empty in the kitchen (like a spice) I write it down on the door so I can add it to my phone later.

    • 12.1
      Jenny says:

      I totally agree Pamela, I don’t always organize my meals, but it’s so nice when I do. Love the idea of your chalk board door! Cool!

  13. 13
    Marjory says:

    Love the tips! Another thought, when I do have everything out for a more involved recipe, I try to make two…one to eat right away and one to freeze 🙂

  14. 14

    How awesome is this! Thanks, Jenny!

  15. 15
    Emily says:

    Love this post. I so agree with your comments. I am the same way. I always have what I call my “extra” meals. These are the ones I can throw together in just a few minutes when I don’t have a dinner plan or am just to plain tired to cook. 🙂

  16. 16

    I usually type my grocery list on my phone too because I am such a scatterbrain and will forget what I need once I get to the grocery store. Love these tips, thanks for sharing Jenny, especially freezing the shredded rotisserie chicken tip:)

  17. 17

    How awesome, thank you so much!!

  18. 18
    Amanda says:

    Four weeks of awesome food 🙂 Can’t wait to see you this week 🙂

  19. 19
    Becky says:

    Rotisserie chickens are a lifesaver – we eat on it one night and the next day it’s chicken salad, chicken and rice casserole or whatever. Leftover chicken, steak or roast with some cheese and leftover veggies make great quesadillas. Those have gotten us by for quick meals many nights. We make pizzas often and have a toppings bar and any leftover toppings(veggies and meats)go into a container for a quick pasta bake the next evening. You don’t even have to be super organized, but you do need to be willing to cook enough to have leftover food in the fridge/freezer to work with!

  20. 20
    Marie says:

    Gotcha on the cereal thing. Once in a while that is Sunday night dinner. 🙂

    Thanks for the tips.

  21. 21

    So smart, mama!! Menu planning is a lifesaver for this fellow mom of 3. I LOVE your ideas. Thanks for the nudge!

  22. 22
    Melissa says:

    We have 5 kids and meal planning can seem like such a chore sometimes; so many different palates to deal with 😉 However, I do have your cookbook and I have tried to be faithful on my stock of pantry basics and it has really helped alot, so thank you! Rotisserie chickens for a family of 7 can be a bit pricey so sometimes I will throw chicken in the crockpot with some chicken broth and that works as our shredded chicken for the week. Endless possibilities 😉

  23. 23

    Love the idea of getting roasted chickens and chopping up veggies in advance – GREAT tips, Jenny! Thanks for sharing.

  24. 24

    Great post, Jenny! You’ve taken the stress out of meal planning! 🙂

  25. 25
    Gaby says:

    menu planning is SO smart and cuts back on so much waste! Love this month long plan!!

  26. 26
    Terra says:

    Awesome! Thanks!

  27. 27
    marla says:

    Jenny, this is such a great and very helpful post!! I would love to try all of your recipes 🙂

  28. 28

    I love this. I live in the country and I often have to plan ahead

  29. 29

    This post was perfect timing! It sounds weird but I just got engaged and the idea of cooking for two (and eventually a family!) is a little daunting. I really don’t even know how to approach it. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  30. 30

    I really need to be better at dinner planning! This is a great start! And I want ALL of those dinners… tonight! 😉

  31. 31
    Jes says:

    Another thing I do is put 2-3 pounds of frozen chicken or frozen ground beef in the crockpot before I leave for work, put it on high for 6 hours, by the time we get home it’s fully cooked. We like to eat before 6, so this allows me to be able to do that.

  32. 32
    stacy says:

    i love this! thank you so much!!!!

  33. 33

    Great ideas thanks for sharing, loving these recipes!

  34. 34
    Kristy says:

    I sooo need to be better at planning! Thanks for sharing Jenny!

  35. 35
    jenelle says:

    WOW! amazing LOVE this and the recipes! Thank you! you just made my next weeks a breeze. You always make my tastebuds get excited to try your recipes. You are actually the one that introduced me to quinoa.Thanks! Love your blog and all your amazingness!!

  36. 36
    Katie says:

    I think you need to do another one of these 🙂 It helped me a ton. I get a little overwhelmed when I see all the recipes and this was very helpful. I love this website and I tell all my friends about it. Thanks for sharing your talent.

  37. 37
    Sara says:

    I really need to buckle down and menu plan, but I find it difficult to plan tasty meals just for one. Any tips?

    • 37.1
      Jenny says:

      Hi Sara, some ideas that come to mind are, halfing recipes, or if you’re like my husband, even if you make a recipe that’s for more than one, eat the left overs, that way you only cook every other day. Also, you can share with friends and neighbors. That will get you closer to them and who doesn’t love a fresh made home cooked meal. 🙂

Jenny Flake

Welcome to Picky Palate, my online kitchen! You'll usually find me with a cookie in one hand and a salad in the other. It's all about the balance :) The recipes you'll see are my creations. The Picky Palate Cookbook is now available. Enjoy!