As we slip into a new season, healthy eating and stress-free dinners are at the top of my list. It isn’t always possible, but with some Dinner Planning Basics, success is within reach.
Do you plan menus? Or more specifically, dinners? If not, it isn’t hard…. and it doesn’t take a lot of time. In fact, it can be easy. The key is just to… start. There aren’t any rules to menu planning, just a bit of practice to determine which methods work best for you and your family.
If you’re new to menu planning or it’s been a while, we’ve put together some simple Dinner Planning Basics and included a Fall Menu Printable I’m currently using in our home.
As the season changes, for most of us, our schedules follow. Appetites change, cooking styles adapt to cooler weather and heartier fare. Commitments and obligations rise. The family often runs in multiple locations. Dinner, then, can become a chaotic and stressful mess. At that point, takeout and unhealthy choices rule.
But it doesn’t have to.
With this seasonal change, comes a clean slate and renewed sense of organization. Fall is a perfect time to implement an easy dinner planning tool.
On a personal note, I only plan dinner menus. Life can get complicated and planning for every meal and snack, on every day, can get overwhelming. I stick to dinners, make notes for other meals, like weekends, bake ahead for easy breakfasts and snacks and buy plenty of fruits and vegetables and lunch items.
Dinner Planning Strategy
Create a Recipe List
Having a list of go-to, family approved dinners is an easy way to expedite planning. It doesn’t have to be long, just specific. On planning days when time is limited and inspiration is low, I consult this list. When trying new recipes and finding ones we love, adding it to the list will keep it in our meal rotation.
Recipe Storage Ideas
For online recipes, it’s easy to create a Pinterest Healthy Dinners board or use apps for online storage. MyFitnessPal recipe box is a great resource and also calculates nutrition facts. For paper recipes, you might create a 3-ring binder to store magazine recipes or internet printed recipes. You can also go old-school by maintaining a recipe card file box. In fact, I use all of these methods and save my recipe card file box for tried and true recipes as well as those passed down through the family.
Dinner Ideas to Keep in Mind
It’s important to me to keep variety in my family’s diet. Dinner Planning helps me with this. Without it, we might each chicken every night without even realizing it! Dinner Planning keeps my food budget on track, reduces waste, and helps schedule easy cooking nights by using those leftovers while they’re still good.
Dinner Planning Steps
1. Pick a day to plan.
For me, it’s most often Sunday afternoon. And I give myself 15-20 minutes to plan. I’ve pulled recipes from multiple sources through the week, printed and put them in a file box.
2. Grab your Dinner Planning Template and consult your calendar.
I begin noting the week’s schedule on my dinner planning sheet. If my husband will be home late, I note it. If anyone won’t be home for dinner on a particular night, I jot it down. Those nights then become reserved for super easy dinners or leftovers. By consulting the calendar first, I can then plan menus around how quickly dinner needs to be on the table. Sandwich and soup nights are excellent choices for quick dinners. After noting family schedules, consult your recipes and fill out each square of your planner.
3. Write Your Grocery List
After writing in weekly dinners on your calendar, consult recipes again for ingredients. Take an inventory of what you have on hand and make a grocery list of needed items for the week.
4. Pick a Shopping Day
Once meal planning is complete, choose a day to shop for those ingredients.
Dinner Planning Resources
1. Fall Dinner Planning Printable
I like to keep things simple and seasonal. Here is the template I’m using in our home now.
Download Dinner Planner: 31Daily Fall Dinner Planner
2. Dinners We Like Printable
Record family favorite and approved recipes for easy planning inspiration.
Download Dinners We Like: 31Daily Dinners We Like
3. Fall Recipe Ideas