August is here and our family’s schedules are filling up fast! One of the best ways we’ve found we can maximize those small windows of quality time together is to plan ahead. Mapping out regular decisions—like what’s for dinner—not only eases our daily mental load, but it cuts down time spent in grocery stores, searching for recipes, family polling, and (of course!) cooking.
Here are some of our BEST tips for making family meal prep easy and approachable. We’re serious! This does not have to be hard:
1. Stick to what you know and love
Every family has their favorite recipes. Jot down some guaranteed-hits for your family and work them into a rotation that works for you. Once that’s working for everyone, add in new recipes occasionally. Here are some of our favorite recipes and collections to get you started:
2. Prep a few days in advance
Especially if you’re new to family meal prep, the key is working just a few days in advance. We’ve all watched videos of meal preppers work weeks, even months, in advance—that’s not where you need to start! Take it 2-3 days at a time and find your rhythm.
Now that you know what’s for dinner this week, you can make a few strategic trips to the grocery store for what you need. Come home and prep what you can ahead of time: washing and chopping vegetables, marinating, and pre-cooking are all great ideas if they work within your chosen recipes.
3. Meal prep beyond dinner: Streamline your breakfast and lunch too
Plan out one type of breakfast that you can enjoy all week. The same goes for your lunch! Knowing those meals have already been “decided” makes it easier for us to be really present during the morning and midday. Choose a recipe, like our Halfway Homemade Garden Vegetable Soup, that you can make once and enjoy for days.
4. Pick a theme for each night of the week
Taco night, slow cooker meals, and Italian night are all great “themes” to help guide your planning process. Personal favorites include leftover night and breakfast for dinner! We also love making space for trying a new meal together as a family. For example, Shannon has planned out themed days and recipes for her family. Take a look at her weekly plan:
5. Remember, you only need a main and a side
Meal planning and prep can get quickly overwhelming when trying to decide main dishes and side dishes, so make it easy! We love planning on a delicious main dish and then incorporating one healthy side. Maybe you can find a few ways to serve broccoli each night (steamed, roasted, in a salad, in soup…the possibilities are endless!) or find new ways to build different salads that all have a romaine base. Get creative!