Busy week nights plus meal planning equals a happy family!

Include your family activities into your meal planning to save time and money.

It is a new year and the calendar is once again filling up with activities, commitments and meetings. Coming home at the end of a busy day without a meal plan makes for chaos, leading to possibly a late dinner hour and more than likely snacking while trying to get a meal on the table. By taking a little time and planning, some of this stress could be avoided. Here are some suggestions:

  • Look at your schedule for the next week. What nights will you be home to prepare dinner, when will you need a quick meal?
  • Make a list of your family’s favorite dishes.
  • Add a few of those new recipes you were thinking of trying.

Once you have started to “plan,” the rest is fairly easy. Think in terms of what activities are going on and plan a menu around that. Time is always an issue, but planning ahead will keep you ahead of the clock on most occasions. On your days off you could prepare meals that take a bit longer to cook, something that is baked or roasted in the oven or a soup that will simmer most of the day on the stove. Quite often there would be leftovers and that could be incorporated into another meal in a day or two (think Shepard’s pie, burritos, Quesada’s, etc.). There are those busy evenings where you arrive home and a slow cooker has done the work for you. Another evening it can be breakfast night! Waffles, pancakes, omelets are all wonderful and quick. A soup and sandwich night is another quick and easy way to go. Homemade pizza will take a bit more time, but if you have done some of the prep, cutting veggies etc. you will be ready to have dinner on the table in no time. Pasta dinners, stir-fry dinners are all quick and easy.

The table below, recommended by Michigan State University Extension is an example of how a family or individual’s schedule could be incorporated into meal planning.








Oven cooking day

Left over day


Slow cooker

Pasta night

Homemade pizza

Soup day

Family day


Music lesson

Basketball game

Swim class

Yoga class

Basketball game

Family day/Birthday parties

As families get busier and children become more involved in activities, it can become easier to hit the drive-thru rather than gather around the dinner table. By relying on your calendar and family’s schedule, you can keep dinner on your table instead of in your car. It takes some planning and prep work, but the effort is worth it in the long run, you will free up time to add exercise time to your day, one on one time with your family and save money because you are meal planning and not eating out all the time.

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