Now that school is in session, after-school activities and sports are in full swing at our house.  I’ve been using all of my favorite tips to keep dinner on the table and healthy meals in the rotation.  I keep things as simple and healthy as possible, we eat a whole food diet and keep packaged foods to a minimum.  I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I do to make things simple and easy.

Here are some things I do to keep meal planning simple:

Use the grill.
Grill extra for later in the week or to stash in the freezer.  I do this the most with chicken.  I find that it freezes really well for salads and other meals.

Make anything ahead of time that you can.  
Cut up fruit and vegetables and store them in the refrigerator to use during the week.

I’ll even bake potatoes and sweet potatoes and refrigerate them to be reheated for lunch or dinner sides.

Use a slow cooker and/or Instant Pot.
Use a slow cooker and/or an Instant Pot to cook when you don’t have time to cook or when everyone is eating at different times.  I love making stews and any kind of meat that is better when cooked low and slow, in the slow cooker.

Come up with a meal time formula.
To keep things really simple I plan meals as components – protein, vegetables, fruits, and the occasional starch.

Think of the components of the meal instead of the whole meal.
This can be any meal and it can also be something as simple as hard-cooked eggs, making rice or pasta ahead of time, or simply cutting up veggies.  The sides take time and energy too!  I do more meal components than anything and find that that is the best way for me to save time in the kitchen.

Prep and freeze meats so they’re ready to cook.
Once a month or so, I will scramble up 5-6 pounds of ground turkey, beef, or chicken with onions and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.  I then add this to sauces, burrito bowls, tacos, nachos, etc.  I’ll freeze it in 1-2 pound increments and use it over the course of a month for meals.

Repetition is your friend.
I am not easily bored with eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch all week long and neither is the rest of my family.  To keep things simple I’ll usually eat the same thing for breakfast (smoothies) and the same thing for lunch (large tossed salad with protein or leftovers from the night before).  Keep things simple by making multiples of the same thing.

Plan ahead for the week or month.  
If you’re new to menu planning, start with a week at a time or even just Monday – Friday.  Don’t let 5pm sneak up on you – come up with a plan for the week and relax knowing you have a plan.  I find that keeping the plan written down is so helpful!  The kids love to know what we’re having for the week and it alleviates so much stress for me trying to figure out what’s for dinner!  Have some tips to share?  Share them in the comments!

If you haven’t seen my menu planner and notepads in Clean Mama Home, check them out for help getting your menu planning on track!  Go here to see a video and all the details!