Planning meals for families, whether it’s young children, teenagers or multi-generational households, is an exhausting task. Combine this with the fact that the pandemic has left us all eating at home (or with take out) for more than a year, and it’s safe to say we might be tired of our tried-and-true recipes. But we still need cost-effective, nutritious and dare we say, tasty ways to feed our loved ones. For moms and dads looking for new ways to lessen their workload but keep everyone fed, here are a few meal planning ideas for families:
1. Invest in the Right Kitchen Tools (Hint: Slow-Cooker)
Many meal prep classics begin with an air fryer or slow cooker, as they minimize dishes used and the time needed to create your masterpiece. There are lots of recipes worth trying, from chicken pestos to butter bean minestrone. Our personal favorite comes from the Recipe Critic, with their beef bourguignon. The steps are simple:
- Cook the meats: In a skillet, cook a few bacon slices thoroughly and seer each side of your beef before combining in the slow cooker pot.
- Whisk together sauces: Add red wine to the skillet, simmering and reducing before adding chicken broth, tomato sauce and soy sauce. Whisk in flour to desired texture and all to the slow cooker.
- Add ingredients and wait: Add garlic, thyme, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms to your slow cooker. Cook on low for eight to ten hours or high for six.
2. Order Weekly Meal Kit Delivery.
If you’re tired of doing the planning, meal kit delivery services are an awesome solution. Based on your personal preferences and family needs, consider opting in to one of these top-recommended services:
- Home Chef: With over 38 recipes to choose from, starting at $7.99 a serving, Home Chef is perfect for health-conscious parents on a budget. Hearty servings and nutritious options make this the ideal choice.
- Freshly: Often, we just want something easy to eat (that’s not takeout) but don’t know where to get started. Freshly offers pre-made meals for you to select from. Just heat and eat.
- EveryPlate: If you’re cooking on a budget, EveryPlate comes in at roughly $4.99 per serving while still providing delicious and heart-healthy meals.
- Dinnerly: For those that want home-cooked meal prep but are new to the kitchen, Dinnerly’s meal options all fall under six ingredients or less, making it the perfect match for newbies.
- Gobble: Want a nutritious meal for the family, but have absolutely no time? Consider Gobble and their 15-minute-or-less recipe and meal kits.
- HelloFresh: Gluten-free? Lactose intolerant? Allergic to nuts? HelloFresh offers a variety of meal kits that cater to individual needs while still providing a delicious and rich meal for the family.
- Green Chef: Do you have members of your family that are on a strict diet or need specific nutrients for the work they do or sports they play? Green Chef offers paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, and vegetarian meals to meet your family’s every need.
If you’re not sure about committing to a meal service but still want to try your hand at meal kits, many local grocers now provide options in-store. For example, Target offers “Dinner in Minutes” food bags that give you all the ingredients for a simple, home-cooked meal. Look for the meal bags in the frozen or fridge section and try options like southwest chicken tacos or the chicken pasta.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New
Want to know a new game that’s worth playing? Recipe roulette! Alright, it’s not a real game for family game night, but it’s worth it to follow some family blogs and be adventurous with new meals. By quickly scanning your fave bookmarked sites, you can find meal planning ideas for families you would have never thought of! The trick is to avoid analysis paralysis — find a recipe that’s within your price range (or you have ingredients for), you know your family will eat and get to it!
To start, check out these favorites:
Stock Up on Your Meal Planning Ideas for Families
No matter what you do, find a routine, budget and process that works best for you. Meal prep for the family can be stressful, and that’s why it’s important to look into new options that work for your specific needs. Not everyone has Sunday evenings to cook meals for the week or the patience to build perfect lunches for their kiddos. Drop the guilt and comparison game and find the best process for your family with a bit of help from the above tips!