Easy Meal Planning for Busy Families

I’m super excited about today’s post, you guys. It’s the first installment of a year-long series called …With my Sisters. Today, we’re sharing Easy Meal Planning for Busy Families.

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As some of you may know, both of my sisters live in the same town. One of them has two small children while the other shuffles the kids to soccer and dance practices in the afternoons. They each have crazy busy work schedules. Somewhere in the midst of all of that are my easy going yet hard working brothers in laws both of which are awesome.

I, on the other hand, live about an hour away and spend my days running the booth business, this blog, working on design projects out of town and have 3 geriatric dogs to love on and look after. Thankfully, I also have help in making it all happen. While we’re at different places in our lives, each household dealt with one consistent problem – nightly meals.

One of my sisters needed extra time in a busy schedule to create a menu each week. The other needed help combining a menu into a solid grocery list that didn’t require a ton of recipe research. I eat the same things all the time because salads are always quick. We all agreed we wanted hot meals that were easy to make yet mostly healthy. And if that list wasn’t a tall enough order they also had to be kid friendly.

I knew there had to be a way to make menu planning easier for all of us so I asked my sisters to each come up with 10 recipes that covered all of the needed requirements. I agreed to come up with 10 recipes as well. Before for meeting, we divided the meals into categories: one pot wonders, easy oven bakes, ethnic, vegetarian, soup, salad and Sunday southern staples.

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A week later, we met with our menu ideas and recipe cards in hand. Each person brought 3 sets of 10 recipes to share. We decided to leave Saturday nights open for dinners out or easy leftovers and carry any extra recipes over to the next month. We’ll continue to share 10 different recipes with each other every month throughout the year.

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We kept everything organized with a basic binder ring and hole punch. This makes it simple to access the recipes during the week/month.

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At the meal planning meeting we discussed which day of the week would work best for each category. For example, we almost all had extra time to cook and prepare meals on Sunday but by Friday no one felt like cooking. This meant we could schedule all the southern supper meals on Sunday and hearty soups on Friday.

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Throughout the afternoon, we kept filling in recipes via categories and day until the entire month of January and one week of February was filled in.

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At the end of the menu planning session we had solved 4 problems – we were spending time together, we had successfully planned a menu for the entire month, we were eating healthy meals and sharing our best recipes had saved us from having to eat the same old stuff.

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The last item to be worked out was to pull it all together for a weekly shopping list. I agreed to be responsible for this portion of the plan. I send a list of all the ingredients for each recipe in an email to my sisters, which, makes it easy to shop straight from their phones or print out the list at home. It takes a little bit of extra time but this method allows each household to go through their pantry/refrigerator and find out what they need prior to heading out to the grocery store.

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We’ve used this system for 3 weeks now and it’s made such a difference. I write the weekly menu plan on the chalkboard in the kitchen, which helps remind me how to best schedule my time in the afternoons. The grocery list is ready one week in advance so I don’t have to spend a Saturday morning researching recipes and compiling the list before running errands. The brothers in laws are able to help with nightly meal prep and the kids are no longer asking, “What are we eating for dinner?” every night.

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Here’s a list of helpful take aways:

  1. Find a few friends, family members, coworkers or neighbors willing to commit to a specific number of recipe ideas each month.
  2. Keep your recipes cards in a folder, box or use a binder ring for easy access
  3. Decide in advance which categories you’re most likely to eat.
  4. Assign each category a specific night of the week (meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, etc…)
  5. Start filling in your calendar with the recipe ideas.
  6. Designate one person to be responsible for emailing the group with the weekly shopping list
  7. Post in a central area of the home/kitchen so your family can help with meal prep

Be sure to follow our group board on Pinterest and let us know if you have some recipes you think we should try! We’d love to have you pin with us!

See you guys back here tomorrow. I’m sharing how we organized the kitchen to make it more efficient. I still can’t believe I let the cabinets get so messy!

Many blessings,



  1. says

    Hey CoCo – this is such a wonderful idea! We especially love that you get to do this with your sisters…so much fun! It’s great that there is no guesswork with nightly meals. Sometimes we look around at each other saying things like “…I dunno – what do you want for supper?” This plan could eliminate that and keep us on a healthy meal track. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      We used to do that too! It drove me kind of bananas and yet I kept doing it. Plus, I was hardly ever hungry for anything so my immediate response would be …i don’t know…what do you want! Guess who’s having your enchiladas recipe on Thursday? We are!

    • says

      I really appreciate it, Angie, thank you! They are so sweet and I would be totally lost without them 🙂 I know you have a busy family too, hope these tips help. Hugs, CoCo

  2. says

    Coco, this sounds like an amazing plan! I love these ideas. My sister and I don’t share recipes much, but I think I can adapt this to fit our family. Coming up with a master list of recipes is a great idea, I spend time every day trying to figure out what to make, and with a list and a schedule, that would save a lot of time. Thanks! Have a great day!

    • says

      Thank you, Kimm! I saw my sisters this past weekend and they both agree it’s been a total game changer. Even my brothers in law love it because they’re able to help and the kids are having fun looking at the menu board each day instead of asking their parents over and over again “what’s for dinner.” I’ve always been a planner so this has definitely helped save some time for my crazy schedule too. Hugs, CoCo