Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The #1 EASIEST Menu Planning System +150 Simple Dinner Ideas

This is hands down, the most useful thing I do in my home!!!

For the first few years of my marriage and motherhood, dinner time was pretty much my nemesis! I could never think of what to make, and those rare times that I did, I either didn't have the ingredients, or I'd waited until 5 0'clock and didn't have time to get it done. Seriously, I am appalled that we survived those years. One day I realized that I was a complete mess at making meals, and totally boring. So, through a whole lot of work, I've changed... thank goodness!

 There is so much RESEARCH about how important family dinner is.  Two books that made a HUGE difference in the meal planning arena for me...

The ladies who wrote these books inspired me to create a fun and practical dinner planning system that has transformed our family dinner time.

 Each day has a theme, and THAT has made dinner planning so easy. Also, meal times are a million times more fun. 

The principle of the themes can transform dinner for any family.

 Each week as I plan our meals, I choose a meal from category for each day.

Mondays: Comfort Food 
Tuesdays: Taco Tuesday (aka Mexican food)
Wacky Wednesday: Quick Meals or Pasta 
Healthy Thursday: Fish, Chinese, Soup, or Salad
Friday night: Pizza Night 
Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner 
Sunday: Slow Cooker or Fun Food
 (I usually omit one day each week, and serve left-overs instead).

*Not everything fits under only one category (you'll see that many meals fit several categories). Also, rules can be broken. If you feel like Mexican food every night, then do it. This just makes the planning easier.

Instead of dinner time being drudgery, I really look forward to cooking and serving my family. Now, it feels like such a creative outlet, and I feel so much happiness when people like what I cook.

**I HIGHLY suggest coming up with categories that fit your family, and...

Here are 150 family friendly meal ideas
(Many have links, but some do not. If you would like my recipe of that particular meal, email me.)

Comfort Food Monday:
Chicken Pot Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Meatloaf Cupcakes by Six Sisters

Hot Dog Bar

Homemade Mac and Cheese Bar

Ravioli Lasagna

Chili and Cinnamon Rolls

Stuffed French Bread

Mitt Romney's Meatloaf Cakes via Better

Stuffed Meat Balls via The Food Nanny


Chicken and Dumplings by Our Best Bites

Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches and Potato Salad

Taco Tuesday:(aka Mostly Mexican)

Cowboy Quesedillas by Our Best Bites

Fruit Salsa, Cinnamon and Sugar Chips serve with Carne Asada

Taco Salad


Chicken Tortilla Soup by Our Best Bites

Mexican Haystacks

Baked Tacos by Blog Chef

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salads by Six Sisters

Mexican Bubble Pizza

Navajo Tacos



Lots of Salsa and Chips Night

White Chicken Chili 

Wacky Wednesday (Quick Meals or Pasta):

The Yummiest Meatballs Ever over rice

Chicken Fingers (add steamed veggies and french bread)


Spaghetti Pie


Guiltless Alfredo Sauce and Fettuccine by Our Best Bites 

Mulligan Stew

Cornbread Sloppy Joe Casserole by Six Sisters' Stuff

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken by Six Sisters

Chicken Piccata

Tuna Melt

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sloppy Joes

Suffed French Bread

Chicken Rolls

Peanut Butter Sandwich Bar (add honey, jelly, bananas, Nutella, Marshmallows, etc)

BLT Sandwiches

Veggie and Cheese Bagel by the Pioneer Woman

Healthy Thursday: Fish, Salad, Soup, or Asian:

Hawaiian Haystacks

Heavenly Salad with Homemade Ranch (add some grilled meat and whole wheat roll)

Bob Harper's Roasted Fish (add steamed veggies, a salad, and brown rice)

Shoyu Chicken over rice

Baked Potato Bar

Salad Bar

Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup (serve with bread sticks)

Antipasto Salad and Bread Sticks

Cobb Salad

Kung Pao Chicken by Allrecipes

Lettuce Wraps

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken by Six Sisters Stuff

Thai Chicken Curry

Crab Cakes and Salad

Seafood Buffet

Broccoli Beef by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday: Pizza Night

Homemade Pretzels (stuff with pepperoni and dip in pizza sauce)

French Bread Pizzas by the Pioneer Woman (amazing!)

Inside Outside Pizza

Lime Chicken and Corn Pizza by Design Love Fest

Bread Stick and Pizza Casserole by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Barbecue Chicken Pizza by Food Network

Mexican Flatbread Pizza by the Pioneer Woman

Portobello  Pizzas by Rachel Ray

My Favorite: Order in or Take Out

Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner

Chunky Monkey Pancakes by Our Best Bites

Crepes by Our Best Bites (The recipe I make the VERY MOST)

Chocolate Waffles

Blueberry Muffins

Breakfast Burritos

Belgian Liege Waffles (SOOO good! If you can't find pearl sugar, cut up sugar cubes)

Monkey Bread

French Toast

Gourmet Jiffy Muffins

Blueberry Croissant French Toast by The Food Nanny

Baked Breakfast Taquitos  by Our Best Bites


German Pancakes


Biscuits and Gravy

Scone Bar with Eggs and Sausage

Baked French Toast by the Pioneer Woman

Fruit Salad with Banana Bread or Zucchini Bread 

French Toast Sticks

Slow Cooker Sunday or "Fun Food":

Fondue Night

Belt Buster Bread Dip add Grilled Chicken

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes by Make it and Love it (add some Turkey Roast)

Street Corn by Make it and Love it (add Grilled Steak or Chicken)

Poppy Seed Chicken, Strawberry Spinach Salad, and Green Beans

French Dip Sandwiches by Our Best Bites

Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce by Seeded at the Table {serve with rice}

Crock Pot Beef Stew by Butter with a Side of Bread

Chicken Cordon Bleu by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Oven Baked Ribs by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Twice Baked Potatoes and Grilled Meat

Funeral Potatoes and Ham

Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes

Bruschetta  by the Food Nanny (add some grilled meat)

Sunday Beef Stew by Our Best Bites

Appetizer Potluck Night- everyone make your favorite

Salisbury Steak

Country Fried Steak

Brazilian Barbeque

How I plan menus: pick a meal from each category. Then write our menu for the week on the calendar.
and I'm done!
(Well, except for the clean up, and that's it's own bag of worms).


Be sure to check out all of the other posts in our 31 Days of Feeding the Family Series

31 Days of Feeding the Family
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