What’s For Dinner? Menu Planning Tips for Busy Moms

funnyDinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. It is also a hectic meal for busy moms who are just getting off of work or who have been busy with other activities all day. If you are a busy mom or you know a busy mom, here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun.

1. Schedule your meals a week in advance. This is one of the most important planning tips for meals. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy meal. Decide on the last day of the previous week (let’s say Saturday for the sake of argument) what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.

2. Look for bargains. Clip coupons, read advertising circulars and the like to decide where the best grocery to shop is for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals, consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread and sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.

3. Search online. After a while your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste.

4. Have a leftover night. After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over. Designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner. It saves mom from having to throw away any food.

5. Cook your meals in advance. After deciding on a menu plan for the week, go ahead and fix as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family can help like Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Each person can take one meal and fix it for the following week. Once everything has cooled, store it in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it is needed.

6. Do prep work in advance. All of the meals can’t be cooked at once. Some foods just taste better freshly prepared. For them, so as much prep work in advance as you can. Enlist your kids to help chop (give them the kitchen shears instead) vegetables, dice cooked meat and mix together dry ingredients. The night of the meal, all that is needed is to add the wet ingredients and bake.

Meal time doesn’t have to be all on mom. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.



Day 8, 9 pounds down!

screenshot_win8_recipelistMy new ‘diet’ has been going well- I did cheat a bit this weekend, but I have read that that is ok as long as you get back on the wagon ASAP! I have been loving finding new dinners to cook and logging all of my calories in pepperplate. I am also LOVING pepperplate, it is a free meal planning, recipe sharing, awesome site.  It is much like all of the other meal planning sites, but my favorite feature is how many food websites it ‘works’ with, meaning I can go to another site, find a recipe I want to try and click the ‘add to pepperplate’ bookmarklet and it gets added in perfectly, pictures, ingredients, everything.  I can also add it to my weekly planner, the shopping list, etc.  All for free!

I wish I had thought to take a picture of last nights dinner experiment, it was bold! We didn’t feel like going shopping so we decided to try to throw something together with what we had left in the fridge… Here is how it went; 

4 chicken breasts

1/2 green bell pepper

1/2 red bell pepper

3 stalks shallots

1/3 onion

1 can diced tomatoes

lots of seasoning- onion, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, etc. 

about 1/2 pound of fresh Cauliflower

some shredded mozzarella cheese 

5 small red potatoes (all we had left!)

In a big casserole dish we diced all the veggies, except the Cauliflower we just chopped into bite sized pieces. Drizzled on some olive oil, just a little though. Then added the chicken breasts on top, seasoned everything,  and finally poured the whole can of diced tomatoes on top. We covered it in tin foil and put in in a 375 degree oven for about 60 minutes, at the end we removed the tin foil and sprinkled on the cheese and put it in under broil for a few minutes just to melt the cheese.  

It was really really good! The bell peppers and chicken went together much better than I thought they would! We will be making it again with a few changes- definitely more veggies- more potatoes, maybe some carrots and squash even- and my hubby thinks maybe some rice on the bottom next time but I tend to get sick when I eat rice so I don’t love that idea…. even the baby loved it, and she is super picky! 

I really want to start a garden this year to save money on veggies, but I have NO green thumb so I don’t know about that! I am planning on getting one of those small food chopper upper things- so I can buy a bunch of bell peppers when they are on sale, chop them up and freeze them for later use- I think that will help a lot with quick cooking too! 



Grandpa’s Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe

One of my all time favorite things to cook is my grandpa’s Vegetable Beef Soup, I remember waking up on the weekends and the smell would fill the house, nothing else could be thought of those days aside from- “When can we eat the soup!” I have yet to be able to make it ‘just’ like he did, but I keep trying and everytime it gets better and better. Well, aside from the time I accidentally dumped in about 4x too much pepper- that was BAD! LOL But we ate it anyway- spice and all! My mom can actually cook it pretty good too!

It is actually very easy to make, I don’t actually make it with measurements, just lots of everything and a big pot so be prepared to have leftovers!


2+ pounds stew meat
1 yellow onion
baby carrots (about 2 bags)
red or Idaho potatoes, depends if you feel like peeling or not
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes (mild or medium)
1 can tomato Sauce
1 envelope Lipton Dry onion Soup Mix
1 large bag of frozen mixed veggies (the soup mix variety if you can find it- mainly corn, green beans, celery, carrots)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Coat stew meat in flour, seasoned with some salt and pepper and brown the meat in a hot pan with oil, depending on your stew pot you can do this in the pan before you add the other ingredients (wouldn’t work with a crock pot) Only brown the outside, we don’t want to cook it, just give it a little heat.
  2. Put the browned meat in the bottom of the pot, adding in some of the leftover oil mix with the seasoned flour from when you browned the meat.
  3. Add in the potatoes (peeled if not red potatoes and cut into bite sized chunks), carrots, celery, onion and the envelope of onion soup mix.
  4. Now pour in the can of rotel, the tomato sauce, and cover with enough water to cover everything, stirring is not needed just yet.
  5. Let cook for about 4 hours on low/medium heat and then add in the bag of frozen vegetables, adding water as needed and stirring about once an hour.
  6. Finally let cook for another 2-3 hours and check the meat and potatoes- if they are cooked then you are good to go! It is still very good if you continue to cook some, just keep adding water to keep it wet.

We usually eat some and freeze the rest in big portions, when you reheat it is is great to add more water to make it last even longer, if you reheat it in a crock pot and add water and let it simmer for a while it is delicious! Like I said I am still perfecting it so if I left anything out or if you know of another trick feel free to let me know!!!

This post was written for the Oh My! Sugar High baking blog Saturday Sweet Shots.  To join in, just share your most recent or favorite photo recipe on your blog and hop back to the Oh My! Sugar High baking blog to share your recipe on the weekly linky.