Meal Planning Like a Pro


If you’re anything like me, you dread the 5 o’clock hour when you have to think about what you’re going to whip up together that will make you look like a chef, but without all the mess and headache. It’s taken me about 34 years, but I’m finally at a point in my life where I kind of have things under control when it comes to meal planning.

Here are four tips that have worked for me and reduced the amount of time in the kitchen to leave room for other more important things, like drinking a glass of wine. The laundry can wait! Here’s how I learned to start meal planning like a pro!

meal planning with various dishes

1. Make a plan.

The first thing I do is sit down and make a meal plan for the week. Yes, the dreaded meal plan. Setting aside 30 minutes will save you a lot of time. I like to plan five actual meals for dinner and three breakfast items. I leave room in the plan for takeout and leftovers. A typical week looks like this:


  • Sautéed and sheet pan meals – These meals are the ones that taste best at the beginning of the week and any leftovers can be used in a taco or power bowl. 
    • A family favorite is steak and peppers. I usually make a double portion, so that it can be used later in the week as a burrito or tacos!
    • Sheet pan meals are also fairly easy to make! A personal favorite is baked salmon with roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. I can use any leftover salmon over a bed of rice or a salad. Any leftover roasted vegetables can be used in a power bowl. 
  • Pasta – Hands down, these are the easiest to make and can feed a crowd. Baked penne with ricotta and marinara is a family favorite!
  • Soup – This is the reason I love Crockpots. I typically dump in all the ingredients after breakfast and let it slow cook until dinner! Our go-to is chicken tortilla soup! I take some of the shredded chicken that I usually make earlier in the week and mix it in with the other ingredients. This reduces the amount of kitchen clutter and prepping!
  • Tacos or power bowls – If you have leftover shredded chicken or steak and peppers, this is the time to throw them into a large tortilla wrap, add some cheese, add in other mix-ins and, voilà! You have an easy dinner! Power bowls are incredibly easy and can be as healthy as you want them to be. I will usually use brown rice as the base and throw some leftover roasted vegetables and protein into the bowl!


  • Granola – Although this takes some time, making home-made granola is a game changer. It tastes so much better than the packaged granola and you can choose whatever mix-ins that you want. You can toss some granola in yogurt or mix in a bowl with milk. I personally love to snack on them during the day!
  • Muffins – Our toddler loves to eat these mini breakfast “cupcakes.” You can make a batch on Sundays and these are healthy, grab-and-go breakfasts when you are running late to an appointment or meeting. 
  • Breakfast casserole – If you have a little more time in the morning and still want something more filling, breakfast casseroles are the way to go! Bake once and save some for the next morning!
  • Smoothies – If I really am pressed for time, I try to make sure that I always have fruit and almond milk available to make a nutritious and quick smoothie!

2. Use your Crockpot (or Instant Pot).

I, myself, am still team Crockpot, but the Instant Pot is just as great. If I know that I’m going to have a busy week, I will throw 1-2 pounds of chicken in the crockpot for easy shredded chicken. It can be used in a chicken tortilla soup, tacos, or power bowl.  

3. Prepare your vegetables ahead of time.

Preparing vegetables can be time consuming. I usually will chop up vegetables, like peppers for the week. Long pepper slices are great for snacking or sauteing with steak. Dicing up peppers is perfect for breakfast casseroles. 

4. Cook for two meals at one time.

Waiting for noodles to boil can be a pain. I will usually make enough pasta for two dishes, one of them usually being macaroni and cheese. 

How do you meal plan like a pro? Share your dishes using #MomsAroundLouisville to be featured on social media.


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