Would you agree as women (and men I am sure) one of the hardest jobs of the day is getting a warm, healthy, home cooked meal on the table at a reasonable hour. Life with kids, jobs, hobbies, homework, church service, community service, volunteering in school, house cleaning, social life, grocery shopping, budgeting, etc. (you get the idea) is crazy busy! it is no wonder that dreaded 6:00 hour sneaks up on us so quickly. As crazy as dinner time is at our house, I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I get dinner served at a decent time of night. We are not perfect at it, but I do give it my whole hearted effort during the week. Weekends were made to give mom’s a break, and thus, the invention of the frozen pizza, Prego & Noodles, and Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner.

Now, for some, dinner on the table may not be much of an accomplishment, but for me it really brings great satisfaction. Yes, I should probably make running a marathon my new goal, but for now…dinner and cooking is more fun. Plus, the sense of ‘home’ that comes with a warm dinner, the family sitting around the table, and a quiet (haha!) few moments together is worth all the effort it takes.

So..if you are like me and you want dinner time around the table to be an option, you need to plan ahead. I wanted to share this really easy & quick tip that my sister Diana taught me and it is working lovely (four months strong). I always tried to plan my meals for a 2 week period, but for some reason after several days I lost track or forgot which meals I wanted to make. Here is an easy tip to remember what meals to cook and which meals you have the ingredients on hand for. Here is what I do:

Thursday morning I login to Deals to Meals (of course I use this!!) and glance over the weekly deals from the stores. I see which ones really excite me and make a quick grocery list of those items I need to add to my food storage that week and click on those basics for the next two weeks (bread, milk, eggs, apples, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, tortillas, etc.) I then glance through the last 2 weeks of meal planners on Deals to Meals and see which recipes scream out to me as being oh, so delicious. There are always at least 10 (of the 14) that I will be craving by the time I am done glancing over the recipes. I then add a few traditional favorites (tacos, enchiladas, lasagna, etc.) to my list of meals I want to make for the next 2 weeks (I try and plan for 14-20 meals).

As I am glancing through the recipes I jot down (on my grocery list) those few unusual items I may not already have in my food storage, freezer or fridge (ex: fresh ginger, hoisin sauce, cilantro, bell peppers, etc.) As I am going through the recipes I do a quick search on the Deals page for those particular items I may need. If nothing comes up, that tells me Walmart will have the lowest price on those items. Before I leave to do my shopping, I make a quick list of the meals I have decided to make for the next two weeks (see above picture).

Once I am back from shopping the fun begins. I then know I am prepared with ALL of the ingredients (which I bought on sale thanks to Deals to Meals) I need for my 14-20 meals. I keep the list of meals on my fridge so as the dinner hour approaches I can quickly glance and see which meals I have time to prepare and which ones sound good for that night. Knowing I have all of the ingredients for each one of those meals makes dinner preparation a breeze. Those meals that are crock pot meals I know I can throw the ingredients together in the morning and have warm and ready on those extra busy nights.

Now, for my favorite part of this chart on my fridge….crossing off the meal. I don’t know what it is about crossing things off, filling in check boxes, or erasing something off of your to-do list, but it brings such joy to my heart. It is fun to see the meals get crossed off my list and feel happy that I have accomplished something that month. Another bonus…as I cross off my meals I realize I haven’t had to go to the grocery store in over a week. This equals money in my pocket which I also love!! If you are having a hard time getting dinner on the table, give this handy-dandy meal chart idea a try and see if it works for you!

**If you have meal planning tips that work for you, share them with the rest of us!