Meal planning is the task every mom finds tedious. In all the playgroups and homeschool co-ops I have attended, every mom at some point would shrug and say, “Ugh! I have nothing planned for dinner.” And all the homeschool moms nearby would offer ideas or commiserate.

With modern day conveniences like instant pots, crockpots, and air fryers, making quick and simple  meals has never been easier. Yet, we still get overcome by all we must accomplish in a day, so meal planning becomes a challenge. Between math lessons, naptimes, play dates, music lessons, and laundry, I know how easily meal planning can fall to the bottom of the list.

Meal planning is essential. Plus, the children learn so much about health and life skills when we make food from scratch at home. We can end the stress about wondering what’s for dinner each night by making a plan and sticking to it. These tips are how I stay on top of dinner planning—even around kids’ activities and working from home.

Easy Meal Planning When You Homeschool

Think of Recipes as Templates

One-pot meals like soups and casseroles are great for using up what is in the fridge. This is an old-fashioned method of saving money and being resourceful that is definitely back in style with inflation affecting our budgets. You’d be surprised by the yummy meals you can make with the veggies, protein, and herbs you have on-hand. Just dump it all in a pot with some stock to create a quick dinner and avoid food waste.

Organize Quick-Grab Snacks

I try to make (and buy) a bunch of quick-grab, healthy snacks. For example, apples, cheese sticks, and cherry tomatoes can be portioned into small containers and organized in the fridge for the kids to grab on their own. This snack organization station idea can reduce your time in the kitchen in between meals so you have more time to focus on dinner.

Another thing I love to do is make large batches of baked goods. I try to increase their nutritional value to be sure they are as healthy as possible. For example, I add pumpkin and banana into muffins, or you can use almond flour in place of flour. This also keeps the kids feeling full longer in between meals.

Get on a Rotating Meal Schedule

The key to sanity in meal planning is creating the time to enjoy dinner by planning ahead. I have rotating meal plans that I use so I always know what is for dinner. I compiled the recipes into a guide called Meal Planning Simplified which you can buy to get nine weeks of dinner recipes. I can open to a week, plan the meals, make my grocery list, and know that dinner is set for an entire week.

The meal plan makes space for a night of leftovers or a night of take out in case you have last minute changes pop up. The meals are kid-tested, healthy, and can easily be doubled so you can put meals in the freezer. This reduces my stress and keeps dinner time as special family time.

The Key to Stress-Free Meal Planning

Another important part of meal planning is to take time every week (perhaps Sunday night or Monday morning) to plan out meals for the week. I use a meal planning board, but something as simple as a sticky note on the fridge works too.

Look at your meal plan every morning so you can take items out of the freezer or prep anything you need ahead of time. You can pick when to start making dinner by planning around evening activities. I’ve found that when everyone knows what time dinner will happen, it simplifies getting everyone around the table.

Hopefully these easy meal planning tips can help your family get a plan in place and keep your dinner preparation stress-free so that you can have more family time together.