How to Plan Family Dinners

Domestic CEO reveals the 4 easy tricks she uses to plan her own family dinners each week.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #9

How to Plan Family Dinners

Home-cooked, family dinners.

There are many reasons to have them, from fostering closer relationships with your spouse and kids, to being able to control how your food is prepared and what's in it. Whatever your reason for wanting to have family meals, they aren’t the easiest habit to start. It can be intimidating starting a family dinner routine. In fact, it’s the thing I hear from my friends and clients most often, that they struggle with the most in their weekly dinners. The good news is that it can be done. And I’m here to help make it easier.

My husband and I cook and eat dinner together about 6 nights per week, but we didn’t always have this routine. When we first started dating, we ate out. A lot. We would dabble in cooking every now and then, and we would always enjoy cooking a homemade meal together, but we just weren’t organized enough to do it very often. It wasn’t until we were engaged and started seriously looking at our money, that we realized we could eat much cheaper (not to mention healthier) if we made the food ourselves.

We started simple, but have gotten more adventurous over the last few years. At this point, we have a very tough time going out to eat because we know that we can make a week’s worth of amazing meals for the cost of one dinner out at a semi-fancy restaurant. We still both really enjoy a good hamburger out, but pretty much everything else, from stir-fries and curries, to pastas and enchiladas, can be made at home even better than most restaurants.

By following these 4 tips, you too can enjoy tasty homemade family dinners. So, get over your fear, take the first steps, and get cooking!

Tip #1: Plan the Week in Advance

Each week, set aside 30 minutes to plan your meals for the following week. I like to do this Sunday mornings right after I read the newspaper. Pick your own day and time when it’s most convenient to devote those 30 minutes, but stick with doing this at the same time each week to help you establish a routine.

Quick and Dirty Tip: When you first start creating this new routine, don’t think of it as an all-or-nothing situation. Start small so you can be almost guaranteed success. If you don’t cook at all, don’t suddenly commit to making your own meals 6 days a week. Instead, plan for one, maybe two nights of cooking to start. You can always increase that as you get more comfortable.

After you plan your meals for the week, you’ll need to create a routine around going to the grocery store. By planning ahead, you’ll only have to go to the grocery store ONCE a week, which is going to save you time and money! How? Check out the episode I did with Money Girl to get those savvy shopping tips. In the meantime, you’re just going to have to believe me.

When I’m planning my meals each week, I try to have a protein, grain, and vegetable at each dinner. I look through recipes to find ones I know my family likes, and also ones I think it would be fun to try. If you don’t have any recipes on hand, there are a number of great recipe websites, like Food.com and Allrecipes.com that you can search based on ingredients. Hop on over to one of those, and search away. If you want to see what I’m trying, you follow my pins on Pinterest.

Deciding what to cook is the hardest part of family dinners. Take that step out, and the rest is much easier.

Once you find the recipes you want to use, list out your meals for the week along with the cookbook it is from, and who will be cooking. If the plan is listed, and posted in your kitchen, it takes all the thinking out of cooking each night. After all, deciding what to cook is the hardest part of family dinners. Take that step out, and the rest is much easier.