When it comes to family dinners, it’s no secret that planning your menus ahead for the week not only saves you time, but reduces stress. These two benefits keep you on track and you’re less likely to stray from your weight loss plan.
Dinner is usually the last thing you want to think about when you’re getting home late from the office. Having your meals planned out for the week takes the guesswork out of it, and that’s half the battle.
Picky Eaters, No Problem!
Add picky eaters to the mix and you have a bigger hill to climb. If you’re the type of wife and/or mother who feels obligated to make two separate dinners every night — one “diet” dinner for you and one “regular” dinner for the family — know that there is a way to save your sanity!
I give you 100% permission to make ONE meal per evening that not only helps you lose weight, but also satisfies your family members’ needs, wants and desires when it comes to the family dinner.
Ready to Save Time and Energy?
Here’s a quick 3-step process I use to create a weekday dinner meal plan to help reduce stress, satisfy picky eaters and gives you your time and energy back so you can focus on the things you love rather than spend half your life in the kitchen. There is a bit of pre-planning before you get started, so let’s get to it!
Pre-Planning Step: Choose your Organizational Method
Before you begin planning out your menus, choose how you want to keep things organized. If you’re a fan of the old fashioned pen and paper, then by all means use this method to plan out your menus. I used to keep a menu and grocery list in written format, but as technology progresses, it’s getting easier to incorporate your smart phone into your meal planning and shopping.
My Choice: Evernote
I use Evernote for my menus and shopping list. I create two separate notes – for one the menus and the other for the shopping list. To make it extra efficient, I use my laptop to build my menu, search for recipes online and upload PDF recipes if I need them for future reference in the kitchen later in the week.
Here’s an example of my menu for the week. I included Sunday’s menu because it’s easy to do when you get the hang of it.
I then build my shopping list based on my menus and recipes using check boxes next to each item. When I’m at the store, I use my smart phone to connect with the Evernote app and check off the item from my list when I get it at the store.
Here’s what an example shopping list looks like in Evernote:
This entire process takes less than an hour (except for the shopping, of course) and probably saves me hours during the week because I already know what’s on the dinner menu. When I’m driving home from work, I can mentally form my game plan and execute the dinner prep when I get home.
OK, once you decide on either using pen and paper or an online app such as Evernote, now it’s time to build our your menus.
My Easy 3-Step Process I Use to Create My Weekday Meal Plans:
Step 1 – Pick out Your Main Entree and Side Dishes & Vegetables
Depending on where you’re at in your 17 Day Diet, decide which proteins you’d like to eat for the week. For instance, for a five day dinner plan, you decide on having chicken twice, salmon once, beef once and vegetarian one time (aka breakfast eggs for dinner – YUM!). Next, pick out which vegetables you’d like to incorporate with each protein.
If you want to incorporate recipes into your meal times, have a few stand-by recipes in your vault, or choose a few different online resources to search for recipes. You will also find a ton of recipes on my blog if you’re sticking to the 17 Day Diet.
Dinner Entree is the Main Event
The key ingredient in step one is to make your dinner entree so deliciously yummy, that your family members will not know they’re eating healthy. If you can literally distract them with the main entree, it’s easy peasy going forward!
This is the whole idea behind my weekly meal planning service, Simply17. I provide members five weekday dinner entrees that are full of flavor, along with my protein alternatives in the event fish is not a family favorite. I also recommend starch additions to make non-dieting family members happy, too!
Step 2 – Incorporate a Starch Side Dish for Your Family
If your family members are not partaking in your weight loss efforts, rather than make two different meals, add a starch such as rice or potatoes for your loved ones.
There’s no reason to make two meals. This will save you time, keep your week simple and keep your momentum going! Nobody likes a complicated dinner week, so keep it simple!
Here’s an example of how one of my meals looks like during the week:
Main Entree/Protein: Rosemary Chicken Breast
Side Dish/Vegetable: Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots
Starch for family: Roasted potatoes drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper (use same oven, different pan)
Step 3 – Plan for Your Easy Dinner Mid-Week or on Your Typical Busiest Day
For me, by mid-week (Wednesdays), I’m exhausted from work and I don’t feel like cooking. Before I came up with this concept, Wednesdays were traditionally the day I’d order in pizza.
Looking back I saw this trend and decided to kick it to the curb. Now when I’m planning out my meals for the week, I save my easiest meal for Wednesday evenings.
Wednesday’s meal is the same every week – baked chicken breast, steamed vegetable such as broccoli or cauliflower and a starch for the family. Easy, peasy!
Planning out your mid-week dinners is a no-brainer. Since I’ve incorporated this easy 3-step process, my weekdays have been such a breeze and my stress level reduced to almost zero (except when I have to go to the store mid-week because I need to pick something up for the dog!!).
Use a Calendar
After you get your menus, recipes and grocery list organized in your favorite app, such as Evernote, or on a piece of paper, you can create a weekday menu calendar so you can have a visual of the week’s meals. . Here’s an example of a 5-Day calendar:
Simple = Success
Preparing family dinners while on a weight loss plan doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Remember to keep things simple, keep them organized, and make your entree so yummy, your family will never know they’re eating healthy! Now that’s a recipe for success!