Dinner comes around every single night and honestly, we’re kind of over it. Here are four super easy meal planning for the family ideas perfect if you’re expecting a new baby, or even if you’re not!
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When I was about eight months pregnant with my second child it suddenly dawned on me that I was about to have a newborn baby, a toddler, AND we’d have to figure out what to eat for dinner every night. That was a real bummer, haha.
With the first baby I honestly don’t remember how/what we ate in those first weeks. It wouldn’t surprise me if we existed on microwaveable dinners and cereal. Nothing wrong with that, but I know that can get old pretty quick, especially if you’re also eating the same for lunch.
This time around I wanted to try my hand at a little meal planning, which is SO unlike me. Perhaps this was my nesting? I found a few ways that made dinner a little easier for us in those first weeks, and in fact, they were so easy that we’ve kept them up!
These are the things we did when expecting a new baby, but they’ll still work for regular easy meal-planning too even if you’re not expecting. Well, maybe not the meal train part. If you can figure out how to get people to sign up to bring you meals just because, let me know! :)
Easy Meal Planning for the Family
1. Quick & Easy Freezer Meals
I’m one of those easily influenced people when it comes to social media. When I saw a pregnant fashion blogger I follow sharing a link to some freezer meals she was planning on using, I did the same.
I used these these meals and I spent a few hours (spread out over several days) prepping and freezing before the baby was born. These were all very easy to put together and we enjoyed having them. From that list, the potato soup, fajitas, cilantro lime chicken, and beef & broccoli teriyaki were our favorites.
If you need more ideas, head to Pinterest for literally thousands (millions?) of other ideas.
2. (Almost) Zero-Prep Slow Cooker Meals
I’ve owned a slow cooker for ages but as I’m not one of those “naturals” in the kitchen, I need an actual recipe to plan and execute a meal. I feel like slow cooker cooking can be easy, but it also usually requires a bit more prep than I have the mental capacity for most days.
Enter slow cooker businesses that do the prep work for you. You supply the meat but all the spices/seasonings are already measured out and ready to go. Sometimes there’s a recipe that needs something extra like cream cheese, milk, or frozen veggies (that’s why I added the “almost” to the zero-prep), but several of the ones I’ve been making just require adding a little water.
I’ve seen these popping up over the past few years and I think it’s brilliant. I’ve been ordering from here and while they have a shop near where I live and also make deliveries, they’ve got a shipping menu that’s been my go-to.
All I need to do is add meat to the slow cooker and dump the seasoning pack on top along with the water they tell me to add. Set the heat and time and WALK AWAY. You can also add your meat and seasoning mix to a freezer bag to (duh) freeze until you’re ready to use it.
Here’s the thing, would it be more affordable to make them myself? Sometimes – but only if I already have all the seasonings needed. For $6 or $7 a meal (plus meat) that I don’t have to pull, measure, clean up, and sometimes shop for? Totally worth it to me.
3. Space out meal deliveries
If you’re part of a community (church, friend group, etc.) that provides meals for people after big life events, it’s pretty awesome! (It’s one of the reasons my husband agreed to a second baby, haha.) With our first baby we had about four different people bring us dinners and even though they spaced it out every other day, it was still too much food for the two of us to eat.
I still think about how bad I felt throwing out almost an entire HOMEMADE PIE someone brought but we had so much food that we literally couldn’t get to it before it went bad. When someone asked us about meals for this baby, my husband suggested a schedule that worked better for us. We had two meals one week and two meals a week later.
If you’re fortunate enough to have people who want to cook for you (or even deliver take-out), this was a great way to spread it out a bit. This time we ate every bite!
4. Meal Delivery Services
Sometime last year I had a coupon code to try Home Chef and we loved the meals we received. Since then we’ve ordered many times and even requested a gift card for them for Christmas.
If you’re not familiar with meal delivery services like Home Chef or HelloFresh (which we’ve also tried and loved), you get meal ingredients and instructions mailed to you. This includes everything you need to make a home cooked meal.
Some of these services even provide oven-ready or slow cooker ready meals that are even quicker to prepare. They basically do the prep work (all ingredients are measured out and separated) and you just finish up – chop some broccoli up or season a chicken breast, etc., and put it in the oven.
It’s the most involved of the other meal planning options I’ve included (unless you’re going for the ones that go straight in the oven) but still a time-saver because I don’t have to figure out what’s for dinner or shop for any of the ingredients! Also, I should clarify that “I” is probably my husband about 75% of the time. :) We’ve also tried many new things we wouldn’t normally make and they’ve all been exceptional.
I’ll add here that my husband started getting microwaveable meals from here to take to work with him and he loves them. Says they’re restaurant-quality delicious and requires zero effort on either of our part.
So, that’s how we’ve been meal planning for the family lately. Freezer meals, slow cooker seasoning packs, meal trains, and meal delivery services have made things a lot easier! It’s SO nice to have one less thing to worry about these days!