Next Week's Meal Plan

A Week of Toddler-Friendly Dinners the Whole Family Will Love

updated Oct 25, 2021
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Credit: Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Joe Lingeman, Yossy Arefi, Joe Lingeman, Kristin Teig

I still remember the sweet sense of victory I felt when I cooked one dinner that my whole family — including my toddler — adored and gobbled up. I’m still new to this, but have learned that feeding toddlers is tricky business that requires patience, understanding, creativity, and persistence. These days I put my meal-planning efforts into building a roster of easy dinners that my whole family enjoys.

In theory it sounds like a simple task; in reality it’s challenging, but what works for us is choosing adaptable recipes with mostly familiar ingredients that easily accommodate ingredient substitutions to help please everyone, and also come together without a lot of hands-on time or effort. Here the five dinners I’m feeding my family this week.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Monday: One-Pot Creamy Broccoli Pasta

This recipe never fails to make me feel like I totally nailed the dinner game. Wholesome Greek yogurt makes the sauce incredibly creamy and comforting, everyone gets a helping of vegetables with their pasta, and there’s only one dirty pot to wash. (I like to double the amount of yogurt in the recipe for an extra-creamy sauce.) My son has a real thing for green peas right now, so I plan to stir in some frozen peas in the last few minutes of cooking.

Get the recipe: One-Pot Creamy Broccoli Pasta

Credit: Yossy Arefi

Tuesday: Life-Changing Garlic Butter Chicken Thighs

There’s something in this dinner for the whole table at my house. My toddler will quickly gobble up the meaty chicken thighs and buttery green beans, while my husband and I will both savor the irresistibly crispy chicken skin. To minimize the prep time at home, I make a point to ask the grocery store butcher to debone the thighs.

Get the recipe: Life-Changing Garlic Butter Chicken Thighs

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Veggie Burrito Bowls

I’ll put in about 10 minutes of prep at lunchtime, and at the end of the day I have a dinner my whole family will eat. I’ll add a big slices of avocado to the rice, bean, and vegetable mixture for my toddler, and plan to top the adult bowls with tangy sour cream, avocado, cilantro, hot sauce, and tortilla chips.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Veggie Burrito Bowls

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

Thursday: Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Sausage, and Butternut Squash

To help make this a dinner my whole family will eat and to minimize prep, I skip the fresh rosemary, use sweet Italian sausage meat that’s already out of the casing, and start with pre-cut butternut. For the adult portions, I round out dinner with a simple arugula salad.

Get the recipe: Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Sausage, and Butternut Squash

Credit: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

Friday: Open-Faced Pizza Burgers

My whole family stands behind pizza Friday, and this version, inspired by English muffin pizzas, is always a hit with the whole table. Plus, dinner comes together in about 20 minutes with just three simple steps. It’s a good idea to keep extra napkins handy for little eaters.

Get the recipe: Open-Faced Pizza Burgers

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Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But we’re firm believers that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. We want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking one or a family of four or five. Every week we share a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor, for Next Week’s Meal Plan!