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Here Are 8 Weeks of Family-Friendly Meal Plans

updated Apr 14, 2021
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If meal planning feels like another insurmountable task on your to-do list, we’re here to offer some help. Meal plans can be a framework for maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine during times of stress (like during the busy back-to-school season!).

Here are eight weeks of family-friendly meal plans, designed to help with your daily dinner decisions. These plans will please the majority of mouths at the table (although we know there’s always one holdout begging for buttered noodles). Happy planning!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

1. A Week of Family-Friendly Slow Cooker Meals

This plan simplifies weeknights with dinners that rely on the slow cooker to do all the heavy lifting (think: stuffed peppers, pot roast, and “baked” ziti). Add in about 90 minutes of upfront meal prep, and not only is all the prep for the week done, but you’ll also come away with breakfast and lunch, as well.

Get the plan: How I Prep a Week of Family-Friendly Slow Cooker Meals

Credit: From Left to Right: Joe Lingeman, Olive and Mango, Joe Lingeman

2. A Week of Flexible Family Dinners to Make with What You Have

These five family dinners are easy to prepare and lend themselves to substitutions, so you can use what you have on hand. Make the recipes your own: Prepare the one-pot creamy broccoli pasta with green beans or peas, or stuff the ground beef taco casserole into tortillas or serve atop salad greens.

Credit: From Left to Right: Emma Christensen, Faith Durand, Emma Christensen, Lauren Volo, Joe Lingeman

3. 5 Easy, Family-Friendly Dinners You Can Prep Ahead

Don’t you want to wake up Monday morning with dinners for the week already done? All of these comforting dinners can be prepared in advance, so that you don’t have to spend a lot of hands-on time in the kitchen during the week. Plus, there are pizza wheels!

Credit: From Left to Right: Joe Lingeman, Christine Han

4. 5 Big-Batch, Pantry-Friendly Dinners That Double as Lunch

The secret to making mealtime more efficient? Prepare tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch at the same time. In this meal plan you’ll mix and match ingredients from your pantry and freezer to make big-batch meals like chicken pot pie and gratitude chicken and celery rice to feed you now and later.

Credit: The Lazy Genius Collective

5. A Week of Family-Friendly Dinners

Get ready for a week of simple, crowd-pleasing meals! Dress up the chickpea bowl with leftover chicken or add a jammy egg atop the yakisoba-style noodle bowls. These are meals that make you feel like a genius in the kitchen.

Credit: From Left to Right: Beautiful Eats & Things, Joe Lingeman, Beautiful Eats & Things, Joe Lingeman

6. A Week of Family-Friendly Sheet Pan Dinners

The sheet pan is the not-so-secret weapon of easy weeknight dinners. Make sesame chicken and broccoli, pork chops with sweet potatoes and apples, and quesadillas with ease and practically no cleanup at all.

Credit: From Left to Right: Ali Stafford, Jenny Rosenstrach, Ali Stafford, Yossy Arefi

7. 5 Ingenious, Family-Friendly Dinners from Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo

This simple and smart meal plan relies on store-bought shortcuts to make crowd pleasing meals. An ultra-easy chicken Parm meatball dinner skips the browning and braising and uses store-bought sauce instead of homemade. There’s also a pantry pasta that relies on a fried egg, garlic, and nutty Parmesan cheese. Use a Trader Joe’s favorite — frozen coconut shrimp — for easy five-ingredient shrimp tacos that even the kids will love.

Credit: From Left to Right: Christine Han, Maria Siriano, Joe Lingeman

8. 5 Family-Friendly Dinners with Leftovers for Lunch

This meal plan full of family favorites like pesto tortellini pasta salad, sheet pan veggie frittata, and veggie supreme pizza is sure to please everyone at the table. These dinners do double duty because they make enough to serve leftovers for lunch the next day! Serve the frittata hot with a green salad one night and then stuff it between bread for an easy sandwich the next afternoon. Use a big batch of slow cooker salsa pulled chicken in tacos, burrito bowls, or salads.