We make meal plans for our members every single week and we’ve been at it for over 130 weeks at the time of this writing. Here’s the big dilemma for meal planners: Do people want super simple plans that use leftovers and repeat favorites every few weeks, do they want new and exciting meals each night with a mixture of quick meals and more complex meals, do they want a time-saving family meal plan, or are they only cooking for 1 or 2?
The truth is, everyone is different and there are nearly infinite preferences. That’s actually why we switched from doing PDF-based meal plans to having a full-featured meal planner in our website…so people can easily and effectively meal plan according to their preferences!!!! Feel free to try it for free for 3 weeks if you would like to see what I mean.
Time-Saving Family Meal Plan
With that said, from time to time, we put out different types of example meal plans here on the blog to give our readers ideas. So, this week, I thought I would give an example of a time-saving family meal plan that allows you to cook extra on days 1 and 2 and use the results to make the next 4 days super quick.
I think, for most people, starting on Saturday will be the most effective way to use this plan. That way, you’ll get the extra cooking (which isn’t much anyway) done on Saturday or Sunday and then Monday-Thursday will be a breeze after work. Friday can be a leftovers night or a night out.
You can use the electronic meal plan and shopping list at the bottom of this blog to follow this plan. See the very bottom for ideas on how you can make your own plan like this any time.
Here’s a day-by-day overview:
Day 1 - Grilled Flank Steak, Sweet Potatoes, and Broccoli
This is about as simple as it gets! Grill up some flank steak to perfection and pair it with some sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.
⏲ TIME SAVER 1: Instead of just cooking the flank steak for THIS recipe, go ahead and grill up all of the flank steak for this whole plan (5-6 lbs total). You’ll use this grilled steak in two other recipes later in the week but it will already be cooked and will save steps in the other recipes.
⏲ TIME SAVER 2: If you like, you can go ahead and cook some brown rice to use in a couple of recipes during the week. You won’t need it for today, but if you are short on time during the week, you can cook it now and save it in the fridge or even freeze it. Here’s a recipe with all different ways to cook brown rice and here’s a post on how to make freezer packs with it. You can also just buy frozen brown rice packs at the grocery store if you prefer.
NOTE: You can switch Days 1 and 2, if you prefer.
Day 2 - Simple Grilled Chicken with Salsa and Corn on the Cob
This is another quick recipe that sets you up nicely for the rest of the week if you just grill up some extra chicken.
⏲ TIME SAVER 3: Instead of just cooking the chicken for THIS recipe, go ahead and grill up all of the chicken for this whole plan (~12 chicken breasts total). You’ll use this grilled chicken in two other recipes later in the week but it will already be cooked and will save steps in the other recipes.
⏲ TIME SAVER 4: Check out the caesar salad on day 4 and make up the dressing and put it in the fridge. If you have kids or adults that don’t like spicy food, just leave out the jalapeno in the dressing. You can also make the croutons if you would like.
NOTE: You can switch Days 1 and 2, if you prefer.
Day 3 - Steak Fried Rice
Here’s where the little bit of extra effort on Day 1 really pays off. Since you have steak already cooked and brown rice ready in the fridge or freezer, this Steak Fried Rice recipe takes almost no time at all. You can literally start at STEP 5 on the recipe…and you’re having steak fried rice, not PB&J!!!!
Day 4 - Spicy Chicken Caesar Salads
Now it’s time to use some of that chicken you grilled on day 2 as well as the caesar dressing you should already have in the fridge. Again, you can leave out the jalapeno if you are serving people that don’t like spicy food. If you want your fresh jalapenos blistered like they would be from the grill, you can do that quickly in a pan on the stove or just have them fresh.
Day 5 - Steak Street Tacos
Use up the rest of that flank steak from day 1 for these steak street tacos. You can simply sprinkle with some of the spices or make the whole marinade and saute the steak in a pan. Just a little flavor will do fine though. You can make your own guacamole if you have time, or you can just get pico de gallo and avocados from the store. Taco toppings are quick and easy.
Day 6 - Chicken Teriyaki
You should already have cooked chicken and prepared brown rice ready to go for this meal. So, you just need to modify the instructions on this recipe slightly. I would just start at step 3 and make the sauce in a skillet or saucepan. Then add the chicken at the end to heat it up. You can put it in the oven to brown/caramelize the sauce, but it’s not required. Heat up the rice and serve the teriyaki over the brown rice.
THE 6-DAY TIME-SAVING FAMILY MEAL PLAN
- Click on any recipe and a preview will pop up below the meal plan where you can click to see the full recipes and also adjust servings (changes shopping list output).
- Use the Print Recipes button or Print Meal Plan button to print all of the recipes or the calendar view of the plan.
- Click on “generate shopping list” and then the check mark and a shopping list containing all of the ingredients for all 7 days will appear below the meal plan.
- You can modify the shopping list after you have generated it by deleting things you may already have, adding additional things you may need, and modifying quantities.
- Use the “save” button at the bottom of the shopping list to generate a unique url and email it to yourself. Then you can open the list from your email when you are at the store.
- Use the print button to print the shopping list.
NOTE: On mobile, the meal plan just shows one day at at time. You can use the arrows to scroll through the days. The shopping list will still generate for all 7 days. On desktop, you’ll see all 7 days in one view but it would be too small to show that way on mobile.
1-2-3 Eat! Grilled Flank Steak, Steamed Broccoli, Baked Sweet Potatoes (4)
1-2-3 Eat! Grilled Chicken Breasts topped with salsa, corn on the cob, fresh tomato slices (4)
Steak Fried Rice (4)
Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad (4)
Steak Street Tacos (4)
Chicken Teriyaki (4)
Click on a recipe for more details
Selected Recipe: Selected Recipes:
Make Your Own Time-Saving Family Meal Plan
If you like this idea but not necessarily the meals in this plan (or you want to make more like this), you can easily use our website or many other resources to make your own time-saving family meal plan. Here are the basic steps I used to make this:
👉 Start with 1 or 2 simple meals such as the meals in our “1-2-3 Eat!” category. The best kind of meals to start with just involve a popular and versatile meat option with easy sides. You don’t even need a recipe. You can just do grilled chicken with steamed veggies and grilled pork chops with sweet potatoes and salad. Any meal like that will work well for days 1 and 2.
👉 Now, based on the meat(s) you chose for days 1 and 2, search recipes to find meals that use the same meat(s) for days 3-6 (and even beyond if you wish). You can actually use the advanced search feature in our website to search by ingredient and bring up all of the recipes in our site that use that meat!
👉 Once you have your recipes picked, make your shopping list. If you’re using our member meal planner, it’s super easy.
👉 Finally, make sure to cook extra meat on days 1 and 2 for use later in the week per your plan. You can also look through your chosen recipes for any other things you can do ahead of time such as cooking rice, making dressings, and prepping veggies.