3 Meal Planning Tips to Make Dinner Fit Your Busiest Days

3 Meal Planning Tips to make dinner fit your busiest days

It can be so hard to fit in cooking, let alone meal planning into busy days.  But it’s also worth the effort, because it will save you time, energy and money if you do it.  There are a few keys to keeping it realistic though.

1.  Do it fast!

That may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get sucked into a rabbit hole of searching for recipes on the internet.  That can be fun, but so time consuming.  Let’s keep this as simple and quick as possible.

2.  Match the meals to the busyness of your day.

 Do you have a couple of minutes to put food in a slow cooker in the morning, but no time to fix anything at night?  Plan slow cooker meals for these days.
Are you going to have a super busy day?  Look for a 15 minute meal that can be on the table in no time.
Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you’ll make recipes that take more time than you’ve really got.  Be realistic when making your plan.
(If you’re using a plan from Eat at Home, we’ve got you covered here.  Each week of Traditional and Whole Food have at least one 15 minute meal and one slow cooker meal each week.  Just choose which days those quick meals work best for you.  If slow cooker meals work best, we’ve also got a plan dedicated to our favorite appliance!)

3.  Don’t forget to plan side dishes too.

It’s easy to get so focused on the main dish that you forget the sides.  You can find lots of simple sides here.  I really do like keeping things simple, so if I want a side dish that requires a bit more time or prep, I serve it with a main dish that requires almost nothing – think slow cooked bbq chicken or a ham steak heated in a skillet.

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Want to skip the planning and grocery list making?

We just uploaded February’s Traditional, Slow Cooker and Whole Food Plans into the member area.  Become a member today and let us do the planning for you.  Our members save an hour or two a week in planning time and their time in the kitchen gets shorter too.  Bonus, they’re saving money on groceries!  Find out more about membership here.

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New Recipe Index!

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We’ve got a new recipe index on the site!  The old one functioned, sort of, but it wasn’t visually appealing at all.  I put it together myself back in 2012.  This time, I hired professionals, who are much better at these things than I am!

This new one is so fun to look through!

You’ll find the link in the navigation bar at the top of the site.  On the main recipe index page, you’ll find links to sections for:

Clicking the Main Dish button takes you to a page where you can dive deeper:

main dishes collage

So if you’re looking for a particular type of recipe, you’ll find it here.

We also fixed a pesky problem with the search bar on the site.  It feels good to have a few lingering problems taken care of!  I hope it makes finding recipes easier for you.

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Here’s the kind of to-do list I’m tackling this week

Just like you, I’ve got a ton of to-do lists.  Some are jingling around in my brain.  Some are scratched on scraps of paper, stuffed deep in the bottom of my purse.  Others are carefully thought out plans that I’m really excited about working on next year.

But this week is for the fun family to-do list.  Baking, candy making, movie watching, game playing…

All done in the company of my people.

My daughter and son-in-law made it back from four months in Bolivia on Thursday night.  That corridor is long when you’re waiting to hug someone!

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My parents will be coming to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us.  We’ll be making trips to see other family too.

We won’t have any more new content on the blog before Christmas, but there are lots and lots of recipes (7 year’s worth!) to comb through if you’re looking for inspiration.  We’re sharing some favorites on the Facebook page.

And here’s a sneak peek at one thing on the horizon – we’ll be having a great sale on Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans coming up for new memberships.  Look for info during the week between Christmas and New Year.

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I pray you have a Merry Christmas!

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Soup and Salad of the Week – a new eBook free for you!

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I’m really excited about this new ebook I have to share with you!  We are in the midst of soup season right now.  Let’s warm up with a bowl of hot, homemade soup.  And why not pump up our veggie intake too by adding a salad.

I’ve put together all of my favorite soup recipes and paired them with salads that go perfectly with each soup.  I think you’re going to love it!

Make a big batch of soup and a giant salad and eat them for lunch all week.  Or use the recipes for dinner. Either way you’ll stay warm and healthy.

If you’re already on my email list, check your inbox because your copy is on it’s way.  If you’re not on the email list, click the image below to get a copy sent to you.

Click the image below and enter your email in the pop up box to get your FREE copy!

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Make dinner easy – Weekly Meal Plans Sale!

Almost 3000 people participated in the latest Eat at Home Challenge!  Everyone who participated had a chance to try out my favorite solution for family dinner – Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans.  I’ve heard so many good things from folks who used the plans.

I love being able to print the grocery list and hit the store, with no more planning needed.  I stick the menu on the fridge and consult it each day, knowing I’ve got everything I need to make all of those meals.

Sale

To celebrate completing the Eat at Home Challenge, I’m running a sale on the 12 month membership for Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans.  You can get a whole year of membership for just $50, which is only $4.16/month.  Click here for the sale code.

The sale ends Tuesday so don’t wait.

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Bear Creek Country Kitchen Soup for on the go

Bear Creek lunch

Three days a week my daughter packs her lunch for school.  She’s fortunate to have use of a microwave and often takes leftovers for lunch, but sometimes her big brothers eat the leftovers for a late night snack.  That leads to many days of sandwiches, which can get old.

When Bear Creak Country Kitchens asked if I would sample their new Hearty Soup Bowls, it was great timing for us.  I knew this would add a welcome variety to the packed lunch situation.

Bear Creak Soups

There are four varieties to choose from.  I especially like the Creamy Chicken with Rice.

Cheddar Broccoli – Thick and creamy broccoli soup with a blend of rich cheeses

Creamy Potato – Rich and creamy potato soup with a delicate blend of herbs and spices

Cheddar Potato – Savory cheese flavor with a blend of spices and rustic potatoes

Creamy Chicken with Rice – Rich and creamy home-style chicken soup with hearty rice

Making the soup is as easy as adding water, stirring and microwaving.  The individual bowls make packing them so easy.  They would be great to keep in the office for days that require working through lunch.  For us, they make a great “grab and go” lunch when there’s no time to pack something else.  Or when an older brother scavenged the leftovers from the night before.

Giveaway

The folks at Bear Creek are going to give one lucky Eat At Home reader a full set of the new Bear Creek Hearty Soup Bowls!  All you have to do is post a photo on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BearCreekSoups showing us what your busy day looks like.  And don’t forget to tag Eat At Home and @bearcreekfoods.  Good luck!

Bear Creek backpack

Bear Creek Country Kitchens began over 20 years ago with one goal in mind: to create home-style soups that will satisfy every appetite.  Combining high-quality ingredients and a special blend of spices, Bear Creek soups are delicious and easy to prepare.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bear Creek Soups. The opinions and text are all mine.

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More Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans – and a Sale!

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Use the code: SEPTEMBER to get the sale price

Introducing the second volume of Slow Cooker Freezer Meals – A Week of Dinners in One Hour!

If you’re looking for a way to simplify dinner on busy days, this is your solution.  By spending about 1 hour of prep time, you can have 6 meals stashed away in the freezer.

Then pull one from the freezer, thaw it a bit in the microwave or sit it in the fridge to thaw, dump it in the crockpot and let it cook.  So easy!

Here’s what you’ll get in each Volume:

  • 12 plans – each with 6 dinners and side dish suggestions
  • Meals that are designed to be assembled and frozen to be cooked later in the slow cooker
  • Side dish suggestions
  • Color-coded grocery lists
  • Assembly instructions and tips
  • Over 85 printable recipes

These are digital products, designed to be printed at home.

These plans are one of the most popular features of Weekly Meal Plan membership.  Members have access to a new Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plan every month.

Sale!

Now through Monday, September 21 you can get a great price on these ebooks by using the code:

SEPTEMBER

With that code, you’ll save $4 each on Volumes 1 or 2 and $7 off the bundle of both volumes.

Don’t wait though! The sale only lasts a few days.

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‘Sweet Heat’ Slow Cooker Chex Mix

This recipe from Kim looks amazing! This is the kind of thing my family would devour at the beach!

I love a Chex Mix for several reasons…I can make a huge batch at once, there are tons of different flavor variations, it’s great to have on hand for hungry kids that are constantly in and out of the kitchen, and it’s super easy to throw in a ziploc bag and carry with you on long car trips or to the beach. However, we’ve been experiencing quite the heat wave this week, so turning on my oven, and opening it every so often to stir up a batch of chex mix was not appealing to me.

Crock Pot Chex Mix EAH

Crock-Pot to the rescue!! Yes, the slow cooker comes in handy all year long! I couldn’t quite decide which direction I wanted to go with this mix…did I want sweet? Did I want spicy? I kind of wanted both, so that’s what I did. A sweet and salty combo with just a little bit of heat. You could easily increase the heat on this, but I knew my kids wouldn’t go for it, so I kept it mild. It actually sneaks up on you – the first few bites taste sweet and salty, and then you get a little kick from the cayenne.

Sweet Heat Chex Mix EAH

And yes, those are little Minion cheese crackers. According to my 7 year old, the Minions taste better than the traditional square crackers! As with almost all chex mixes, you can add whatever you like or have on hand.

'Sweet Heat' Slow Cooker Chex Mix
A sweet and salty combination with just a little heat, that comes together easily in your slow cooker.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of each:
  • Corn Chex cereal
  • Rice Chex cereal
  • Wheat Chex cereal
  • Cheerios cereal
  • Pretzels
  • Cheese Crackers
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 bag Pretzel M&M's (or candy of choice)
Instructions
  1. Place all of the cereals, pretzels and crackers into slow cooker.
  2. In a small microwave safe bowl, melt butter.
  3. Add brown sugar, Worcestershire, seasoning salt, cinnamon and cayenne to butter. Mix well.
  4. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and stir to coat.
  5. Cover with lid and set slow cooker on low for 2½-3 hours, stirring every 30 mins. (Make sure to stir down to the bottom to make sure it doesn't burn)
  6. NOTE: to prevent condensation from dripping onto cereal, you can place a clean dishcloth between the lid and slowcooker base.
  7. Once done, spread out on wax paper to cool.
  8. Add M&M's and store in air tight container.

Just beware…it’s hard to stay out of!

Kim M. is a contributing writer for Eat at Home, as well as the mom behind the mayhem at Makin’ it Mo’Betta. There you will find kid-friendly recipes, quick and easy meals, and many more desserts!

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Italian Sausage Sub Casserole

I love this recipe that Eat at Home writer, Kim brings us today!

I love Italian sausage, and use it in the place of, or in addition to, ground beef in many recipes. I also really like Italian sausage subs. You can usually substitute it in the place of meatballs on a meatball sub or chicken in a chicken parm sub. I can not tell you how many of these I ate during my first pregnancy! Maybe that’s why my oldest loves sausage. This recipe is basically a sub sandwich in casserole form, and comes together quickly and easily.

Sub Casserole Ingredients EAHI used a cheese bread loaf purchased from my grocery store’s deli, but any good thick bread will work. You can’t have too much cheese in my house! I also used turkey Italian sausage, reduced fat cream cheese and light mayo to cut the calories a little. You can use your favorites. Speaking of favorites, the sauce pictured – Newman’s Own Sockarooni, I highly recommend it!

Sub Casserole Collage EAH

I usually cut this recipe in half, so pictured is an 8 x 8. The recipe below is for a 9 x 13 casserole dish. You could also add peppers and onions, but I have to pass on that to get my kids to eat it. I even have to puree my sauce so there are no chunks! Any one else have super picky eaters?

Italian Sausage Sub Casserole EAH

Italian Sausage Sub Casserole
All the flavors of an Italian Sausage sub sandwich, in casserole form!
Ingredients
  • 1 package Italian Sausage links (4-5 links)
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread
  • Olive oil, for coating bread
  • garlic powder, optional
  • 1 (8 ounce) brick Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook Italian sausage links according to package directions. Cut into 1 inch chunks.
  3. While sausage is cooking, slice bread into 1½ inch slices. Spray or brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Broil until lightly toasted on each side.
  4. Place toasted bread in a single layer in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
  5. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, mayo, Italian seasoning and pepper.
  6. Spread cream cheese mixture over bread, and top with ½ the cheese.
  7. Place Italian sausage over cheese.
  8. Pour spaghetti sauce and water over the sausage and top with remaining cheese.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.

I do love a casserole, and this one is a keeper!

Kim M. is a contributing writer for Eat at Home, as well as the mom behind the mayhem at Makin’ it Mo’Betta. There you will find kid-friendly recipes, quick and easy meals, and lots of desserts!

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6 Meals in 10 minutes each – Slow Cooker Freezer Plans SALE!

You want to enjoy summer, so why not keep the cooking easy and your kitchen cool too!  Stop guessing about what’s for dinner and pull out a slow cooker freezer meal instead!  If you can spare 1 hour, you can have a freezer stocked with 6 meals ready to go for your busy summer days.

We’ve even got summer plans so you don’t have to eat soup or stew in July!  Load the slow cooker and spend your day having fun with your family.  Then come home to a great meal that required almost no effort on your part.

We’re having a quick sale this week on this great resource.  Get it for just $7.97!

That’s $4 off the regular price of $11.97.

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These meals are my “busy day emergency stash”.  They keep us out of the drive-thru lane, but require minimal effort to get dinner on the table.

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Use the code: SUMMER at checkout

 

We’ve put together all of the Slow Cooker Freezer Meal plans from the last year into one big printable.  Now you can get dinner organized and ready in just 1 hour for a whole week’s worth of meals.  That’s about 10 minutes per meal!

You get 12 plans, each with:

  • 6 dinners designed to be assembled and frozen to be cooked later in the slow cooker
  • Side dish suggestions
  • Color-coded grocery lists
  • Printable recipes
  • Instructions on assembling all of the meals

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Use the code: SUMMER at checkout

Add to cart

This is a quick sale and only lasts through Thursday July 2 at midnight Pacific.

All of the members to Weekly Meal Plans get one of these Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans each month as part of their membership.  It’s a popular benefit of being a member!

Here’s an example of a few months of menus.  Grocery lists, assembly instructions and printable recipes are included in the ebook.

  1. French Dip Sandwiches, Fries, Carrot + Celery Sticks
  2. Mediterranean Chicken, Pasta, Salad, Garlic Biscuit Bites
  3. Easy Crockpot Beef Fajitas, Corn, Chips + Salsa
  4. Teriyaki Pork Chops with Red Pepper and Pineapple Rice, Peas
  5. Chicken Shwarma Ranch Veggie Salad, Chips
  6. Italian Parmesan Herb Chicken and Potatoes Tomato and Artichoke Heart Salad
  1. Maple Apple Chicken, Roasted Broccoli and Red Pepper, Pretzel Rolls
  2. Slow Cooker BBQ Peach Pulled Pork, Sweet Potato Fries, Carrot and celery sticks
  3. Sweet and Sour Meatballs over Rice, Peas, Egg Rolls
  4. Chicken Tacos, Summer Corn Salad, Chips and Salsa
  5. Easy Pepper Steak, Pasta, Salad
  6. Chicken Philly Sandwiches, Quick Cole Slaw, Fries

Use the code: SUMMER at checkout

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