List of Meal Planning Dinner Ideas (100 Easy Meals)

Posted: October 28, 2022

A complete meal planning dinner ideas list especially if you're a busy mom trying to get healthy food on the table. If you constantly wonder what healthy meals you need to add to your meal planning every single week, you're not alone. This list is a great way to get those ideas flowing. This list of 100 dinner ideas will also help you make a grocery list to make your weekly meal plan a breeze.

Image of meal planning dinner idea plate with vegetables, chicken and sauce on the side

Meal planning can get overwhelming pretty quickly, especially if you have picky eaters. My step-by-step system is going to help make your meal prep and grocery shopping list so quick and efficient.

Because of the system I use in my house, the best meal is now dinner time as this is when the whole family sits down and enjoys a meal together. I tend to choose simple, easy recipes that take little time to prep but are still healthy and nourishing. 

My 4-Step Weekly Process to Meal Planning

  1. Create a list of your family’s favorite recipes. Spend some time making a quick list of the dinners your family loves to eat. This helps reduce food waste and makes the process faster.
  2. Make a list of easy dinner ideas that use some of your pantry and freezer staples.
  3. Choose one day to create a weekly meal plan, create a grocery list and go to the grocery store. If you can do it all in one day, that’s great! However, if that is not possible with your schedule, then find different times in your week to schedule it in (preferably before Monday).
  4. Schedule in 2-3 hours to meal prep. You don’t have to create the full meal, but cooking the protein, chopping and dicing produce before the week starts is going to save you so much time throughout the week. 

After making my lists, I choose 3-4 meals and add them to a meal planner. This weekly meal planner from Day Designer is my favorite one. Use code MOMNUTRITIONIST for 10% off.

What happens when you skip meal planning as a busy mom

I totally understand how difficult it can be to sit down and make a meal plan and weekly grocery list. However, skipping the meal planning process usually makes life more hectic.

You will most likely spend more time walking around the grocery store not knowing what to buy, you waste a lot of mental energy throughout the day thinking about what's for dinner and you will spend more money.

Consequently, when you don't meal plan, you are more likely to eat out, and if you're trying to eat healthier, eating out consistently can stall your progress. 

Although meal planning takes time, it is so worth it. It helps you use up groceries that you may have already bought from the previous week. Meal planning also helps you stay aligned with your health goals. Similarly, you can batch meal planning by making a list for the next week.

Benefits of cooking food at home

  1. You have control over what you eat. Totally fine to eat out occasionally but if you are trying to eat healthier and cook healthier meals, the best way to do this is to cook at home.
  2. Saves money. When you plan your meals around what you have in the fridge and pantry, you will save money in the long run.
  3. You’ll feel better from the inside out. We all have days where we don't have time or energy to prepare meals ahead of time. But how good does it feel when you stick to your meal plan and get a healthy dinner on the table? 

How to Create Macro Balanced Meals

Even though I do not follow a macro diet, it is helpful when it comes to understanding how to create healthy balanced diets. 

Creating a macronutrient balanced meal includes protein, healthy fats, high fiber carbohydrates and non-starchy carbohydrates. To create easy meals around these macronutrients, it is best to start out with lists in each category.

  1. ¼ plate protein: Examples: meats, fish, tofu, beans, chicken.
  2. ¼ plate high-fiber carbohydrates. This category includes whole grains, legumes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, fruits, starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas, squash.
  3. ½ plate non-starchy carbohydrates. This category is all your vegetables EXCLUDING sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peas, corn, squash.
  4. Healthy fats. This category does not typically have it's own place on a plate because they are usually mixed in with your food. For example, olive oil in a dressing or fats found in animal proteins. Examples of healthy fats includes: avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds.

Meal Planning Dinner Ideas List

Image of meal planning dinner idea plate with vegetables and fork

Chicken Dinner ideas

Here is a list of 15 chicken dinners that are not only tasty, but they are easy to make. The main ingredient here is, you guessed it, chicken! These can be made in the oven, air fryer and sheet pans.  

Beef dinner Ideas

image of Meal planning dinner ideas potatoes and steak in pan

Seafood Dinner Ideas

Soup Ideas: My Favorite Soups

Pro tip: I like to add a can of coconut milk to soups to keep them creamy and it also adds some fat to the meal. This helps keep us full for longer.

Vegetarian Dinner Ideas  

Side Dishes

image of green beans sautéed in pan

Meal planning dinner ideas list: Crockpot dinner ideas and slow cooker recipes.

Check out this article where I listed 35 Best Healthy Holiday Crock Pot Recipes (easy slow cooker ideas)

When meal prepping I like to use these containers from Rubbermaid

Bottom line 

Keep your meal ideas super simple. It takes little time to prepare delicious recipes after busy weeknights when you meal prep. Comfort food is our family's go-to for most weeknights as they are our favorite meals. Knowing what your family enjoys is the best part as that makes food prep so much easier. Feel free to try a few new recipes a month if your list of foods is short and keep adding to it. 

Pro tip: you can look at the previous week and switch up either the protein or grain to "renew" the recipe. Happy cooking! 

You can find a free printable list of dinner ideas here. For more meal planning ideas, make sure to check out my Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest pages for more inspiration. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What meals are good for meal prep?

Most meals can be meal prepped. I like meal prep ideas that can be reheated because it tastes ‘fresh’. When meal prepping salads, do not mix the dressing so that the salad and greens stay fresh longer. 

Can you meal prep for 7 days?

The easiest way to stay consistent with meal prepping is to prep for the whole week. You will need to choose recipes that can be frozen and heated so that the meal stays fresh longer to avoid risk of food spoilage. I tend to meal prep for 4-5 days in advance and I keep the weekends open for last minute outings. 

What is the easiest make-ahead meal to make?

This question depends on what you enjoy making and eating. The easiest meals to make ahead are your grain sources like rice, pasta, quinoa. Also cooking all of your meats and roasting vegetables ahead of time makes for a simple meal that you can enjoy by mixing and matching. 

How long do meal prep recipes last in the fridge?

This depends on the recipe you make. Salads usually last 2 days but cooked food can last four days. Make sure to freeze meals if you plan on meal prepping for a whole week as most food does not last the full 7 days in the fridge. Stick to meal planning up to 4 days. 

How can I prepare meals cheaply?

This is where your bulk buying comes in handy. Buying foods in bulk can save you time and money in the long run. Also making sure to eat what you make ensures you are not wasting food or money. 

Can you freeze meal prep meals?

Yes, you can freeze meals after fully cooking them.

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