Planning Your Dinner Menu

by Melanie Edwards on January 23, 2009 · 12 comments

in Working Mothers

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As a working mother, I need shortcuts wherever I can get them.

Dinner is often a challenge for us busy moms, and this holds true for me as well.

I work 8 hours a day outside the home, which leaves a small window in the evening for me to pick up baby girl, spend some time with her (don’t forget time with the husband also!), and cook dinner. Some days I wish dinner was just sitting there waiting for me; I mean, I get hungry too!

So, I take shortcuts. I try my best to plan ahead, both by planning a monthly menu and by cooking ahead if I can.

This week has been a particularly good week for us when it comes to dinner. I’ve actually stuck with our planned menu and have not ordered out.

Sample One Week Menu

Now, I don’t pretend that this is the healthiest menu, but we are eating and the food is home-made. I’m not spending money on take-out and it’s manageable for our busy schedule. It works.

  1. Sunday: Turkey Chili – I cooked this in my new slow cooker and didn’t have to do much with it once it was started, which allowed for me to work on other things around the house.
  2. Monday: Ground Beef & White Rice – I was off on Monday for the MLK holiday, so I was able to cook from scratch. The ground beef is cooked with tomato sauce/paste (think of picadillo) and I made extra meat for later in the week. The white rice I cooked in a rice cooker, but you could easily take your own shortcut by using Minute Rice. And if you wanted to be extra healthy, you could substitute with brown rice. (There’s shortcuts for brown rice too!)
  3. Tuesday: Leftovers – I had a dental appointment after work on Tuesday, so I got home later than normal. Luckily, we had plenty of chili and some white rice leftover. Voila! Dinner served.
  4. Wednesday: Tacos with Knorr Rice Sides pack – I used the extra ground beef I cooked on Monday to make tacos. All I had to do was chop up some lettuce and tomatoes, warm up the tortillas, and assemble. I made a pack of Knorr Rice Sides Chicken as a side dish.
  5. Thursday: Chicken Fettucine Alfredo – Sounds fancy, huh? This dish is *full* of shortcuts. I buy a bag of chicken cutlets, which don’t really require defrosting. I use a box of Fettucine pasta and a can of Ragu Classic Alfredo sauce. (What, you thought I made my own?) Since, the chicken doesn’t need defrosting, I just put it in the pan as soon as I get home. I usually add a can of peas & carrots to the chicken when I add the alfredo sauce. Serve over the fettucine.
  6. Friday: Hot dogs & Fries – Fridays are our slack days. So, we normally eat something very easy. This week, we’ll be making some hot dogs and baking some fries in the oven.
  7. Saturday: Pork Chops with Yellow Rice – Since it’s Saturday, I should theoretically have more time to cook. You can cook pork chops however you’d like: in the oven, on the stove or on the grill. Yellow rice is one of my favorites. It’s easy to cook and you can add whatever you like to it, making for many delicious variations. I’ll be making rice with corn this week, but sometimes I use beans or other vegetables. Shortcuts for yellow rice can be found via Goya, if you’d like.

You can see that the recurring theme is to use shortcuts to create quick and easy meals for your family. It’s what this Modern Mami has found to work.

How do you manage your weekly menu as a busy mom?

Picadillo Image via Wikipedia

Calendar Image via SugarcubeDesign

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Web-Betty January 23, 2009 at 7:38 am

Having shortcuts for dinner is the only way I stay sane! I’ve found that my slow cooker is one of the easiest and best ways to make a good, home-cooked meal and not really have to fuss over it.


Eric January 23, 2009 at 11:00 am

Hey Melanie, I really liked your post today. It’s definitely a lot easier and less stressful when you plan your dinners ahead. A must do for any busy parent. Btw, have you ever thought about incorporating sushi into your plans? Once you know how, its very easy to make, and can even be a fun activity for you and your kids:-)

O and we just followed you on Twitter as well. We are @orlandoichiban

Talk soon!


Melanie (Modern Mami) January 25, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Betty: I just got my slow cooker for Christmas and need to learn how to use it effectively. I’ll be looking around for recipes.

Eric: Thanks so much for connecting with me on Twitter. I’m glad you liked the post. I’ve never tried to make sushi, but I bet it would be fun. I’ll have to give that a go.


julia February 5, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Hi Melanie
thanks for sharing how you keep up! i have to plan my dinners because we order all our food from Fresh Direct (urban working mom’s MUST HAVE) and they only come once a week. i like to cook a bunch of stuff on friday nights and then stretch out the leftovers as long as i can. happily my husband is good at making burgers – but the rest is up to me! my two stand bys are chicken with artichokes and lemons (takes so little time – just put chicken on a bed of frozken artichoke hearts and cut up lemons and add in a mix of olive oil, soy sauce and mustard mixed together and some white wine. cook for 45 min – 1 hr, basting every 20 min or so. delcious!) and tilapia served various ways…


Melanie (Modern Mami) February 6, 2009 at 7:02 am

Julia, thanks for sharing your fall-back recipe. 🙂


Maya February 26, 2009 at 8:48 am

Wow! I’m glad to hear someone else makes up a menu as well. I thought I was the only one! 🙂 When you come to my house, I have a menu stuck to the refridgerator. But i know that predetermining menus can help with grocery shopping (and budgeting for it) as well. Instead of wandering the store or making a grocery list out of your head.


Melanie (Modern Mami) February 26, 2009 at 9:45 am

You’re so right Maya. It definitely helps.


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