overhead of orecchiette pasta tossed in a shallot and cherry tomato sauce with a side arugula salad

Busy is such an understatement these days, right?

We're all juggling so many balls in the air we might as well submit our applications for Cirque de Soleil.  Actually, speaking of the circus, there were so many times when my kids were little I felt like the ringmaster of my very own circus.

Seriously,  I'd be breast feeding my daughter, my son would be climbing all over the sofa, finally perching on top of my head like some rare specious of bird we'd see on our many many many visits to the zoo, all while I'm trying to reading him Baby Beluga.

Have you ever felt that way, too? 

What if I could give you a magic formula for creating some order amidst ALL the chaos?

And, nope, I can't suddenly arrange for Ina Garten to show up at your front door with dinner.

But it's pretty dang close.

It's menu planning, my friend.

That's the secret formula.  Finding, and planning, menus for the week.

And how do I know it works?

Because menu planning is what saved me from running off to join the real circus (although, I'm pretty darn sure I could have been a huge high wire star!).  When I took the time to sit down and menu plan it was life changing.  I knew that no matter how busy and crazy my day got, I had at least one thing totally handled.  Dinner.  And it felt so so good.

Menu planning also changed the way I cook which you can read all about in this blog post

So, to get you started (or, if you're already a menu planning pro, keep you right on track!), here are 5 menu planning ideas for all the busy families out there.  Go grab your calendar, your favorite beverage, and mark down which night you're cooking each dish.  And, most important of all, comment below and let all of us know what you're cooking!  We can all get inspiration from each other, so let's start now.

5 menu planning ideas for busy families


Orecchiette with Shallots, Tomatoes, and Arugula

It goes without saying that pasta is without a doubt the easiest way to get dinner on the table fast.  But how tired do you get of just buttered noodles and marinara sauce?

Well, then, I've got the perfect pasta to get you out of your pasta rut.  And it's this simple pasta, using a super cute pasta (the name literally means "little ear" in Italian) in a fast and easy zipped up tomato-like sauce.

5 menu planning ideas for busy families


Sheet Pan Pizza with Artichokes and Broccoli 

Who doesn't love pizza, right?  But have you ever made sheet pan pizza?  If your answer is YES, than you know just how dang good it is!!  And if your answer is NO, then go grab your sheet pan and make this!  This pizza will rock. your. world.  Using pre-made pizza dough is key (I'm partial to Trader Joe's), and there's frozen artichoke hearts and fresh broccoli.

But the absolute BEST thing about pizza is adding to it whatever is currently hanging out in your fridge or freezer.  Asparagus, corn, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, olives.... would all be DELICIOUS.

5 menu planning ideas for busy families


Orange Oregano Chicken

I prefer cooking with chicken thighs because they are nearly impossible to overcook.  The dark meat stays lovely and tender, even when you leave them on the stove (or in the oven) a little longer because you had to help with a homework question, change out the laundry and respond to an email.

This is a great weeknight dinner because you can make the gremolata the night (or even the day) before.  And before you get all stressed because "gremolata" sounds fancy -- no need to panic.  It's a super flavorful topping that comes together in about 2 minutes.  You just add all the ingredients to your blender, give it a whiz, and you're done.

5 menu planning ideas for busy families


Sweet Chili and Mustard Glazed Salmon

Fish is an easy dish for a weeknight dinner because it cooks so quickly.  This recipe has just 4 ingredients.  But don't let that fool ya into thinking this dish isn't packed with flavor.  Because those 4 little ingredients pack a huge flavor punch!  It also happens to be served up with literally the best green beans you'll ever eat.  A little sweet and almost swimming in melted butter.  I'm not a green bean fan, but I will fight you for the last one of these!

5 menu planning ideas for busy families


Croque Monsieur

When all else fails, and the week has completely gone off the rails, there is always the sandwich.  If you can have breakfast for dinner (which is a favorite in my house), then OF COURSE, it absolutely stands to reason you can have a sandwich for dinner.   It may have a fancy sounding name, but it's simply a baked ham and cheese.....with lots, and lots of cheese.  And a cream sauce.  Yeah, let's not forget about the cream sauce.

So now that you have 5 menu ideas, which one are you going to cook first!

Leave a comment and let's get the dinner conversation started!

If you like what you've read, and know someone who would love it, too, feel free to share!

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