Healthy Meal Planning for Dinners Simple, Quick, and Easy
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Too often, families have to sacrifice having a healthy dinner together because of a lack of .time. Everyone is just too busy. Usually, dinner ends up a rush through a drive-thru while eating in the car. So not a healthy dinner nor quality time spent together! What if I told you that you can have healthy meal planning for dinners that are simple, quick, and easy?
While most may believe that meal prepping is only good for lunches, that just isn’t the case. They can be easily adapted for dinners as well. Let me show you a few healthy meal planning dinner strategies so that you can enjoy time with your family again while still eating healthy food.
#1 Healthy Meal Planning Strategy: Roasting
One of the ways I get a variety of different flavors without spending a ton of money or time is to roast meat with different seasonings. This works out really well when there is a good sale too.
I buy a few big packages of chicken and make chicken tacos, teriyaki chicken, bbq chicken, chicken chili, Italian chicken, and chicken parmesan. All you need is the different seasonings and aluminum foil. Just separate areas of a sheet pan for each different flavor.
Then, lay out aluminum foil and roll it up to create a barrier to separate the different flavors of chicken or whatever meat you are using.
You could do this with vegetables too. Roasting veggies is a great way to get kids to eat veggies vs steaming them. They have a lot more flavor!
This would also work really well if you are only cooking for one or two people. You could meal prep your whole week on one pan and not have the same thing every night.
If you want to add different seasoning or sauces later start with this basic roasting directions for chicken.
Basic Roasted Chicken
- Cut up boneless skinless chicken breasts into 4 oz sizes (about the size of your palm).
- Place chicken on a sheet pan or an oven-safe pan
- Drizzle one teaspoon of olive oil over it (or use an oil spritzer)
- Toss it in the oil until fully covered
- Season with Pink Himalayan salt and pepper to taste.
Roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 15-30 minutes (depending on how much chicken you are cooking) until the juices run clear and the middle is no longer pink.
#2 Healthy Meal Planning Strategy: Crockpot
Another way I get easy and variety in healthy meal planning for dinner is to use a crockpot. You can cook large batches of meat to use throughout the week in recipes. Chicken, pulled pork and meatballs are great options for this.
You can also simmer things like dried beans, pasta sauces, chicken stock in the crockpot to throw together meals. Another idea is to cook your vegetables or other side items in the crockpot while you are roasting your meat in the oven.
You can cook double batches of things like chili, stew, or casseroles in the crockpot. Then, you can eat half that night and freeze the rest for the following week. Just by doing this you can cook once for 7 days and have 14 days worth of dinners.
Tips when cooking in the crockpot
- If possible start the cooking on high for 1 hour then turn it down to low. This will get the meat up to a safe temperature quickly.
- Keep the lid on. Every time you take the lid off the crockpot it has to warm back up. The steam is being sealed in when the lid is closed.
- Fill it at least half way, but not filled over 3/4 so it will heat the food properly.
- An average time frame is 4 hours on high and 8 hours on low, but always allow some extra time in case it isn’t done at the expected time.
- Cook root vegetables under the meat since they take longer to cook.
- Save canned beans, cooked rice, or pasta until the last 30 minutes before adding.
Crockpot Chicken Recipes
Here are two quick and easy chicken in the crockpot recipes.
Anything Crockpot chicken
Place 5-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts in a crockpot with 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth. Cook on low 6-8 hours and shred! You can use this for anything you want throughout the week.
Crockpot buffalo chicken
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 packet dry ranch and 1 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt (or homemade prepared ranch like this recipe here: Ranch Dressing)
3/4 cup buffalo sauce
Mix and cook in crockpot on low 6-8 hours and shred.
More Crockpot Recipes
#3 Healthy Meal Planning Strategy: Freezer Meals
I’ve already touched on some freezer meal ideas in both roasting and crockpot meals, but some people like to meal prep for a month of freezer meals all at once. They will mass cook for a day or weekend and have almost everything prepped in the freezer.
I don’t typically do this, but I know it is a pretty successful strategy. Just beware!
When you venture into freezer meal cooking start slow! It will be easy to get overwhelmed trying to put together a whole month’s supply of freezer meals when you haven’t ever done it before.
An easy way to get started with freezer meals is to try the no-cook meals first. These are where you fill up a ziplock bag of just the ingredients uncooked like raw meat, seasonings, and vegetables and put the directions on the bag and stick it in the freezer.
This will work for many crockpot recipes. You are saving time by doing the cutting and measuring ahead of time so that the day you want to cook you literally dump it in and turn it on to cook.
Another easy way to get started is to double your recipe of whatever you are making like a casserole or stir fry and put half into a freezer bag for later that week, or month.
You can also look into meal plans and recipes that are already designed to have some similar ingredients to chop and cook together to freeze for the week. Here is a link to a variety of Freezer Meal Recipes I found helpful.
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What will you be meal prepping this weekend? Comment below!