Last fall I tried something something new. I normally try to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner each night about once a week. I write down 5 or 6 meal ideas and grocery shop for the week accordingly. But as our schedules picked up around the holidays, I found myself neglecting the weekly menu, and subsequently scrambling at night trying to come up with what to make for dinner. This resulted in a few weeks of running to the grocery store every night, and wouldn’t you know it, right at dinnertime when we were already getting pretty hungry. Then of course we’d end up eating really late. Or we’d just settle for something something scrounged from the back of the pantry. Or freezer. Yikes!
I knew I had to get myself back on track, so I went in the total opposite direction from where I was headed.
I took all of our favorite recipes, plus several new ones I wanted to try, and planned out 6 weeks worth of dinner ideas. It worked! I loved not having to try and figure out what we were going to have for dinner every night. Or even once a week! I sorted the recipes into categories like soups, pasta, chicken, red meat, and seafood and tried to plan one meal from each category for each week, so we’d have something different every night. And I didn’t plan it out down to the day, so after grocery shopping for the week, we would have a few options available to pick from on a day to day basis, depending on what we were in the mood for that night. Oh, and I definitely made sure to include at least one “quick and easy” recipe every week!
I’m trying it again for the next six weeks, and here’s what we’re having. I don’t have recipes for all of them yet, but I promise to add them as we go. Hopefully there are a few new ideas in here for you, if you’re struggling like I was. And if you have any suggestions for what I should add to the menu for next time, I’d love to hear it! Feel free to leave me a link in the comments.
Bacon & Basil Ricotta Gnocchi
Pork Chops & Mashed Potatoes
Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo
Zucchini Bacon Lasagna
*This gnocchi is out of this world delicious. For this recipe I use bacon instead of prosciutto and leave out the pine nuts. Ree’s pork chops are also one of our absolute favs.
Toasted Walnut & Sage Ravioli
Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
Red Beans & Rice
Chicken & Veggie Nuggets with Green Beans Fries
*I love these Chicken & Veggie nuggets. I usually make a double batch and freeze them in a big Ziploc bag, then pull them out whenever we need a quick and easy dinner. I can make as many or as few as I want. They’re even better with these green beans fries. They really do taste just like french fries!
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Shrimp & Grits
Baked Potato Pizza
Ranch Pork Roast with Mac & Cheese
Kev’s Favorite Lasagna
*Ree’s Cajun Chicken Pasta is THE best thing I make. Hands down. It’s better than anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant. My recipe for Shrimp & Grits is coming this week. It’s of our favorites!
Mexi-Chicken Campanelle Dinner
Turkey Panini’s with Tomatoes, Provolone, Avocado, and Basil Pesto
Pan Seared Salmon & Rice
Cheesy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Quesadillas
*Kevin claims he could eat this salmon three times a week. And to make the Baked Potato Pizza even easier, I use Ore Ida Steam & Mash frozen cubed potatoes. I just throw them onto the pizza frozen and straight from the bag, and they turn out just right.
Turkey Cannelloni with Roasted Peppers & Spinach
Chicken and Dumplings
Steak & Roasted Potato Wedges
*This steak is perfect. Every single time.
Grilled Chicken Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce
*I make my jambalaya a little differently, but this recipe is pretty close. I usually add some tasso to mine if I can find it.
I love your site and visit it frequently! Would it be possible if you could include a grocery list as well??? This would make things even that much easier!
Thanks for everything!
Thanks Amanda! I have enjoyed using some of these recipes, and I love your blog. I have a question about the chicken veggie nuggets. I am making them and they seem to have too many veggies in proportion to the chicken. Is the recipe correct as posted or is it supposed to read 1 1b. of chicken?
Thanks for your help!
There isn’t anywhere to comment on the ranch pork – but have to say that it was so tasty, economical and easy to make (like all things slow cooked). I shared this with my supper club and it has received rave reviews from everyone!
Thanks so much for this Amanda! You truly inspired me.
Thank you for this – I like to plan out my menu a week at a time and it’s so easy to get in a recipe rut. Oh, and I’m a new follower – one of my readers linked to your pulled pork recipe (which I promptly printed) and after browsing your blog, I’m hooked!
Great idea! How do you cook for just 2 and not have a ton of left overs?
Thanks SO much for sharing this idea Amanda! I’ve decided to start meal planning for my family as well…I always find us in a food rut!!
I am wondering, though…how do you write out your grocery list? I have a system to use, but it’s VERY complicated & time-consuming. I would LOVE a better way of writing out my list to make sure I include ALL of my necessary ingredients for my meals!
Tried the baked potato pizza last night – YUM! I mashed the potatoes with a fork and spread over the cheese instead, and I added chicken and tomatoes. It was a hit with the whole family (hubby, 7 year old girl and 5 year old boy). Thanks for the list of new recipes and ideas!
This is such a smart and great idea! I usually plan week to week.. OK I’ll be honest we do split weeks. I pick 3-4 days for foods and my boyfriend picks his 3-4 days. We purchase what we plan but it’s not as organized as it should be. I think all this planning makes room for more variety as well! I may have to implement this into my daily/weekly routine!
But please tell me, Amanda, that these recipes adhere to your 1200 calories a day lifestyle. Are they around 500-500 claories per serving?
Wow! These recipes all look great – thanks for sharing!!
I just posted my recent pork chop experiment… Pork Chops covered in Garlic Cream Sauce…
Great idea! I have a question though… making a completely different meal each night of the week… what do you do about leftovers?? It’s just my husband and I and if I make a whole meal, we’re eating leftovers for days! Thanks :)
This is so great! I am going to go through and incorporate some of these recipes into my own menu. We’ve been trying to think of some new stuff to plug in. Thanks so much for sharing!
Love this idea! I do the once a week thing, but putting together dinner ideas for multiple weeks seems like such a great idea!
Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been wanting to start meal planning but was totally procrastinating. This is so inspiring and helpful!!!
This is an awesome idea! I made the creamy chicken enchiladas last night and they were AMAZING! It has already made it into my official recipe book :)
Thank you for this inspiration! I also plan out menus week by week, but have fallen off the wagon recently. This is just the push I need to get back on.
i love your site. you have such talent and from all the information
and pointers and free fonts and recipes, i can tell you are a very giving person. thank you so much… i really appreciate it.
Uh-mazing! I am stealing your intellectual property and can guarantee that your family and mine will be eating the same dinner for the next…six weeks :)
Thanks for such a great post!
Oh my goodness, thank you for this post. You are inspiring me to get organized. I have been telling myself for ages to just plan a week ahead. With softball and baseball season starting now, this will be so helpful. I look forward to trying some of these delicious recipes! thanks!
I will be living by this blog post for a while! I love love love it! can’t wait to see the Shrimp and Grits recipe (one of my favorite things!)
Amanda – thanks for another inspiring post. My husband & I are moving back to the US after 2 years abroad this Friday. (As an aside, you will be happy to know that your Pulled Pork recipe is now famous in La Plata, Argentina).
We purchased a new house and while I have a LONG (& detailed) shopping list already created to stock the kitchen with the basics as soon as possible, I was dreading deciding on exactly what to cook for the first few weeks, when un-packing and getting settled takes up so much time – and here you are doing all the work for me! Thanks a million.
I like to plan out our meals two weeks at a time…I’m definitely going to try some of these!
i am with #33 analisa..i want to live @ your house : )
I do this too! With three children under the age of eight I keep very busy, so my husband and I sit down and make out a menu list and do all our grocery shopping at once. It really takes the guess work out of trying to come up with a meal. I’m excited to try some of your new recipes!
This is amazing!! I love the idea, we do the weekly planning but to do it 6 weeks out is a great thought. Thank you for taking the time to put this together, gives me some great dinner ideas and I look forward to see the new receipes as you progress through the weeks.
I do a weekly meal plan…but this looks amazing!! I need to try it. I have a FB page where I share a recipe a day if you are interested, once you like it, you get a recipe a day in your newsfeed. I even featured your chess squares one day (giving you credit) which I have made 8 times since you posted the recipe for various events. I even make it with a chocolate cake crust…YUM!!
Here is my FB recipe link – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Groti-Great-Recipes-on-the-Internet/151763271547390
Amanda, my husband won’t eat tomatoes unless they are puree’d into sauce, any condiments except yellow mustard (including mayo in anything), cheese, milk or cream (if he can tell it’s in there but I put it in mashed potatoes and he doesn’t know it).
Anywho, how do you think the sauce in the Mexi-Chicken Campanelle Dinner would be without the cream and using tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes? It looks soooo scrumptious.
Thanks for all the great ideas. Sometimes I find myself standing in front of the open fridge thinking about what to make while hungry hyenas do laps around me. This just might be a better idea! Beautiful photos, as usual.
the wanna be country girl – Caroline
Great idea Amanda. I’m gonna try this out.
Can you tell me what recipe is in the last row, 3rd column over? It looks like some sort of chicken meal. Thanks for all these recipes and I’ve been waiting to make your bacon, avocado & chicken quesadillas! Yum!
Hi Elizabeth! Is it this one?
Grilled Chicken Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce
I just made the quesadillas for the first time this weekend. They were so good!
That’s it! I should be trying this soon. Maybe this weekend. You rock! :)
Oh wow, those look amazing. I can feel myself getting in a food rut and I so need to find some healthy alternatives. If I could cut some sodium in a few of them, I would love to add ’em into rotation! Thanks for the ideas!
Thank you for sharing these ideas! I always say I need to get organized, and never do. Now I don’t have an excuse – You’ve done all the work!
Can I come live at your house ;)
WOW is all I can say! :) Thanks Amanda, I can’t wait to try some of these recipes!
I spend so much time fretting over what to make for dinner, this is such a a great idea! Thanks for sharing!! (I cannot wait to try that gnocchi recipe!!!)
What a brilliant idea!
Great idea! I can’t wait to try out some of these recipes-thanks!
Amanda, you are my all time hero!! Thank you so much for this. I have tried a lot of your recipes and they are my husband’s all time favorites. I am looking forward to trying as many of these as possible. I am so grateful for you sharing!! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!
I don’t know how you do it! This is always my goal and it never happens!! You should try this salisbury steak!
It is so yummy and good with that comfort food feeling!
great menu planning. I will have to try some of your recipes and the 6 week plan too!!
ohhhh Kevin and Amanda…. just when I thought I couldn’t love you any more ;)
This is fabulous, Amanda – thanks for assembling all of these! I actually had two of these recipes already flagged to make in the next few weeks so it looks like we share the same taste :-) Looking forward to trying that cajun pasta.
Fabulous idea. We do weekly menu planning in our household too, but a 6 week plan sounds great.
Thanks so much for posting these! As a full-time student and mother of two, there’s just not much free time to plan dinner and shop. I look forward to trying some of your recipes.
I love trying new recipes with my family, so I am excited to see this! I am also going to try planning 6 weeks at a time and see how that works out. I think it will be nice…
As a girl who LOVES a good plan, this is an amazing idea! I usually map out what I’m going to eat for lunch/dinner each week, but I love the idea of extending it out even further!
What a fabulous idea!! I’m impressed…I struggle to do a week’s plan!
Thank you so much!! I look forward to giving these a try!!
I liked you before, but now I big puffy heart LOVE you. I mean it. I typically do plan my menu out for a week at a time, but I admit…it’s one of my least favorite chores of the week. Although I don’t think my family will eat every single one of these recipes I am certainly going to give it a try. Amanda, you’ve given me lots of tips, advice, eye candy and laughs over the past year or so that I’ve been following you but, from the very bottom of my heart, I THANK YOU, for making my next 6 weeks stress free.
Thank you so much for posting these recipes!
My cousin is coming to town tonight so I’m going to make the cajun chicken pasta. Do you think it’s too spicy for small kids??
this is awesome, thank you, I forgot to make menus for the week and now i’m saved!
This is pretty much how I shop all the time. I’m on a pretty tight budget with three growing kids and so every two weeks I make a two week plan and shop according to what we need to make each recipe. Then I spend 20 dollars on snacky type foods, not counting fruit or other good choices. It helps me stay on budget and knowing what we are eating (and what I’m cooking) every night takes the stress out of it. I also plan our meals according to the evening’s plans…karate or basketball practice nights have a quicker, easier meal for example, of course. I also try to prepare or even pre-cook as much as I can on Sundays. Doing it like this for the last few years has made such a huge difference. Now if I could just be this organized with my recipe binder. It’s pretty much a mess. I printed some of your recipes today to add to it’s craziness! Thank you!
I can’t believe you got through 6 weeks, how impressive! There are so many recipes on your list I have on my list, but mine’s not planned, it’s a very messy crazy notebook, I need organization like you!
But please tell me these recipes adhere to your 1200 calories a day lifestyle. Are they around 500-500 claories per serving?
Well..I just woke up and I’m officially hungry! I think I’m gonna try something like this on my blog!
My husband and I sit down every Sunday and work out our weekly meal plan. I’m not sure how you guys feel about chinese food, but we make this a lot. I add broccoli and mushrooms and serve it over rice. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/spicy-tangerine-beef-recipe/index.html
So good! And it is nice to add an idea to the lineup :)
Sounds yummy and so easy! Thanks for sharing.
Wonderful idea. Need to get busy and do the same.
Have a God Filled Day
OMG are you organized. Now I have some great ideas for dinner. Thanks Amanda. Paulette
This idea ROCKS!!! What a great idea to help us all get organized! Good job helping us to try and get more organized, Amanda. Thanks!
This is so awesome Amanda! I often meal plan but it always changes during the week depending on what I see on the internet. :)
Wow, what an awesome project/task/plan, Amanda! 6 weeks..all laid out. Wow.
I cook with plant-based ingredients so pretty much every day, there is salads, fruits, veggies, beans/lentils/tofu/nuts/seeds. I just arrange them differently. Some days, I am way more adventurous and creative, but some days, I am not. I give you major props for doing this!
Oh and on Sunday I blogged about photography and linked your last post, finding the right light. Some of my readers told me they enjoyed the link to your site. I love your photos!!
What a fabulous idea! I must admit I plan groceries in 3 and 4 day chucks and when I’m not in the mood I really struggle for ideas. I already have all my recipes in binders according to food type, so it would be dead easy to plan for a longer period of time. I must try this! Thanks for the inspiration…and the links to all those recipes…I have a feeling my binders are going to get that much bigger!