Looking for the perfect cleaning resource? Check out my book, The Organically Clean Home!

The Clean Mama MENU Planner!

One of my secrets to a successful week is to do a little menu planning on Fridays.  I find that when I have a plan for meal times the whole day runs more smoothly.  I’ve been selling printable menu planners since 2010 and I decided that it was about time I put one in a spiral-bound planner format.  Introducing the Clean Mama MENU Planner!  I’m loving it – come see for yourself and grab it while it’s intro priced….
The Clean Mama Menu Planner is a simple, undated menu planner for keeping track of menu planning and grocery shopping.  Create your menu plan and take your shopping list with you – the menu planner will fit right in your purse!  The Clean Mama Menu Planner is the perfect companion to the Clean Mama Planner.
  • 76 pages
  • smooth, bright white 70# paper
  • 100# card stock front and back covers with clear protective cover and wire-o binding
  • made in the USA
  • paper size is 5.75” x 8” – size with the binding is 6” x 8″

• CLEAR Protective Cover and COVER PAGE

• TITLE PAGE – 3 lines for you to personalize your planner

• 12 – 2 PAGE BLANK CALENDARS – the perfect 2 page monthly calendar complete with a darling meal ideas list on the right hand side

• 5 WEEKLY DOCKETS for each month (60 total) – This page also includes a make again section for a winner dinner + a next week check list as well

• 5 WEEKLY MARKET LISTS for each month (60 total)  – 12 grocery sections – lined and with check boxes (produce, breads/bakery, deli/meats, condiments, baking, canned goods, baked goods, dairy, frozen foods, snacks/beverages, laundry/cleaning, and everything else)
• SUBSTITUTIONS – this for that – run out of something?  Check out my substitutions page to see what you can sub in place of buttermilk, baking powder, powdered sugar and more

• MEASUREMENT EQUIVALENTS – how many teaspoons in a tablespoon, cups in a pint, ounces in a quart?  Consult this page for your
• FAMILY FAVORITES – simple checklist with a spot for the recipe, source, special ingredients and a +/-  for keeping track of favorite meals and meals to make again




What’s On My Book Stack : 12 Time-Saving Cookbooks

This month I’ve been talking about all things SIMPLY COZY and I can’t really do that without talking about some meal planning.  Having meals prepped and ready or in the slow cooker is probably my #1 trick to keeping things simple and easy.  Throw a delicious home-cooked meal on the table and that’s the definition of cozy.  Not to mention, it’s just plain really helpful during this busy time of the year.  Here are some of my tried and true favorites – I love cookbooks that offer some strategies and tips for keeping dinner easy.  Need a quick gift or a little inspiration for the meal times after the new year?  These are sure to help!

Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters’ Stuff : Time Saving Recipes for Busy Moms – this cookbook has some great recipes that simplify cooking for weeknights

The Weeknight Dinner Cookbook : Simple Family-Friendly Recipes for Everyday Home Cooking – I love the strategies and options for adjustments to meals.

The Make-Ahead Cook – Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen never lets me down – great ideas and ways to prep and make ahead meals

Dinner Solved!: 100 Ingenious Recipes That Make the Whole Family Happy, Including You! – Fun dinnertime ideas that everyone loves

Upscale Downhome : Family Recipes All Gussied Up – Great ways to fancy-up traditional recipes while keeping things simple and tasty too!

Weeknights with Giada – I always love Giada’s take on meals – these are simple and delicious.

Quick Slow Cooking – this is a beautiful cookbook with lots of quick and easy crockpot or simmer on the stove recipes

Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime – one of my favorites – I use this cookbook a lot – I love the adaptations provided!

A New Way to Dinner – a fresh look at dinner – Food52 has some great ideas.

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow : Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes – I absolutely LOVE this cookbook – it’s brand new and I’ve already cooked a handful of delicious recipes.

Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime:Dinnertime – Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-minute Meals, and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper – Great ideas and strategies – I especially love the 16 minute meals (they really are!)

The Best Make-Ahead Recipe – this cookbook is hard to find but it’s one of my absolute favorite cookbooks in the history of ever – it’s a staple in my meal planning!


Curious about some other books?  Check out this book stack post about my favorite homekeeping books.

There are affiliate links in this post – go here to see my full disclosure policy.


Kids Cookie Challenge

If your kids are interested in cooking and baking and love the cooking competition shows, they’ll love this idea.  The concept is simple – a simple baking competition that even little kids can participate in.  You can make this as ‘top secret’ as you’d like to.  Secret ballots, numbered cookie trays, mixing cookies secretly or together.  Customize it for your kids!

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Make your favorite batch of chocolate chip cookie batter and leave out the chocolate chips.  Depending on the age of your kids, they can do the mixing or at least help.  I used the Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook.  This recipe is pretty close.
  2. Split the dough into 3-4 bowls (depending on how many participants you have).  I’ve found that 6-12 cookies per kid is a good number.  Check the yield of the cookie recipe to make sure you don’t need to double the recipe.
  3. Put out bowls of mix-ins – we used crushed up Halloween candy but you can use different types of chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, dried fruit…
  4. Let each child choose their own mix-ins and mix up their cookies.  You can have them do this one at a time, secretly or let them create together.
    This is the fun part – let them create and concoct their secret recipe – it’s always fun to see what they come up with!
  5. Scoop cookies on cookie sheets.  I scooped all the cookies so they were all the same size and less likely to be recognizable for the ‘contest’.
  6. Label the trays – I just put a number on the parchment paper.  Bake the cookies.
  7. Set up your judging stations.  I cut the cookies in fourths and numbered them.
  8. Choose your winner!  Again, you can make this official or casual as you’d like, have fun with it.

Even the youngest kids will enjoy this activity, it’s fun for all ages and a great way to have a tasty competition in the kitchen.



Simple Weeknight Meals to Make this Week

Simple Weeknight Meals to Make this Week - Clean MamaThe start of the school year always has me feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to meal planning. After school activities, waiting in pickup line, and other errand running and odds and ends seem to creep closer and closer to dinnertime and leave me with less time to meal prep. On those days when I don’t have much time to plan and execute a complicated dinner, I love to have a handful of dinner options that require minimal brain power and time. Enter in the recipes I am sharing with you today.

These main course meal options are perfect for a busy evening and are family friendly. No crazy ingredients or fussy prep required. I like to pair them with a simple side like a steamed vegetable, salad, or fresh fruit. Try one this week and see what you think.

  • Rotisserie chicken to the rescue with these baked tacos smothered with homemade crema. Baked Chicken Street Tacos via Kleinworth Co.
  • These juicy and sweet meatballs are not only made in the slow cooker, but they make a big enough batch to freeze the leftovers or save for leftovers.  Slow Cooker Honey Buffalo Meatballs via Carlsbad Cravings
  • 20 minutes is all it takes to whip up this delightfully satisfying fresh pasta dish. 20-Minute Tomato Pesto Pasta via Mel’s Kitchen
  • The ultimate in comfort food, the grilled cheese sandwich gets a makeover with the addition of bacon, avocado and tomato. Turkey Bacon and Avocado Grilled Cheese via Tidy Mom
  • All the flavors of a classic Italian sandwich in salad form. The homemade dressings kicks it up a notch and adds the perfect amount of zing with every bite.  Italian Sub Salad via Wicked Spatula
  • This satisfying and creamy soup is the ideal one pot meal made even easier in the slow cooker. Paired with your favorite crusty bread, dinner is served. Crockpot Chicken Wild Rice Soup via Pinch of Yum

Don’t miss the Menu Planning Mini Challenge and make sure you download the FREE printables linked in the post!

Simple Weeknight Meals - Clean Mama

Check out these free printables and menu planning posts to inspire your menu planning!

Free Printable – Make Ahead Meals

Free Printable – What’s for Dinner? Weekly Menu Planner

Free Printable – Family Favorites

And a handful of menu planning posts I think you’ll love – just click on the images….

Menu Planning 101 - How to Get Dinner on the Table with Ease via Clean Mama

Customize Your Make Ahead Grilling and Get Together Menu via Clean Mama

How to Organize Cookbooks for Better Menu Planning via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - 7 Time Saving Meals for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - Take 2 - 7 Time Saving Recipes for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

How to Create a Recipe Binder System that Works via Clean Mama

8 Make-Ahead Recipes that Will Change your Menu Planning via Clean Mama


Menu Planning : Family Favorites Free Printable

Family Favorites Free Printable - Clean Mama

One of my best tips and tricks for menu planning is to keep a running list of favorite recipes on hand in my recipe binder.  Yes, it’s easy to recall favorite recipes but sometimes when menu planning it’s hard to come up with winner-dinners.  I’m not saying that every night you need to knock it out of the park but it’s nice to have a list of favorite recipes to rely on for menu planning.

As part of the Menu Planning Mini Challenge I have this free printable for you – it’s part of the Everyday Menu Planning Kit in my shop here.  Print it out, make a list of favorites and next time you are stumped on what to make for dinner or plan for the next week, grab your list and choose a couple winners.

Free Printable - Family Favorites - Clean Mama

Download your FREE Family Favorites printable here!

If you like this free printable – here are 2 more free printables that match!

Make Ahead Meals

What’s for Dinner? Weekly Menu Planner

And a handful of menu planning posts I think you’ll love….

Menu Planning 101 - How to Get Dinner on the Table with Ease via Clean Mama

Customize Your Make Ahead Grilling and Get Together Menu via Clean Mama

How to Organize Cookbooks for Better Menu Planning via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - 7 Time Saving Meals for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - Take 2 - 7 Time Saving Recipes for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

How to Create a Recipe Binder System that Works via Clean Mama

8 Make-Ahead Recipes that Will Change your Menu Planning via Clean Mama


Quick Tip : Salad on Mondays

Quick Menu Planning Tip - Salad on Mondays - Clean Mama

Today I have a quick menu planning tip that I’ve been implementing for probably close to a year.  It’s nothing revolutionary, but it saves me time in the kitchen, uses up leftovers, and is a really simple way to get a quick supper on the table.

Salad on Mondays

The concept is simple – use up leftovers from the weekend, make a healthy salad for supper, and it’s quick and easy.

Here’s what I always use:

  • salad mix – pre-washed or this blend
  • grilled leftovers – use up that lone chicken breast or steak leftover from the weekend
  • veggies – tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, grilled corn, mushrooms….
  • cheese – I either grate some or use up leftovers from the weekend (sliced, crumbled, shredded)

And then if any of these items are in the refrigerator, they get chopped up and get tossed in too:

  • lunch meat – if there’s any in the fridge I slice it up and toss it in
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • bacon

Add dressing – I either make a quick oil and vinegar or use a favorite ranch dressing.  

That’s it!  This concept could be used any night of the week – give it a whirl, dinner on the table in under 10 minutes on a Monday night is a big win in our house!

What if you have littles that won’t eat salad?

Put the components on a plate (minus the lettuce) and give them a little bit of dressing to dip the salad fixings in – easy peasy and a bit of a novelty so kids like it 🙂



Simple Salad Hack : Chopped Salad

Simple Salad Hack - Chopped Salad - Clean MamaI’ve got a great salad hack for you today that I know you’ll love (if you like salads or are trying to eat more of them).  Even our kids love this salad mix and it’s easy to prepare ahead and even easier to get a nutritious dinner and salad on the table.  Here’s how I use this DIY salad mix:

  • Prep ahead for 2-3 nights of side salads – wash and dry greens and veggies and put in a bag with a paper towel to absorb any moisture.
  • Put dressing and other ingredients in the bottom of a mason jar and put the greens on top.  Shake when ready to eat – instant lunch.
  • Dinner salad – add a protein and a couple other ingredients like tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers, nuts, and favorite dressing.  Our favorite salad?  Barbecue chicken and ranch dressing with cheddar cheese – yum!

Here’s how to make your own chopped salad mix at home – you just need a couple ingredients and about 15 minutes to wash and cut your veggies.  I use baby kale and baby romaine because it’s smaller and has a good texture that my kids will eat.  I buy pre-washed lettuce and organic produce when I can – that’s just my preference because it’s quick and easy.  Feel free to adapt and change to fit your taste!

Chopped Salad Ingredients


  • red cabbage
  • green cabbage
  • green onions
  • baby kale
  • baby romaine
  • carrots – I use the pre-shredded variety

Prep your greens – this is what I do for 2-3 days of salads for our family of 5:

  1. Wash and cut up or shred in food processor, half a head of each cabbage (keep the other half in the fridge for later in the week).
    Chop Ingredients - Clean Mama
  2. Wash and cut up 3-5 green onions.  If you’re not into onions, leave them out.
  3. Chop about 3 ounces each of pre-washed baby kale and romaine.  I use a food prep scissors to make this really quick and easy.
    Chopped Salad - Clean Mama
  4. Add about a cup of shredded or chopped carrots.
    Chopped Salad - Clean Mama
  5. Combine ingredients and portion out enough for dinner that night and then pre-portion any remaining for lunches and dinner for the next 2-3 days.  I use zip top bags with a paper towel in it to absorb moisture for a larger amount and canning jars for individual lunch servings.

Store Chopped Salad - Clean Mama

I love menu planning and looking for ways to make dinner a little easier.

Here’s a FREE printable just for you:



Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip – The Perfect Appetizer

Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip - Clean Mama

My littlest kiddo and I were at Costco a month or so ago and we tasted a sample dip that was so delicious – I made some changes (less hot sauce, unhealthy no canned chicken, different cheese…) and came up with this dip.  I’m telling you – this is the PERFECT party dip and appetizer – everyone loves it, even my non-hot sauce eating hubby.  Make this for your next get together – it’s super easy and a party pleaser!  You can thank me later 🙂

Ingredients for Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip - Clean Mama

Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped finely  (I use rotisserie chicken)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix ingredients together and spread into an 8×10 inch oven safe casserole dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until browned slightly and bubbling.  Serve with crackers, pretzels, tortilla chips, bread – this dip goes with anything!  Serves as one fantastic appetizer for 8-12+ people when served with other appetizers.

Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip baked - Clean Mama



Save Time : Make-Ahead Baking Mixes

How to Turn a Recipe Into a Baking Mix main via Clean Mama

I love baking but sometimes I like things to come together a little more quickly so I will pre-mix baking mixes that I can throw together in a hurry.  I find that the key to making baking mixes WORK for me is to mix up a couple ahead of time so I have a handful of baking options ready to go.  Make-ahead baking mixes are perfect for this time of the year – get a jump on your holiday ‘baking’ by pre-mixing some ingredients now.

How to Turn a Recipe Into a Baking Mix via Clean Mama

Baked Goods that work well for Make-Ahead Mixes:

  • muffins
  • quick breads
  • scones
  • pancakes
  • waffles
  • biscuits
  • cookies
  • brownies


Put Zip Top Bag in Large Measuring Cup to Easily Combine the Baking Mix via Clean Mama

Curious how you can turn just about any baked good recipe into a baking mix?  It’s so easy!

  • Simply choose your favorite recipe and read it over to make sure it can be broken down into dry and wet ingredients.
  • LABEL a zip top bag with the recipe title, the date, the wet ingredients you’ll need to add later – put specifics on it so you don’t need to grab the cookbook to bake the mix.  Add baking instructions like bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
  • Gather the DRY ingredients and portion them into the zip top bag.  As long as you are mixing up the mix, portion out 2-3 bags of the recipe so you can make the baked good more than once.
  • Press out the air and seal the bag.  Just about any dry baking mix will easily keep in your freezer for up to 6 months.
  • Ready to bake?  Let the mix come to room temperature on a kitchen counter.
  • Use a whisk to blend/fluff up the dry ingredients.
  • Mix in the wet ingredients and bake as the recipe directs.

How to Make a Baking Mix via Clean Mama


You can take the baking mix to a different level and mix up a large batch of an all-purpose baking mix (think Bisquick) and keep that in your pantry or freezer to use for pancakes, biscuits, waffles, scones, etc.

I like this mix from King Arthur Flour – there are so many variations, you can really make this fit just about any diet or taste.

If you like this post, you’ll love the make-ahead cookie tip in this post!

Cookie Dough Tip Close-Up via Clean Mama


What’s for Dinner – FREE Printable

What's For Dinner FREE Printable main via Clean Mama

It’s the never-ending question in homes around the world – ‘what’s for dinner?’.  With all the menu planning lately I thought a free printable might be a fun way to help you with your menu planning too!

Use it on a clipboard, in your homekeeping notebook, or put it in a frame and use a dry erase marker.  Doing a little menu planning goes a long way to a more organized week in our home and I hope it’s helpful for you too!

What's For Dinner FREE Printable via Clean Mama

Go here to grab your FREE What’s for Dinner? printable!

(Please note: You’ll need to put the printable in your cart and checkout – it’s still FREE – once you create an account it will save any free printables and you can come back and access them anytime. Upon checkout you’ll see the link for the free printable AND it will also be emailed to you automatically!)

Interested in other posts about menu planning and make ahead cooking?  Go here to see other posts!

Clean Mama's Everyday Menu Planning Kit Clean Mama Printables

This FREE printable coordinates perfectly with my Everyday Menu Planning Kit in my shop.  It’s a great addition to the kit or use it by itself – there is a Recipes to Try List and a Family Favorites List in the same format as this free printable. You can see the entire Everyday Line here in my shop.


Make Ahead Cooking : Ground Turkey 3 Ways

Ground Turkey 3 Ways with Printable Guide via Clean mama

Make ahead cooking and bulk cooking is a must for getting dinner on the table in our home.  One of my favorite methods is to figure out a couple recipes that can be made semi-simultaneously in an hour or so.  Ground turkey 3 ways is just that – three basic components with simple ingredients that create a handful of meals to stock the freezer.

Simply follow these step-by-step directions and you’ll have made three different types of turkey meals for the  for at least 6-8 meals for 4-6 people in the freezer in about an hour!  (Don’t worry – I have a step-by-step printable guide at the end of the post for you!)

Start with these ingredients:

  • about six pounds of ground turkey – divided in half (I used a 6+ pound package of 93% lean ground turkey from Costco)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepperBrown and Season Ground Turkey - via Clean Mama


Scramble half of the ground turkey with garlic, salt and pepper – cook thoroughly.  TIP:  use a potato masher to stir and mash the ground turkey as you are cooking it.

Drain any liquid.

Take out half of the cooked ground meat and place in a freezer safe container or bag. Allow to cool completely before putting in the freezer. This is your all-purpose ground turkey mixture – use in tacos, pasta sauce, chili, burritos, burrito bowls, etc.

Simple Turkey Lasagna via Clean Mama


Gather ingredients:

  • about a pound and a half cooked ground turkey – this is what you have left in your pan
  • 1 jar red sauce
  • 1 jar white sauce
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 30 oz. ricotta cheese
  • no-bake lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese and 1 package (12 slices) sliced provolone cheese
  • parmesan cheese

Taste the cooked meat and add salt and pepper and Italian seasonings if necessary. Add white and red sauce to leftover meat in saucepan. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

Combine ¼ – ½ cup pesto with 30 ounces ricotta cheese.

Use 2 baking dishes – I used a 9×13 pan and an 8×8 baking pan – add sauce to bottom of each pan. Layer noodles, ricotta/pesto, grated cheese and repeat until all ingredients are used up. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on the top.   Add plastic wrap and foil to seal; label and freeze.

Baked Turkey Meatballs via Clean Mama


Gather ingredients:

  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • ¾ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dry parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined, but don’t overmix.

STEP 10:
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

STEP 11:
Line 2-3 baking sheets with foil and parchment paper – spray with cooking spray.

STEP 12:
Scoop with a small scoop or use a tablespoon and form into balls with your hand.

STEP 13:
Place turkey meatballs on baking sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

STEP 14:
Cool thoroughly and place in 2-3 zip top bags and freeze until needed. I like to put the meatballs in barbecue sauce and serve as an appetizer or as an entrée with mashed potatoes or a meal with pasta sauce. You can also make a cream sauce and make it Swedish meatball style. The options are endless!

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.21.41 PM

Go here to grab your 2 page FREE step-by-step guide for making ground turkey 3 ways.

(Please note: You’ll need to put the printable in your cart and checkout – it’s still FREE – once you create an account it will save any free printables and you can come back and access them anytime. Upon checkout you’ll see the link for the free printable AND it will also be emailed to you automatically!)

Add these make ahead meals to a quiet afternoon, evening, or weekend afternoon – the small amount of time invested is totally worth it!

Interested in other posts about menu planning and make ahead cooking?  Go here to see other posts!

Ground Turkey 3 Ways via Clean mama


Game Changing Make-Ahead Cookie Tip

So…I can’t take credit for this tip but I will give credit to my sister’s friend Tiff for this awesome tip.  Tip is being used with permission 🙂 .

Want to be the mom with the cookies fresh from the oven when the kids grace the threshold?  Want to bring cookies to a friend’s house but don’t want to make them ahead of time?  Want to get a jumpstart on those Christmas cookies – start now!  Or how about just for those days when you want one or two cookies fresh from the oven and don’t want to make a whole batch?  This tip has you covered for all of those instances and probably some more.  Best thing about this tip?  I’m pretty sure you can use this tip/technique for any drop cookie in your repertoire.Game Changing Make-Ahead Cookie Tip via Clean MamaReady for the tip?  Of course you are!

Start by making your favorite batch of drop cookie – I used my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Prep via Clean Mama

The Best Make Ahead Cookie Tip:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough via Clean Mama

Instead of dropping the cookies on a cookie sheet you’re going to scoop the dough into a 1 gallon zip top bag and freeze it.

Put Dough in a Zip Top Bag via Clean Mama

Press out the air, seal the bag, and flatten the dough into a square disc.

Squish Dough Into a Zip Top Bag via Clean Mama

Label and freeze – keep in your freezer for one to two months.

Cut Coookie Dough Out of Bag via Clean Mama

When you are ready to bake the cookies, take the out of the bag and put on a cutting board.  Do this when it’s slightly frozen – it’s easier to cut and remove from the bag.  Using a large knife, cut the dough into the squares.

Cookie Dough Tip Close-Up via Clean MamaIf the recipe calls for 24 cookies, cut the dough into 24 squares, or make them cookies smaller or larger to suit your needs.

Place Dough On Parchment-Lined Cookie Sheet via Clean Mama

Place the cookie ‘pucks’ on baking sheets and bake in your preheated oven for the allotted time.  (I let them sit for a few minutes to thaw before putting them in the oven, but I have found that they bake better when they are still very cold.)  The cookies come out perfectly round and beautiful EVERY time!

Bake as Usual via Clean Mama

Enjoy!  Don’t you just love this tip?

Game Changing Cookie Tip via Clean Mama copy


4 Ways to Add Structure to Your Menu Plan

4 Ways to Add Structure to Your Menu Plan via Clean Mama

Eager to try out menu planning after reading last week’s post and looking for some ideas to get you started? These are four of my favorite methods to make meal planning, prep, and dinner a little easier. Choose one idea to implement, or all four. Either way, you are guaranteed to make dinner time run all that much more smoothly.

Double Duty Dinners:

One of my favorite short cut methods to menu planning is double duty dinner planning. Essentially, this is utilizing a cook once, use twice mentality.  This also works well when I double a recipe and freeze one meal and eat one.  I use the frozen meal on those nights when all I have is 5 minutes to get something in the oven.  Thinking ahead is the key to double duty dinners – it doesn’t take that much more effort to cut and prep extra vegetables, cook two portions of meat or prepare double the amount of ingredients that would go in to another night’s dinner.  Here are some of my favorite ideas for utilizing this method for meal planning:

  • Roast two chickens and have one for dinner one night, and shred or cut up the remaining one for dinner the next night. Perfect for salads, shredded meat sandwiches, tacos and any other recipe calling for cooked chicken.
  • Brown up a double batch of ground turkey or beef. Perfect for spaghetti or tacos one night and anything calling for ground meat the next. I also like to have browned ground meat in the freezer for those last minute dinners ready to go.
  • It sounds fancy but it’s not: mirepoix. This is the oh-so-common blend of onions, carrots and celery that goes perfectly in soups, pot pies and stews. (Hello, crock pot!) I do a combo of two parts onion, one part carrot and one part celery. One night might be chicken pot pie while minestrone is on the menu later in the week. This combo can also be frozen.
  • Pork tenderloin is also ideal for double duty dinners. It can easily be cooked in the crockpot or oven and is simple to prepare without a lot of fuss. I love pork tenderloin one night followed by sandwiches or a stir fry another night.

Slow Cooker Dinners:

The humble slow cooker is every person’s savior at the end of a busy day. With some planning the night before or the morning of, it’s easy to put all the ingredients in in the morning to be welcomed by a fantastic meal in the evening. We enjoy slow cooker meals on those days where my afternoon meal prep is limited due to activities or not being home.  Here are some of my favorite slow cooker meals – perfect for busy nights or lazy weekends.

15 Minute Dinners:

There are days or even weeks where you may not have a lot of time for meal prep before dinner. I like to have some super fast yet healthier options that don’t require fast food runs, boxed or canned food or unhealthy meals. For us, these meals are some of the kids’ favorites- go figure!  Here are some of our go-to ideas:

SALAD BAR: We utilize this meal when our produce drawer is getting a little too full of random vegetables or we have leftover chicken from another nights meal. I love using a box or bag of greens and simply wash and prep all those veggies that are just hanging out. I put everything out in bowls for everyone to make their own salad, making sure that there is protein included somewhere like meat or cheese to fill up those tummies.  Burrito bowls are another fun option if you have some leftover browned, ground meat, add some beans to stretch it out and turn it into a yummy burrito bowl.

SANDWICH BAR: This is similar to our salad bar routine where everyone can put together their own sandwich. The options are plentiful – lunch meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers etc.  If you are feeling extra fancy, try a panini bar with your favorite spreads like pesto or tapenade.

STIR FRY:  Stir fries are a quick, easy and one dish kind of meal. All a stir fry needs is a sauce, protein, veggies, and rice or noodles (we love buckwheat Soba noodles at our house).  Check out this post with all sorts of stir fry prep and freeze ideas and a FREE printable.

Themed Dinners:

If you or your family are fans of predictability, theme meal planning may be perfect for you. Using this method, each day of the week is assigned a theme and dinner is planned accordingly. For example, Monday may be pasta night, Tuesday salad night and Wednesday pizza night. Looking for some themes to get you started?  Here are a couple ideas for inspiration:

  • Meatless
  • Italian
  • Slow cooker
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Pizza
  • Grilled
  • Salad – just about every Monday is salad night at my house
  • Soup/Stew
  • Casserole or hot dish
  • Leftovers
  • Mexican
  • Kids Night (kids plan and prep or kids choice)
  • Sandwich
  • Chicken

 Have a tip or idea to add?  Leave it in the comments!


Menu Planning 101

Menu Planning 101 - How to Get Dinner on the Table with Ease via Clean Mama

If you’re feeling like everything just ramped up and life just got really busy in a hurry, you’re not alone.  The fall can be a really busy time and if your house is anything like mine, getting dinner on the table in a hurry is a must.  Over the next month or two I’m going to be sharing some time saving menu planning tips, tricks and shortcuts that I think you’ll really enjoy.  I love menu planning and interestingly enough my kids really enjoy knowing ‘what’s for dinner’ before 5pm and if I’m being honest, so do I.

First things first, let’s just state that every home is different, every schedule is different, and expectations are different.  If you’ve never planned meals ahead, this is probably going to sound complicated, overwhelming, and not worth it.  If you’ve planned your menu before you get it – it’s worth the effort.  Today I’m going to share some basics and a place to start – and just do that, start!

Gather the supplies that you think will be helpful – here are a couple ideas to get you started.  This how I menu plan, with ALL my menu planning tools at the ready.  I feel a little more inspired when I gather a couple cookbooks and a little inspiration.  Maybe you just want to grab a scrap of paper and a cookbook and keep it at that – you can menu plan without the hoopla, but it does make it a little more fun.

Here’s what you need to get started menu planning:

  • A PLACE TO WRITE THE MENU ON – do you want to plan week by week or would you rather plan a whole month at a time?  There are so many options from your wall calendar, a tablet, a notepad, a piece of paper on the refrigerator, a chalkboard, a dry erase board, a picture frame with a dry erase marker….
  • INSPIRATION – where do you find your recipes?  Get those things out (cookbooks, websites)- if you’re planning out a month at a time, you’ll probably need a couple more resources.  Personally, I use Pinterest, and a couple other tried and true websites for recipes, but if there’s one that I want to try, I’ll print it out and place it in the ‘recipes to try’ section of my recipe binder.  If it’s a keeper, it will get moved to the appropriate category in the binder.
  • TRIED AND TRUE RECIPES – trying out new recipes all the time is not an efficient use of time or resources.  Every once in a while I’ll cook exclusively from a new cookbook for a week or so, but that’s when we don’t have anything going on in the afternoons/evenings.  Have favorite recipes that come together in a snap AND your family enjoys – I keep these in my recipe binder.
  • GAME PLAN – decide WHEN you’ll do your menu planning, keep it simple, and make a grocery list at the same time.  Doing these simple things will ensure success for your menu planning.  If you need to have each night revolve around a theme, (meatless Monday, new recipe Tuesday, kids’ choice Wednesday, etc.) set a couple themes and get started.
  • COOK ONCE – EAT TWICE – this is my saving grace in the kitchen and I’ll be talking about this quite a bit during the series.  I am all about simplifying the time spent in the kitchen and try to spend 30 minutes getting dinner on the table.  That said, if I am cooking once, I might as well double the recipe and freeze some, or make enough for leftovers the next night.  Put this right into your menu plan – it’ll save you a ton of time and energy – I promise!

I hope that gives you a starting point and inspires your to put a little effort into planning your menu – it’ll pay off in time spent around the table with your family, money saved because food isn’t wasted, and energy trying to figure out ‘what’s for dinner’.  In case you’re curious, I menu plan on Fridays and do the grocery shopping then as well.  I have to pick up a couple things during the week, but get the majority of the shopping taken care of on Fridays (catch-all day for my cleaning routine).

Interested in more?  Here are some menu planning posts and links to some of the products shown:

I LOVE cookbooks and will never get rid of them in lieu of going paperless – I only keep the ones that are in the rotation, but they do get a lot of use and for me, it makes cooking and planning meals more enjoyable.  If you’re of that same mindset, you’ll probably like this post:

How to Organize Cookbooks for Better Menu Planning via Clean Mama

How to Organize Cookbooks for Better Menu Planning

I find that the easiest way to keep track of meals that I want to make is to bookmark them or pin them on my Pinterest account, but most of the time I’ll print the recipe from the site and put it straight into my Recipe Binder.  If I am putting together a menu for a get-together I’ll gather the recipes I need and quickly put together the menu and shopping list.  I love make-ahead meals (I even have a section for it in my binder) because they allow for the prepping to take place ahead of time.

How to Create a Recipe Binder System that Works via Clean Mama

 Need some ideas for menu planning?  Just click on the images below!

Busy Week Menu Plan - 7 Time Saving Meals for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - Take 2 - 7 Time Saving Recipes for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Quick Prep Meal Starters for the Freezer + Free Printable List via Clean Mama

If you need a little help with your menu planning, I have an adorable menu planning notepad in my shop and menu planning kits as well. Click on the images below to see them in my shop.

Menu Plan for the Week - Full - Clean Mama

On the Menu Clean Mama Printables

Clean Mama's Recipe Binder Kit via Clean Mama


Make-Ahead Grilling and Get-Together Menu Plan

Make Ahead Grilling and Get Together Menu via Clean Mama
With spring finally on our doorstep here in the Midwest and summer knocking on our door, it’s time to start thinking ahead to all the holidays, seasonal cookouts, barbecues and get-togethers. I enjoy doing as much as possible ahead of time so that I can enjoy time with family and friends versus spending it all in the kitchen. Grilling is perfect for taking the mess out of the kitchen and keeping your kitchen clean. It also lends itself to some wonderful food!
Below you will find all sorts of delicious recipes and links for tried and true food that can easily be prepared ahead of time so that you can relax a bit and engage in some good conversation and fellowship instead of being MIA working on all the food prep. Take a peek at some of these recipes for your next get-together.  Choose a main dish or two, add a couple sides, and a dessert and you’ll all be set for meal and Happy grilling and get-togethers!
Customize Your Make Ahead Grilling and Get Together Menu via Clean Mama




I find that the easiest way to keep track of meals that I want to make is to bookmark them or pin them on my Pinterest account, but most of the time I’ll print the recipe from the site and put it straight into my Recipe Binder.  If I am putting together a menu for a get together I’ll gather the recipes I need and quick put together the menu and shopping list.  I love make-ahead meals (I even have a section for it in my binder) because they allow for the prepping to take place ahead of time.

How to Create a Recipe Binder System that Works via Clean Mama

 Need some ideas for menu planning?  Just click on the images below!

Busy Week Menu Plan - 7 Time Saving Meals for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - Take 2 - 7 Time Saving Recipes for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Quick Prep Meal Starters for the Freezer + Free Printable List via Clean Mama


Overwhelmed? Find success in your homekeeping with my latest book, Simply Clean! Dismiss