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Time-saver Meal Planning Tactics for Busy Mums

The base of a healthy family diet is a balanced diet with real, home-made food. But is it realistic to expect healthy home-made food every day - even on weekdays - in our busy life?

Well, I provide you an example that 30 minutes a day should be enough to prepare a family dinner and a lunch for the next day from scratch.

Find a whole, one-week family meal plan with recipes below.

Take it, use it, copy it.

Slow cooker lamb stew - family recipe

I already wrote about the benefits of meal planning a couple of times earlier, now I would like to give you an example how it works in the real life and how can you save time for yourself.

As you know I do not like compromise and want real food even if the time is tight. Truly believe that the key is planning ahead. In reality, we do’not have more than 30 minutes to cook on a weekday evening. With careful planning, this 30 minutes should be enough to prepare a family dinner and a lunch for the next day.  In my example meal plan below the maximum time spent with food preparation and cooking is 20-30 minutes every evening – apart from the weekend – when we possibly have more time in the kitchen.

Other sources related with meal planning:

The 6 biggest mistakes in family meal planning

How to Master Meal planning?

I know that tons of meal plans are available online, but why is this one-week menu is so special?

Why is this one-week menu is special?

Because it’s

  • Family-friendly: all age group can enjoy them
  • Healthy and balanced
  • Clean: based on home-made fresh food without additives
  • Time-saver
  • Money-saver
  • Tasty
  • Varied

All these benefits in one meal plan – without compromises.

How is it possible?

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It is easy to put together a time-saver meal plan, there is no magic. However, I have to admit – it needs a little bit of practice and creativity. I share you the most important tips here, so you can start planning:


The best practice to make a time-saver family meal plan:

#1 Prepare what you can ahead when you have time (weekend)

#2 Plan quick but healthy food for the weekdays. Leave new, complicated and time-consuming recipes for the weekend.

#3 Make a plan for the meals – knowing how much time you need to prepare them. Do not forget to have a look at the family calendar to see what is planned for the day.

#4 Produce left-overs, cook double or triple batches and freeze.

#5 Use your freezer – with a little practice freezer can be your best ally. How to avoid freezer tasting meals, see my tips here: 7 top tips how to avoid “freezer”-tasting meals

#6 Use cook-once-eat-2/3 times recipes

#7 Make a shopping list and do your shopping ahead

#8 Use every tool/equipment what can save you time – like a slow cooker


Now, let’s see this in practice.

This is a one-week family meal plan. In this example, the week starts on Sunday (calculating with a Saturday weekly shopping) and ends on Saturday – but this can be adjusted to your family life and shopping habits.  I concentrated on the main meals now that needs more preparation/cooking time. It can be completed adding the breakfasts and snacks easily. (You can find plenty of breakfast ideas here: Breakfasts and snack ideas here: healthy snacks.

(Click on the picture to see it in full size)

Time-saver family meal plan in practice

The blank version of the Weekly Family Meal Planner used on the picture can be downloaded from here:


weekly_family_meal_planner (downloadable pdf file)


Lunch: Roast ham with boiled potatoes, glazed carrots and greens

Cooking time: 2-2,5 hours

The Sunday roast needs a more cooking time but this will give the base of three other meals during the week, so it worth it. Choose a big ham, as it should be enough for 3 meals for the whole family. It can be glazed, just use your favourite recipe. Double the amount of the side dishes too.

Dinner: Spaghetti with home-made tomato sauce and cheese

Cooking time: 15 minutes

The tomato sauce is really quick, ready in 15 minutes – by the time the pasta is cooked. This is a variable recipe and it’s worth to cook a triple batch. One will be the topping on the spaghetti, one will give the base of the chicken dish on Tuesday and one can be frozen for the following week.  Click here for the recipe: Easy and healthy pasta sauce – makes 3 meals (at least).

Next day lunch:

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Using the leftover meat from Sunday, it is easy to put together a healthy and filling salad for lunch. Just use green salad leaves, red bell peppers, spring onions and tinned brown lentil (drained) to create a base and add the finely sliced ham. Choose a light dressing – like one with vinegar and mustard.



Lunch: Ham with green salad and lentil

Cooking time: –

Dinner: Pan fried sea bass with potatoes and carrots

Cooking time: 10 minutes

While you warm up the side dishes, pan-fry the fish fillets. You can substitute sea bass with any other white fish in season.

Next day meal: Chicken breast in tomato sauce with chickpeas and wholemeal bread roll

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Pan fry the chicken breast, then add the tomato sauce and one tin of chickpeas (drained), cook for 2 minutes to bring the flavours together.



Lunch: Chicken breast in tomato sauce with chickpeas and wholemeal bread roll

Cooking time: –

Dinner: Black bean chilli with fresh sourdough bread

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Choose a simple and quick vegetable chilli recipe with bell peppers, black beans and sweetcorn. This dish will make 3 meals this week, so try to make a triple batch.

Next day lunch: Black bean chilli with wholemeal pitta

Cooking time: –



Lunch: Black bean chilli with wholemeal pitta

Cooking time: –

Dinner: Grilled ham slices topped with apple and cheese with brown rice

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Cook the brown rice. Pre-heat the grill. The last 3rd of the roast ham from Sunday should be sliced, placed on a baking tray and topped with apple slices and grated cheese. Grill until the meat is hot throughout and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Next day lunch: Falafel with green salad in wholemeal pitta

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Use falafel mix to make falafel balls quickly – my favourite is Al’Fez falafel mix. Just follow the instructions on the packaging: soak the mix in water for a few minutes, form little balls and shallow-fry them. Fill the wholemeal pita bread with spinach leaves (and/or green salad leaves) tomato slices and the falafel balls.

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Lunch: Falafel with green salad in wholemeal pitta

Cooking time: –

Dinner: Quick tapas bar

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Place the followings on small plates and let everyone help themselves: Sliced chorizo, (or parma ham), cheese (whatever kind of cheese you have: brie, cheddar, feta, mozzarella, cottage cheese), olives, pickled gherkins, boiled eggs, breadsticks or rye crunch bread, salad leaves, cooked beetroot

Next day lunch: Tuna sandwiches with cucumber and carrot sticks

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Make the tuna sandwiches using wholemeal bread (or left-over pitta bread). Filling: tinned tuna (drained), light soft cream cheese, mustard, lemon juice, tinned sweetcorn, seasoning. Cut the cucumber and the carrots into sticks.



Lunch: Tuna sandwiches with cucumber and carrot sticks

Cooking time: –

Dinner: Chilli and chorizo quesadillas with sour cream, avocado and green salad

Cooking time: 20 minutes

This recipe uses up the remaining black bean chilli. Try to get rid of the juice evaporating or simply sieving the chilli. Cut the avocados into small cubes and mix with green salad leaves adding some chopped fresh coriander leaves and the juice of one lime. Slice the chorizo or cut into small cubes. Place one wholemeal tortilla wrap in a heated pan, top with 2-3 tbsp vegetable chilli (try use as less liquid as possible) and scatter some of the chorizo cubes and grated cheese on top. Cover with another tortilla wrap and slowly heat it through until the cheese is melted. Turn around it over after 2-3 minutes and cook for a few minutes before moving it onto a plate. Repeat it with as remaining wraps (about 1 quesadilla per one adult person, 1/2 for children). Using a pizza cutter quarter the quesadillas and serve them with the salad on the side.



Lunch: red lentil and carrot soup with pumpkin scones

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Soup can be made while scones are baking in the oven (Preparation of the scones:15 minutes, baking time:15 minutes), so start with the scones. These pumpkin scones freeze well, so make a double batch and freeze them. Whenever you need them just place the frozen scones on a baking tray and warm up in the oven. They will taste like the freshly baked ones. 

The soup is a quick but very tasty creamed soup with red lentil and carrots, cooking time 17 minutes including peeling and chopping the veg. Make a double batch and freeze one for the following week.

The recipes are here: Red lentil and carrot soup and Pumpkin scones

Dinner: Sausages with braised red cabbage and swede mash

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Swede mash and the red cabbage side dishes can be doubled again and used at the Sunday lunch as sides. Swede is simply cooked swede and potatoes mashed with 1 tbsp butter and a splash of boiled milk. Red cabbage is braised with 1 tsp brown sugar 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Sausages can be pan fried, I prefer just putting them into the hot oven.

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