Grab your pen and grocery list, because this week’s meal plan is ready. For my family, we’ve hit the beginning of back to school season, and mama is already tired. If you’re not already here, you will be soon!  Let’s just say, spending extended time in the kitchen isn’t really on my to-do list this week.

So, I’ve found 5 easy dinners you hardly have to think about to plan, but your family will still love. Win, right?

Good luck with everything you’re juggling, parents. We know it’s a lot.

At top: baked ziti at Jessica Gavin, copycat BigMac recipe at Amanda Cooks & Styles

Related: 5 super easy dinners for nights when you’re really tired of cooking

Weekly meal plan: Air Fryer chicken thighs at Julie's Eats and Treats


These crispy Air Fryer chicken thighs at Julie’s Eats and Treats are a healthier — and budget-friendly — take on fried chicken. And, just 30 minutes start to finish in an Air Fryer! If you don’t have one, no worries; Julie has oven instructions too. She also offers a whole list of side dish ideas but you know, anything goes with fried chicken.

If you have extra chicken, it’s terrific later in the week, tossed with pasta, rolled in a sandwich wrap, or made into chicken salad for at-home school lunches.

Weekly meal plan: Copycat BigMacs at Amanda Cooks and Styles


This copycat BigMac recipe at Amanda Cooks & Styles looks ginormous in the photo, but it’s actually on a slider bun. Cute, right? You can satisfy that fast-food craving with a smaller sandwich and maybe a side salad instead of fries, while teens like mine can grab two or three at once to fuel that crazy metabolism they have. Since the entire recipe just takes 30 minutes, it’s probably faster than any drive-through. And better for you.


Weekly meal plan: Instant Pot carnitas at Good Noms Honey


Carnitas are my favorite way to do taco night, because it’s so hands-off and easy. This Instant Pot carnitas recipe at Good Noms Honey takes an hour in the Instant Pot, so plan accordingly. But in terms of hands-on time it’s no effort at all. Just shred the delicious pineapple-and-lime marinated pork for your tacos, let your family add their favorite toppings, and you’re done. Save leftovers for nachos or taco salad later in the week!

Related: 5 brilliant food bar ideas ideas for easy entertaining, if only right at home

Weekly meal plan: Baked Ziti at Jessica Gavin


I love a good make-ahead casserole dish during busy weeks, and this baked ziti recipe at Jessica Gavin is a great one. Prep it early in the day while the kids are doing their schoolwork (or naps, if you have little ones), then just throw it in the oven when you’re ready to eat. If you have vegetarians to feed, your can leave out the meat or use plant-based sausage or meatballs. In fact, in my mixed-diet family, I usually make two full dishes: one with vegan cheeses and meats, and one that follows the recipe.


For something easy but still summery and satisfying, I made the crab cake recipes from Cooking Light the other night, and I can’t wait to make them again! To make them extra easy and affordable, I used canned crab meat; I had low expectations for the meat, but wow, they were delicious. (But if you can get fresh, go for it!) I served mine with a green salad with some fun toppings, but you could do pasta, veggies, rice or couscous…whatever sounds good to you.


Weekly meal plan: Lemon glazed sugar cookies at I Heart Naptime

And Dessert!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been craving great desserts lately. Stress, maybe? So I’m planning to whip up a batch of these glazed lemon cookies at I Heart Naptime. The bright, lemony flavor just says summer to me, and could be great with some good vanilla ice cream after dinner. It’ll be a fun activity to do with the kids in the kitchen too, and hey, maybe we’ll even double the recipe and call that math class for the day.