Tired of stressing over last minute meals? I understand! Here are my top 5 meal planning tips for busy moms.
“Set your intentions for the week ahead. People who plan, achieve.” ~Unknown
Growing up, I always enjoyed cooking. I have a lot of memories of being in the kitchen cooking with my mom, experimenting with different recipes. After college I began collecting cookbooks and trying new things. Let’s face it, I had all the time in the world to explore new recipes, make a run to the grocery store, and spend time in the kitchen cooking. And I loved it!
Fast forward a few years and as a wife and busy working mom of two littles, life looks a lot different. Suddenly I found myself making multiple trips to the grocery store each week, preparing quick convenience foods, and/or grabbing dinner out way more often than I liked. Sound familiar mommas? It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I had to get a meal planning system in place if I wanted to save time, money, and feed my family good, nutritious meals.
Since I started scheduling time to meal plan, I’m much calmer knowing I’m prepared for the week ahead. When simple meals are planned, groceries are bought, and food is prepped (that’s a whole other blog post in itself), I’m ready to tackle Monday. Even better? It allows more time in the evenings for what really matters to me – my family.
Here are my Top 5 Meal Planning Tips:
- Schedule time to make your plan. Every two weeks (usually on a Saturday morning while I’m drinking coffee) I sit down at the kitchen table and make a meal plan. I like to plan for two weeks at a time, but others plan weekly or even monthly. It doesn’t really matter, menu planning is all about what works best and makes meal preparation easiest for you.
- Check the calendar. First, I review our schedules to determine how many meals I need to plan for. Using a simple meal planning tool, I mark off any nights that we won’t be home for dinner and make a note of any meals that will result in leftovers. I also look to see if there are any special events coming up in case I need to add an item or two to my grocery list. Looking ahead just helps me stay on top of things and causes less stress and last minute trips during the week. (Side note: My children are in child care so breakfast and lunch is provided for them. That saves a TON of planning time for me during this season of life! I usually keep a few simple things on hand for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, then put more planning time into dinner, the one meal we actually sit down and enjoy together as a family.) On the weekends, I allow some flexibility. We usually get takeout on Friday or Saturday night and enjoy lunch at my parents’ house after church on Sundays.
- Check the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. After I see how many meals I need to plan, I head to the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to check out what I already have on hand that can be used. I usually keep a good stock of staples like pasta, canned vegetables, and since my husband is a hunter we typically have deer meat in the freezer.
- Check weekly grocery ads. Next I review grocery ads to see what is on sale and how I might be able to work those items into our meal plan. For example, if I see that strawberries are on sale, I’ll use those for snacks or in a strawberry spinach salad for lunch. This step not only saves us money, but also gives me good ideas of what to purchase that week.
- Make a plan and a grocery list. Then it’s time to plan our meals and make a grocery list. I’ve found it helpful to keep a list of family favorites, which is easy to refer to. I don’t usually incorporate more than 1 or 2 new recipes a week. It’s just easier that way. For any new meals, I’ll make a note of where I found the recipe, so I don’t have to search through cookbooks or search my Pinterest boards when it’s time to cook. I also make sure there is something from each of the food groups listed in our meal plan (think MyPlate!). This is the easiest way for me to make sure I’m feeding our family as nutritiously as possible. Lastly, I post the menu on the fridge or keep it in my planner to help me stay on track.
If you’re ready to get started meal planning, download my FREE meal planning template!
What’s your favorite meal planning tip? Share with me on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to know!