As a working mom, I’m always on a lookout for meal planning hacks and tips. Over the years, I have learned and adapted a few things that make my meal planning more efficient and effective.
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How will Meal Planning Help You?
In general, planning is the very first step of any process. Whether you are working on a project at work or trying to get something done at home. And meals are no different.
Did you ever come home after a long day at work and the first thing you have to figure out is what’s for dinner?
If you don’t have a plan in place, you immediately get stressed out and overwhelmed. What can I quickly put together? Do I have all the ingredients? Will my kids actually eat that? All those questions are immediately cluttering your mind.
Having that meal plan will eliminate all that stress from your already busy life. You will know exactly what’s for dinner, you will know that all the ingredients are in the fridge and pantry, and you might even have a few things prepped to get you started.
And that is totally worth spending some time on meal planning and prepping ahead of time.
How Do I Plan Meals for the Week?
The idea for meal planning is to create a list of dinner (or even lunch and breakfast) ideas for the upcoming week. You can either assign a specific meal to a specific day or you can list the meal ideas for the next week, but you can pick and choose from that list as the week progresses.
The idea behind menu planning is to ensure that you have the all the items on hand in order to make that particular meal and that you eliminate the stress of coming up what you will make for dinner an hour before you have to start. Therefore, even if you don’t assign a specific meal to a day of the week, you will have a very limited number of meals to choose from and you will have everything you need on hand.
Look at Your Calendar
The very first thing you should do when planning your meals for the upcoming week is to look at your calendar. The meals that you plan need to fit into your days.
For the very busy evenings you want to plan meals that are quick to make. And on evenings where you have some extra time you can spend some extra time preparing the meal.
I have made the mistake many times before, where I plan our dinners but then end up not making them because what I had in mind does not fit into an evening full of after school activities and homework.
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the next step is to find recipes for the upcoming week. If you don’t have a recipe binder yet, I highly recommend that you create one. It’s a huge time saver! I made mine a few months ago after taking the Meal Prep & Planning Made Easy Course.
Instead of spending hours looking through Pinterest or through all my cookbooks, I created a binder with our favorite recipes. I decluttered all but 2 of my cookbooks and life got much easier. When there is a new recipe that you are trying out, print it out and stick it into a binder. It’s that simple.
Make sure that you pick recipes that fit into the schedule for the upcoming week. For those busy nights, find slow cooker or InstaPot recipes. Another option is pulling out a freezer meal that you have previously prepared (we will discuss this a little more down below).
The next step of meal planning is to create a grocery list. Double check your fridge, freezer, and pantry before you put an item on the list. Make sure you remember to add any snacks and staples for breakfast and lunch options. I also suggest shopping on specific days of the week (hint: another routine).
The best way to save time and money is go do your grocery shopping online. Most of the stores are offering this option now and it it has a lot of benefits.
- Pick-up is FREE
- Delivery is usually available for a small fee
- If you download the store app, you can check in when you are on your way and your groceries will be on the way to your car within a couple of minutes of your arrival at the store.
- You don’t have to get out of your car. Just open your truck and the associate will load your groceries.
- If the item that you have selected is out of stock they will substitute it for you. You will be informed about the substitution when you arrive at the pick up and you have an option to reject it. And a little bonus: the substitution is always in your favor with respect to price. If they substitute your item with a more expensive one, you still pay the original price
- You save money! Did you ever go to a store with a list and fill your cart up with things that are not on it? This is really hard to do when you shop online!
- You save time! Once you shop one time using their online services, the items that you bought are saved as your favorites. So it is extremely easy to add them to your cart on the second visit.
I use Walmart to purchase majority of my pantry, dairy products, frozen foods, and household items. I also buy fresh produce but since my Walmart does not have an extensive selection of fruit and veggies, I visit a local store to supplement.
RELATED: How to Prepare for the Week Ahead
Simplify Your Meals
As a working mom, you probably have a very limited time to actually cook. After work, you likely have to pick up your kids from school or daycare. Maybe you have some evening activities scheduled for your kids. Plus there is homework, house chores, bath time, and getting ready for the next day. In other words, you are very busy. So why not simplify your dinner making? Here are some ways to simplify your meals:
Make a use out of your crockpots! You can prep everything in the morning, or even the night before (and store it in the fridge) and have your dinner cooking while you are working. I love to use crockpots on the days that are the busiest. That way when we get home we can start eating right away. I love this one because you can program it for a specific length of time.
Another option to use during your meal planning is to prepare some freezer dinners on the weekend. That way you will not have to worry about prep work during the week. It will significant decrease the time you have to spend in the kitchen. There area plenty of freezer dinner ideas on Pinterest.
Another great option to create freezer meals is to double the recipe when you cook dinner. You use half to dinner that night and the other half goes into the freezer to be used on another night. This option will save you a lot of time.
Meal Delivery Services
You can also try some of the meal delivery services. Right now there are so many to choose from. I personally use HelloFresh. I get it delivered once or twice a month. It really helps me out because I have 3 less dinners to think about and dinner is usually ready within 30 minutes. There are other meal companies like Blue Apron and Home Chef.
Weekend Meal Prep for Busy Moms
Another meal planning hack is to dedicate some time on the weekend to prepare as much food for the upcoming week. How much meal prep you do on the weekend is totally up to you. But doing any of those tasks ahead of a busy week will make things go much more efficiently during the week nights:
- Get your groceries
- Cut up fruits and veggies
- Prepare lunch options
- Make breakfast items
- Prep freezer meals
- Make sure your pantry is stacked with staples for kids lunches
Hope you got some ideas on how to make your meal planning simpler and more efficient. Do you have any additional tips? Share them below!