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.
The key to success starts with a good plan and in this case it starts with a menu plan. It’s best if you pick a day of the week when you can plan your meals for the following week or weeks. I personally prefer to meal plan for two weeks. Why? Because I get paid every two weeks to it gets easier to meal plan and grocery shop in a way that aligns with the two-week grocery budget. But pick an interval that works for you.
Your menu plan can have some flexibility, if that is what you prefer. 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.
As I have mentioned in a few of my posts, routines are a huge time saver and productivity boosters, especially for working moms. Check out my blog about 4 Daily Routines Everyone Should Have. You want to get into a habit of menu planning so it becomes an automatic task that you.
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. I will admit, I was very hesitant to try it out. Will they pick the right things? How about money? Will I spend more money than I would in the store? And will they pick the right items?
As it turns out, all those worries were completely off base. I started using Walmart Grocery Pick-up about 6 months ago and never looked back.
Benefits of grocery pick-up at Walmart:
- Pick-up is completely FREE if you spend at least $30
- If you download their 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 if you don’t want to. Just open your truck and the associate will load your groceries. Or you can get out and help. It’s totally up to you.
- 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.
- They do not accept tips.
- Customer service if absolutely great.
- 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.
You can also have your groceries delivered! And more and more stores are entering the pick-up and/or delivery market so look into it in the stores you typically shop.
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.
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.
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 every other week. Sometimes less often, depending on my schedule. 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.
If you decide to sign-up for any of these services, make sure you use Ebates. When I checked today, they were offering 10% cash back for all three of them.
Two for One
There are a couple of way to simplify your dinners by making one meal last you for two days. You can either double the recepie and eat the same dinner two nights that week. Another way is to use the same base for two different meals. For example, I prepare ground beef for tacos one night and use the leftover meat to make chili another night.
Another meal planning hack is to dedicate some time on the weekend to prepare as much food for the upcoming week. I already mentioned that I do my grocery shopping on the weekend. But the weekend prep also includes cutting up any veggies, preparing salads in mason jars for lunches during the week, washing and frui, baking any breakfast items, and making freezer meals.
I also use the weekend to re-stock my pantry with any staples that we use for school lunches – things like apple sauce and granola bars. That way it is easy to grab when I prep lunches during the week.
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!