Practical Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms

Practical Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms

"While meal planning can help reduce stress for busy moms and dads, it’s also important to examine your work-life balance, especially if you think your stress has become chronic."

Realistic Meal Prep for Moms

Being a parent is a full-time job, and juggling household responsibilities, childcare, and work can make dinnertime seem like yet another chore on your list. Even more, domestic tasks like making dinner and cleaning the house too often fall on moms, leading many to feel more burned out than ever. Fortunately, meal prepping can be a game-changer, ensuring that your family enjoys healthy homemade dishes without the stress. 

Read on to explore some tips on realistic meal planning for moms and dads, and learn how to get the whole family involved.

How to Meal Prep as a Busy Mom

If you’re a busy mom, the first step you should take when it comes to meal prepping is figuring out where you can outsource. If you have a partner, make sure you’re both taking on your fair share of responsibilities, so neither of you feels resentful towards the other. Consider using meal planning apps and shared grocery lists and maybe even getting your groceries delivered. 

Meal planning also requires you to be efficient and organized. Purchase reusable containers with lids so you can store your prepped items neatly. You may also want to buy some time-saving tools like all-in-one veggie choppers, sheet pans, a large pot for one-pot meals, and freezer bags. Some appliances can also be handy when meal prepping, such as slow cookers, pressure cookers, and air fryers.

Set Aside Dedicated Time to Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Before you can start prepping, you have to come up with a plan. Designate a specific time each week to come up with healthy meal prep ideas. Whether it's Sunday morning or a quiet evening, a designated meal planning session ensures that you don't have to scramble throughout the week. Create a weekly menu that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day. This may seem like a lot of work all at once, but you’ll be glad you did it when the busy week starts up. Feel free to use some printable weekly meal planner sheets or an online meal planning tool, which may have some built-in suggestions or meal prep recipes.

Keep it Simple & Prepare a Shopping List

There’s no need to transform into Gordon Ramsey when it comes to planning your meals. Opt for simplicity instead. Choose easy-to-make, nutritious dishes that the whole family will love. And focus on including as many whole foods as possible and fewer processed or packaged foods. Once your weekly menu is ready, make a shopping list. Having a list streamlines your grocery shopping and prevents impulsive purchases. There are plenty of apps you could use here as well or you can opt for a simple grocery list you keep on your fridge.

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Batch Cooking & One-Pot Meals

After working all day and then rushing home to make dinner, the last thing you’ll want to do is wash dishes. To save time and minimize cleanup, focus on batch cooking and one-pot meals. Prepare large quantities of dishes like soups, stews, and casseroles that can be portioned and stored for multiple meals. One-pot meals not only reduce cooking time but also make for quick and easy cleanup. 

Plan for Leftovers

Always make too much. When you intentionally prepare extra servings for dinner, you wind up with lunch the next day, or maybe another dinner. These can be life-savers on the busiest of days. This is also where those containers with lids come in handy, as well as a microwave. If you or your family members are not fans of leftovers, don’t fret. Pop those meals into the freezer for a ready-made meal in the future.

Utilize Convenience Foods

Don’t be ashamed to use convenience foods like pre-cut veggies, microwaveable rice, simmer sauces, frozen fish, or pre-marinated meats. Canned items are also useful here , though you should always check on the sodium content first. All of these items help to cut down on prep time while still allowing you to create nutritious homemade meals.

Involve the Family: Incorporate Everyone’s Favorites

Kids naturally love to help out, especially if they also get a say in the weekly menu. Find ways to enlist the whole family in the meal prep process. While older kids may be able to handle more complex tasks like chopping, younger kids will probably love mixing items or even helping with clean-up. When kids are involved in the cooking process at home, they can feel proud of their contributions while learning some important life skills. At the same time, you get a lighter load.

Make Theme Nights

From Taco Tuesday to Slow Cooker Sunday, there are plenty of themes you can integrate into your meal planning. You can also use theme nights to introduce your family to other cultural cuisines or to try new spices or foods you’ve never had before. Just don’t let theme nights cause extra stress for you. Feel free to keep the themes as simple as “Fish Friday,” “Pasta Night,” or even better, “Leftovers Monday.” The goal is to simplify your planning process while adding a bit of fun to the week.

While meal planning can help reduce stress for busy moms and dads, it’s also important to examine your work-life balance, especially if you think your stress has become chronic. Are you getting adequate sleep? Do you make time for self-care? Sometimes, working with a therapist or coach can help you come up with strategies to better manage the stressors in your life before they worsen over time.  

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