Meal Planning

Basic Meal Planning Strategies for Busy Moms

Cooking is something that I take great pleasure in, and I also like meal planning.

I have a passion for trying out new recipes, and I frequently have the luxury of obtaining some time to myself in the early evening to do so. This is possible since either my husband or my daughter’s grandparents are usually available to watch our younger child. When I’m in the kitchen, I like to put on some headphones and put on an audiobook or podcast to help me relax.

My daughter, who is 2.5 years old, also enjoys lending a hand. As a result, she takes great pleasure in observing and aiding me in the kitchen, particularly when there are no other people there. It is a terrific opportunity for the two of us to bond, and in the process, she is gaining valuable skills.

Planning my meals is second nature to me since I have always been an organised person and it just comes naturally to me. In addition to this, one of my priorities is to keep our refrigerator, freezer, and pantry with natural, minimally processed foods.

When Planning and Cooking Healthy, Nutritious Meals for the Family Just Becomes Too Much …

In addition to being a busy mom, I am also a writer and an entrepreneur in my own right. While my kids spends the mornings at daycare, I make the most of this time by working on my writing and getting other things done. The afternoon is one of my favourite times to hang out with kids and my husband (when he isn’t working).

It is good to include my daughter in the everyday duties, and in my opinion, it is beneficial for her to do so. Having said that, we also need time to let relax and have some fun. When the weather is great, we would much prefer be playing outside than standing in the sweltering kitchen of our attic apartment, which is always stuffy and hot. Those are the days when well-prepared, straightforward meals that don’t need a lot of time in the kitchen are really necessary!

Back to Meal Planning Basics

There are times when I absolutely need to streamline my cooking routines. I was sick for the whole month, and I am just now starting to feel better. I was sick with the flu for approximately three weeks, and I had a number of relapses throughout that time. Because my husband had to go to work, I was the one who had to clean up after our daughter and put her to bed on my own while he was away at work. As luck would have it, every time I was in the middle of a lengthy cooking session, I would find that I was feeling terrible.

It didn’t take me long to realized that I needed to find a way to reduce the amount of energy I spend and stick to meals that were straightforward and didn’t need a lot of time to prepare. Although it’s satisfying to make moussaka from scratch from scratch, it’s not really worth allowing oneself to get totally depleted by the process!

Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to to get things off my plate, so to speak.

If you follow my blog, you probably already know that I am a huge fan of getting rid of clutter and throwing things away. I have recently made it a goal of mine to finish off projects that have been lingering around for a while, or else to abandon them entirely. As a part of this procedure, I put the cookbooks back on the shelves and either filed away or discarded the recipes that had gathered in the pile that I had been intending to test out. I also tossed away the pile that they were in. I went back to the basics.

Meal Planning Basics in 7 Easy Steps

1. File away or throw out any new recipes

I have plenty to choose from!

Choose the recipes that turn out well for you and organize them in the appropriate way. For instance, if you have a pasta night once a week, you should compile all of your pasta recipes under a single topic. Try not to give in to the temptation of trying to keep too many. It is sufficient to have eight different pasta recipes; doing so would ensure that you never ate the same meal more frequently than once every two months. Since we enjoy curry so much, we try to have it at least once a week. When curry night comes round, I just pull out a recipe from the folder section titled “curries,” and I am good to go.

Tip: If you don’t have recipes filed and organized, make some time to do that. If you are feeling really overwhelmed, copy your favorite recipes from your cookbooks and file them too. That saves you leafing through cookbooks and having a couple lying around, cluttering your space. You don’t need hundreds of recipes. If you’ve accumulated a large number, put them in a box and set aside some time to go through them at a later date. Just pick a few, get a run book folder, and organize them in a way that makes sense to you.

2) Declutter your fridge, pantry, and freezer

You could think that this is counterproductive since it adds extra work, but believe me when I say that it is beneficial. Throw away any goods that have passed their expiration date and take stock of what you currently have available. You won’t feel as overwhelmed if you do this since it will help you in regaining control of the kitchen. You can start from scratch with the basics.

Be careful not to overstock your refrigerator, because then you might feel stressed by having to use up all the products before they expire. We used to get a weekly delivery of organic vegetables in a box. Recently, though, I decided to scrap that plan because I was realising that I had an excessive amount of food. Since we already go to the market throughout the summer, having that box isn’t really necessary for us.

3) Create a family calendar and make sure it is up to date

We have a family calendar displayed on the wall that contains a weekly overview. A quick glance at the schedule and I will know what days my husband is working late or has soccer practice and what days Taya and I have afternoon play dates or appointments. This allows me to develop a flexible meal plan without getting “surprised” by life events.

4) Plan ahead for the week

On Fridays, I sit down and plan out all of the meals for the upcoming week. This is because on Saturdays, my family and I go to the market, and it’s helpful to have a market shopping list ready for when we go. I immediately begin writing the shopping list(s) after selecting my recipes, removing them from the folder, and placing them in the designated pile. After this, I proceed to write the shopping list(s). Therefore, I won’t have to stress about any of that for the remainder of the week!

Tip: Check out next week’s article on Meal Planning Methods and chose one or combine more to suit your family’s lifestyle. I pick recipes for the week, write them on a Post-it-note and stick it on the calendar. Because of my husband’s erratic work schedule, I prefer to have flexibility—a designated pasta night on a certain day of the week wouldn’t work for us. During the week, I just choose one of the recipes the night before or even on the day, depending on what food needs to be used up and who is at the dinner table. I often end up “carrying over” recipes from the week before.

5) Have some tried and tested go-to recipes up your sleeve

If I am feeling really overwhelmed, I only pick tried-and-tested recipes that don’t require a lot of prep and cooking time. I also double one of these recipes so I have leftovers to reheat on an evening when I have no time to cook (or I pick a crockpot recipe for the same reasons).

6) Ask for help!

Sometimes, you may just not have the energy, time, or even inclination to prepare healthy meals. On those days, give yourself a break. I often ask my husband to cook one night or do the food shopping. I might even invite myself to Sunday lunch at my parents in law.

7) Accept grace over perfection

I try my best to prepare balanced meals that are good for us to eat. Because of this, I try to make everything from scratch whenever I can.
I much prefer foods that are handmade over those that are processed. However, it is OK for me to purchase gluten-free tortillas rather than preparing them myself, and it is also acceptable for me to purchase instant stock rather than make my own bone broth. And, heck, we aren’t going to die if we eat a frozen pizza every now and again.

Your child isn’t going to waste away if he eats cereal for dinner once in a blue moon. Repeat after me: It’s okay. You’re still a good mom and good homemaker.

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