Meal planning for busy moms doesn’t have to be overwhelming; using these 18 practical tips, you can easily have a plan for your meals each night while also eating seasonally and having variation!
Related: How to Make a Rotating Meal Plan
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meal planning tips for busy moms
Here are 18 practical tips to help you meal plan as a busy mom. I know how difficult planning dinner each and every night can be, especially with little ones; but, with a little preparation, you can totally reset your meal planning routine!
1. Share Weekly meal ingredients
Save time and money by using similar ingredients for multiple dishes. For example, make tacos one night and a skillet hash the next which all use ground beef, bell peppers, onions, cilantro, etc. Doing this ensures you only have to chop the ingredients once and also avoids wasting food.
2. Utilize leftovers for lunches
Cook once and eat twice by using your leftovers from dinner for lunches the next day.
3. make double batches whenever possible
If you have the ingredients and the space in your pot/skillet, make a double batch and freeze the extras for a super quick meal down the road.
I do this a lot with soup. I always cook way more than I need and freeze a few servings to use as an easy-button meal for those crazy weeks!
4. have easy meals on hand
That leads me to my next tip – always have easy meals at the ready. I like to keep healthy frozen dinners like the Saffron Road brand in my freezer at all times. I also keep quick rice packets and simmer packets in the pantry.
You never know when you’re going to have a child throw a tantrum of all tantrums and dinner just isn’t happening tonight! Or an infant who has a melt-down and refuses to be set down.
5. plan for tomorrow’s dinner while making tonights dinner
This is my number one meal planning tip for busy moms – plan for tomorrow while cooking tonight. While I’m cooking dinner tonight, I’m prepping for dinner tomorrow.
This just means I pull out any meat that needs defrosted, soak grains, feed my sourdough starter, make the dough for a bread dish, etc. Usually, it’s just a couple of small tasks that I can do while I’m waiting for something to cook.
6. Themed meal nights
Soupy Sunday, meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, etc. This can help your meal planning by giving you a jump start on ideas!
Maybe taco Tuesday one week looks like traditional Mexican tacos, but the next Tuesday it’s a deconstructed taco bowl! You can have themed nights and variations in your meals.
7. use in-season ingredients
Meal planning doesn’t mean you have to throw the towel in on seasonal cooking. In fact, meal planning can make it easier to build your meals around what’s in season.
When creating your meal plan, split it up into seasons and use in-season produce for your meals.
8. have a basic meal outline
Sure, we have some fun and fancy meals, but mostly our meals follow a simple outline – protein, carb, and fats. Usually, I’ll have the main source of protein (meat, fish, chickpeas, etc.) some vegetables and starch or grain for the carbohydrates, and some healthy fat (avocado, cheese, oil, etc.).
9. Simplify breakfast meal planning
Mama, keep breakfast meal planning so simple. We just keep a running list of breakfasts we like in our head and decide which ones we want the next week.
Most of our breakfast options are quick make-ahead meals or things I can make within 5 minutes morning-of.
Related: Recipe: Sourdough Pumpkin Muffins
10. Use a rotating meal plan
Using a rotating meal plan is such a simple way to plan out your meals for a whole season. You control how many recipes you rotate through, how many months or seasons are included in one meal plan, and how many meals you have each week.
If you want me to do all that for you, provide you with tons of recipes each week, and make your grocery lists for you, shop for my meal plans!
Shop my Six Month Meal Plans
11. Invest time upfront so you don’t have to meal plan during the week
By using my rotating meal plan method, you do all the work upfront but you don’t have any meal planning to do during the week. The only task you have to do during the week is getting groceries which you would have had to do anyway.
12. Experiment with new recipes on the weekend
Use the weekend as a time to create, play with, or try out new recipes if that’s what you like doing! As a busy mom, you can still make sure you’re having fun in the kitchen. You never know, one of your new recipes may just end up in your meal plan!
13. Organize your meal plan in a way that works with your busy schedule
Does it work better for you to have a physical meal planning binder to refer to your weekly roundup? Or perhaps it makes more sense to keep your meal plan as a file on your phone that you can glance at after work.
Whatever you do, find a meal planning system that works for you and stick to it. I love my meal-planning binder, but I’m a little old-fashioned that way.
14. Take advantage of grocery pick up
Grocery pick-up has changed the game when it comes to getting groceries. My entire grocery routine from the second I make my list to unloading takes about 1 hour. Also, I save so much money by not having to go into the store and impulse shop.
15. Order groceries on the same day each week
There are very few ways your busy-mom-meal-planning system will fall through. However, one way is if you forget to pick up groceries! Avoid this by getting into a routine of ordering groceries on the same day/time of the week.
16. Switch up proteins
Meal planning as a busy mom can seem a little daunting because you have to curate a list of several different meals in order to feel like you have variation in your dinners. You can easily do this by taking one meal and just changing out the protein! Boom. Two meals.
17. Batch prep grains
I find that grains take the longest when cooking dinner. If you cook a double batch one night though, you’ll thank yourself later in the week when you forgot you needed a grain for your meal!
18. Use a template to guide you
Using an easy template to guide you through how many recipes you’ll need, grocery lists, etc. is so helpful to prompt your meal planning.
Sample meal plan for busy moms
Here is one week out of my Fall & Winter Meal plan:
Sunday – Spiced pumpkin and chorizo chili
Monday – Harvest sheet pan meal
Tuesday – Chicken pesto pasta
Wednesday – Italian sourdough pizza
Thursday – Smorgasbord of leftovers
Friday – Easy button meal
Saturday – Experimental recipe night or hubby cooks.
shop – meal planning for busy moms
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- Berkey water filter (we use the Royal because we drink an insane amount of water!)
- Thrive Market – 25% off & free gift! (where I get a ton of my ingredients)
- Azure Standard: $25 off your order. Code kyrieluke1
- Dutch oven
- Stand mixer
- Boos Block Butcher Block
- 12 inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Moby wrap – the only way I ever made any meals as a busy mom to an infant!
- 360 Ergo
Busy mom meal planning faq
Working moms are able to make dinner if they have a plan and prep some of it before work. For example, they might make a crockpot dinner that they put in the crockpot before going to work.
The 5 steps to meal planning are:
1. Choose how long your plan will be and how many unique meals you want each week.
2. Choose your meals.
3. Organize the meal plan by placing your meals in the weeks that you want them.
4. create your grocery lists.
5. Make your dinners.
The 3 key steps for effective meal planning are:
1. Variation – this helps you to keep things interesting and not burn out on your meal plan.
2. Simple – Keeping your meals simple will help you to stick to it.
3. Seasonality – making sure your meals follow the in-season produce will help save money and give you the most nutrient-dense meals.
Create a simple meal plan by creating a rotating meal plan. Choose the number of meals you want for a particular season, then choose your tried and true meals that the whole family loves, then rotate through those meals throughout the season.
The first step in meal planning is to figure out how many meals you need for the week.
A good meal plan is one that offers variation in meals, seasonal ingredients, and is easy to follow.