Meal Planning for Beginners (Or Just Really Busy Moms)

Photo by Vegan Liftz on Unsplash

My New Year’s Resolutions are almost always the same: find ways to be more organized, eat healthier, have more down time, and spend more time just having fun with my family. It always seems simple. Completely doable. And then I look at my calendar. My husband and I both work full-time outside the home. Our daughter is in kindergarten and has dance class three nights a week, in addition to spring and fall sports, playdates, school fundraisers, parties, family nights, and concerts. My husband has volunteer obligations with his job. I am on the PTA board in addition to various other committees. Our schedule often looks like a tangled mess of trying to juggle being in multiple places at the same time. Dinner is, more often than not, an afterthought. 

This year I’m making a change. I know, I know. I say that every year, but this year I’m determined to make it happen. This year I am going to stick to meal planning to help make all of our lives a little less frantic and a lot healthier — no more “we could just stop and grab something on the way home” meals. 

I have a plan. I have the tools. I have the determination to make it work!

Have a game plan. A plan is important. Like I said, our schedule is crazy. Often times we don’t get home until 8 pm or later, so dinners still need to be quick and simple. I won’t be making any gourmet meals on a weeknight. 

While I love searching Pinterest for new recipes, I know what my family, that includes two picky eaters, will actually eat. I have a set list of 20-30 meals that actually get eaten in our home. I use these as my basis for planning out our monthly meals. Don’t worry, I still browse Pinterest for new ideas to throw into our rotation.

Stick to a pattern. Mondays are meatless. Tuesdays are Mexican (hello, Taco Tuesday). Wednesdays are Asian inspired. Thursdays are something Italian. Fridays are either pizza night or breakfast for dinner. Saturdays are soup and sandwiches, leftovers, or a night out. Sundays are reserved for those meals that take a little more time. 

Use an app. My love for the Cozi calendar app runs deep. I use Cozi to keep track of all of our schedules, set reminders, and keep lists of things we need to do. Cozi also has a great menu planner built right in that allows you to save your family’s favorite recipes, easily schedule them for the week, and quickly add the ingredients to a shopping list. It helps to be able to see our schedule as I’m planning out the meals to know which nights need to be quick and easy versus the nights where we have a little extra time. 

Already have a calendar that you love and just need an app to help you meal plan? Plan to Eat is another great option that allows you to plan your meals and will create a shopping list that makes life just a little easier. 

Have your groceries delivered. Often, I have my meals planned out, I have my shopping list, and I still have zero time to actually get to the grocery store. InstaCart to the rescue. 

Until I had a small child that easily added an extra hour (and an extra $50) to the weekly grocery run, I would have never thought about having my groceries delivered. Surely that service was meant for the elderly and those housebound people. Nope. I’m here to tell you that Instacart is a mom’s saving grace. No more dodging dirty looks as my kid gets out of the car without a coat in the middle of January — no puffy coats in the car, judging stranger. No more trying to convince my daughter she really doesn’t need three boxes of sugary cereal. And no more trying to unload twenty grocery bags with a small child screaming, “I want to help!” as she drops the carton of eggs she was carrying upside down. I place my order, approve acceptable substitutes just in case my favorite brand is sold out, and my groceries are delivered right to my front door. 

Have the right tools. My favorite kitchen gadgets are my Instant Pot, my Air Fryer, and of course my trusty Slow Cooker. Having anything that makes cooking a meal a little easier and a lot quicker will make your life that much simpler.

Stick to it. I know it will be hard. I know that there will be some weeks where the menu is thrown out completely and ordering a pizza will happen. You know that. I know that. We can accept that. But one week of craziness does not mean you need to give up. That’s the great thing about a New Year’s resolution–we have a whole year to figure it out and make it work. 

 

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Victoria is a wife and mom of two. Her firstborn, Joshua passed away shortly after birth in 2013. Her rainbow daughter, Madeline just started kindergarten. Victoria and her husband, Patrick, were both born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and love spending time exploring the city with their daughter. Victoria is a full-time working mom, dance mom, soccer mom, t-ball mom, PTA mom, slightly over-scheduled mom. Victoria has a passion for creating and spends way too much time pinning new crafts, recipes, and party ideas on Pinterest. She sometimes blogs over at Life with Madeline - www.lifewithmadeline.com