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Meal planning can be a huge time-saver for busy moms. It can help you stay organized and make the most of your time in the kitchen if done correctly. In this article, we will discuss tips for creating successful meal plans. Follow these tips, and you'll be able to master healthy meal plans for your family in no time.
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is creating a plan for what you eat over a week or month. Meal planning can be as simple as sitting down and writing out what you will have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Or, it can be more complex and involve creating detailed recipes and grocery lists. Meal planning can take some time to get used to, but once you get into the habit, it can save you a lot of time and stress in the long run.
Why Is Meal Planning Perfect for Moms?
Meal planning is perfect for moms because it helps them save time, money, and energy. When you have a plan for what you will be eating, you are less likely to make last-minute trips to the grocery store or order takeout. Meal planning can also help you eat more healthfully since you can control what goes into your meals.
If you have a lot of kids running around, meal planning can be a lifesaver. It can help you ensure everyone gets the nutrition they need without spending hours in the kitchen daily.
Meal Planning Tips
Now that we've discussed what meal planning is and why it's perfect for moms, let's get into some tips for creating successful meal plans.
Set Aside Time Each Week to Look At Recipes
One of the best ways to get into meal planning habits is to set aside time each week to look at recipes and plan meals. Dedicate an hour or looking through cookbooks, browsing Pinterest, or checking out food blogs. Find recipes that look appealing and make a list of them. Once you have a list of recipes, you can plan which ones you will make each day or week.
Ask for Meal Ideas From Family Members
If you're having trouble coming up with meal ideas, ask your family members for help. Have everyone list a few of their food preferences, and then use those ideas to create your meal plan. Having everyone participate is a great way to ensure that everyone will be happy with the meals you're making.
Track Meals With A Meal Calendar
One of the best ways to stay organized with your meal planning is to create a meal calendar. A meal calendar can be as simple as a list of what you're having for each meal on each day. Or, you can get more creative and use a whiteboard or chalkboard to write out your meals. Having a visual representation of your plan will help you stick to it.
Have A Designated Shopping Day
Another way to make meal planning more manageable is to have a designated shopping day. On this day, you will go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients on your grocery list. Having a selected shopping day will help you avoid making multiple trips to the store and save time.
Have Meal Themes
Another tip for meal planning is to have meal themes. Having themes makes it easy to come up with meal ideas and helps make meal planning more fun. For example, you could have Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Pizza Friday.
Never Shop On Sundays
If you can help it, never go grocery shopping on Sundays. Sunday is the busiest day at the store, and you will likely spend more time there than you would like. If you need to go to the store on Sunday, try to go early in the morning when it's not as crowded.
When planning your meals, consider what fruits and vegetables are in season. Using in-season fruits and veggies will help you to the freshest and most affordable produce. Eating seasonal produce is also better for the environment.
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Experiment With New Flavors
One of the best things about meal planning is that it allows you to experiment with new flavors. If you find a recipe that looks interesting but are unsure if you like it, put it on your list and give it a try. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Look For Make Ahead Meals
When browsing recipes, look for ones you can make ahead of time. Make-ahead recipes will help you to save time on busy nights. Make-ahead meals can also be great for meal prep if you're short on time during the week.
There's no shame in taking shortcuts when you're meal planning. If a recipe calls for chopped onions, but you don't have time to chop them, buy them already chopped. Or, if you're short on time, look for recipes you can make in the crockpot or Instant Pot. These appliances can help you get dinner on the table quickly and with minimal effort.
Don't Be Afraid to Reuse Meals
If you find a meal that your family loves, don't be afraid to reuse it. It can be a huge time saver. There's nothing wrong with having the same meal more than once a week or month.
Keep It Simple
Don't try to make every meal a gourmet masterpiece. Sometimes, the simplest meals are the best. If you're feeling overwhelmed with meal planning, keep it simple and stick to basic recipes.
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Your Freezer Is Your Best Friend
Your freezer can be your best friend if you're short on time. There are tons of great recipes that can be made ahead of time and then frozen. Then, when you're ready to eat them, all you have to do is thaw them out and heat them. Frozen meals are a great timesaver and still allow you to eat homemade meals.
Organize Your Pantry
If you want to make meal planning easier, take some time to organize your pantry. Organizing your pantry will help you know what ingredients you have on hand and make finding what you're looking for easier. A well-organized pantry will also help you avoid buying duplicates of items.
Don't Be Afraid to Improvise
One of the best things about cooking is that you don't always have to follow a recipe to the letter. Don't be afraid to improvise if you're missing an ingredient or two. Improvising is a great way to get creative in the kitchen and develop your unique dishes.
Plan Eating Out Days in Advance
If you know you're going to be eating out, plan it. Planning will help you to stick to your budget and make healthier choices. When planning your meals, look for restaurants with healthy options so you can make the best choices for your family.
Make Easy Swaps for Healthy Eating
If you're thinking of trying more healthy meals, you can make some easy swaps. For example, swap out white rice for brown rice or quinoa. You can also swap out ground beef for ground turkey. These simple swaps can make a big difference in your overall health. You may find that the food tastes excellent even with the healthier swaps. Healthier doesn’t necessarily mean the food will be bland. Eating more nutritious foods will keep your heart healthy and help you avoid artificial ingredients.
Have A Backup Plan
Things don't always go as planned. So, it's essential to have a backup plan. If you're short on time, have some quick and easy recipes that you can make. Or, keep some frozen meals on hand for nights when you don't have the time or energy to cook.
You Don't Necessarily Have to Start From Scratch
One of the biggest mistakes people make when meal planning is that they feel like they have to start from scratch. But, you don't necessarily have to do this. If you're short on time, look for recipes that use jarred sauces or pre-cooked meats. These ingredients can help you get a meal on the table quickly and with minimal effort.
Practice Portion Control
If you're trying to eat healthier, one of the best things you can do is practice portion planning. When you're cooking, make sure to measure out the proper portions. And, when you're eating, be mindful of how much food you're putting on your plate. Portioning will help you avoid overeating and consume the right amount of calories.
Always Schedule a “Lazy Night”
No matter how busy you are, schedule at least one “lazy night” into your meal plan. A lazy night is where you can order takeout or eat leftovers. Having a lazy night in your meal plan will help prevent you from getting burnt out.
Cook And Freeze
Freezing in bulk is a great way to save time and money. If you have the time, cook and freeze in bulk. When you have extra time, make a big batch of your favorite recipe. Then, portion it out into individual servings and freeze them. You'll always have a quick and easy meal on hand.
Use Your Slow Cooker
One of the best ways to make meal planning more manageable is to use your slow cooker. There are tons of great recipes that you can make in a slow cooker with minimal effort. Simply throw all the ingredients into the pot and let it do its thing. Dinner will be ready when you get home from work with little to no effort.
Meal planning doesn't have to be complicated. Following these tips can make meal planning more manageable and less time-consuming. And, as a result, you'll be able to enjoy more quality time with your family. Give meal planning a try.
Claire started Femme on FIRE after struggling with the debt cycle and realizing that she had to create better habits to get out of it. She became inspired along this journey and now strives to help others achieve financial freedom as well. When she isn’t working on her blog, you can find her on the couch with a good book, cooking up recipes in the kitchen, or playing outside with her ducks.