Whether you’ve got a large or small family to feed, I think most if not all moms I know can use some tips for making meal planning less stressful. Meals are an integral part of our day! And I think meals become even more important when we have kids. In fact, a recent study showed that 91% of parents surveyed said that their family was less stressed when they shared meals together!
Personally, I’ve never been a big planner. In fact, my innate personality leads me to be the biggest NON-planner in the world. Seriously, before having kids the only thing I planned on was not really having a plan. Especially for meals.
However, when I had kids and subsequently a household of four to feed, I quickly realized that planning meals in advance was necessary to save my sanity. At first it felt very strange to go against my natural non-planning tendencies. However, I quickly realized that planning meals in advance saved me so much time, money, and stress!
Read on to learn my three tips for making meal planning less stressful:
Tip #1: Shed the Guilt!
For example, are you someone who enjoys spending time cooking homemade meals and trying new recipes? Or maybe you are more of an eat-to-live type of person, and you want to serve easy and healthy meals in the fastest way possible. Or perhaps, like myself, you’re somewhere in the middle.
Before you even begin to think about how you can make meal planning easier, it’s important to embrace your natural culinary tendencies. In other words, what type of cook and eater are you?
Whatever your true culinary type is, embrace it! I used to feel so guilty for serving frozen food or making fast meals. Unlike one of my close friends who does not buy anything premade, I have come to realize that I am a meal shortcut type of gal. Especially on busy school nights!
I remember a conversation with my husband that was a game changer for me in terms of shedding my culinary-related guilt. I was telling my husband how bad I felt about serving the same simple, kid-friendly meals over and over. He responded, “Don’t feel bad at all. I don’t mind eating mac and cheese and chicken nuggets most nights. As long as there’s a healthy component, do what’s easiest for you!”
Since then, I’ve fully embraced the simple but healthy meal strategy. And I’m so much less stressed!
Tip #2: Plan in Advance
I use a weekly or monthly meal planning template to help me plan out meals and save time at the grocery store. Depending on how motivated I feel, I will either plan a month in advance or a week in advance. Either way, I know what I am serving for each meal so that I only have to go to the grocery store once per week.
I’ve got about 10 or 15 different dinner meals that I schedule on my weekly or monthly meal planning templates that I pretty much stick to. These are comprised of very basic, kid-friendly recipes. I’ve discovered that when I try to make more exotic meals my kids don’t eat as much (and complain a LOT). However, occasionally I do like to introduce my family to a new recipe. I tell my kids they have to try at least one bite. If they don’t like it, they can have cereal.
I love seeing the entire month of dinners laid out in front of me. This way, I can avoid making the same meal two weeks in a row (if possible), which greatly reduces my kids’ whining and complaining about always eating the same thing.
Although this is not a new concept, I also try to plan to have at least one night of leftovers so that I’m not having to use all my pots and pans every night.
Tip #3: Have fun!
If meal planning is giant source of stress for you, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. But hear me out.
I used to dread meal planning and cooking dinners each night – until I changed my mind frame. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation, I started repeating more positive messages to myself. For example,
I’m grateful to be able to make meals for my kids.
At least one night a week I’m going to do something I enjoy, like order take-out or go out to dinner.
I am going to try to focus on making meals as healthy and fun as possible so that my kids grow and thrive!
And what do you know? When I changed my thoughts, my whole experience of cooking changed as well. I actually have fun (not every night, mind you, but many nights) coming up with new spins on recipes and making meals that I know the whole family will enjoy.
By making a few simple changes to your meal planning routine, I believe it’s possible to make meal planning much less painful, no matter what your relationship is to food and cooking!
I hope you’ve the three tips for making meal planning less painful to be helpful. Do you have any other tips for making meal planning less painful and tedious? Share them below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!
Meal Planning Frequently Asked Questions
How do I create a weekly meal plan?
First off, it’s helpful to have a meal planning template. A meal weekly meal planning printable will allow you to list out your weekly meals in advance, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
When you have some time (preferably when you’re not tired or in a hurry), sit down and plan out your weekly meals. Once you’ve figured out which meals you will be preparing for the week, you can list out the ingredients you will need. Be sure to check out our weekly meal planning template, which include a place to list out your meals as well as ingredients.
How do I create a monthly meal plan?
Creating a monthly meal plan is very similar to a creating a weekly meal plan.
Using a monthly meal planning template can be helpful. You can either write out every meal, for example, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, or just dinner. Personally, I just write down dinners on my monthly meal planning template since it’s easier to quickly think up meals for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
To create your monthly meal plan, first plan out one week’s worth of meals. Next, list out your meals for week two, then week three, and so on.
How do I simplify meal planning?
In order to simplify meal planning, I first recommend that you sit down when you have a few minutes and figure out what exactly about the process of planning meals is causing you the most time and stress.
For example, is it grocery shopping? If so, you might benefit from using a shopping list template. Or maybe it’s the actual meal preparation. Are you spending too much time making food? If so, can you simplify by getting more premade meals or ingredients?
How can I make food preparation easier?
The simplest way to make food preparation easier is to take short-cuts! For example, if you typically buy meat and prepare, season, and cook everything yourself, maybe it’s time to start buying precooked meats like rotisserie chicken (one of my go-to favs).
You can also purchase things like frozen veggies that you can quickly microwave instead of steaming etc.
How do I create a rotating meal plan?
To create a rotating meal plan, I suggest starting out simple and listing out meals for 21 days. After day 21, your meals will repeat.
This 21-day, rotating meal plan works well for families with kids because there’s not too many recipes that kids are willing to eat (at least that’s true for my kids, anyway).
You can also plan out meals by quarter for the entire year if you’re super motivated. For example, fall (September, October, November), winter (December, January, February), spring (March, April, May), and summer (June, July, and August).
Personally, I’m not motivated enough to do this. But if you’re someone who likes to use seasonal produce and try new recipes, this type of rotating meal plan might work well for you!