3 Secrets to Meal Planning for Busy Moms

3 made dishes of food for meal prep for busy moms article

Busy Mom Meal Plan

Meal planning for busy moms can feel HARD.

But I have discovered a way to make it EASY and FAST, two things I need when I feel like I’m juggling a lot.

I am not a natural in the kitchen but care deeply about my family’s health and well-being, so weekly meal planning has been a true pain point for me for a very long time.

BUT! I have finally found a rhythm and can happily say today that I like the way I meal plan now.

It has resulted in us coming together to eat as a family with joy and ease, instead of the old stress and chaos that used to surround me with food.

I owe it all to the 3 things listed below. I hope these suggestions help you as much as they have helped me!

We CAN do this, moms!

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How to Have Healthy, Simple Meal Plans for Busy Moms

1. Only spend 15 minutes or less to meal plan.

busy mom meal prep weekly planner

Meal planning should be QUICK! It should not take up a big chunk of your time. Don’t overthink it.

If you are like me, I used to not meal plan because, in my head, it sounded like this big, time consuming task. Spending lots of time with something I struggle with (being in the kitchen) did not appeal to me at all.

I naively thought that the only people who meal plan are those with a lot of time on their hands or are those who are super “type A” kind of people.

So I wouldn’t do it because I just thought it wasn’t for me…but then, I always had this giant pit in my stomach when my kids would say, “I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?” every single day and I would have to scramble.

Then, one day, a former coworker shared with me she picks her week’s worth of meals out in 15 minutes, and I was like, “Whaaaaaat?!”

I realized I was thinking about it all wrong and that my poor attitude was blocking my abilities to just crank it out. Keep reading and you will see how EASY it can be to be FAST at meal planning.

For my 15 minutes of meal planning, I pick 2 breakfasts for the week and 3 dinners that are all home cooked.

I spread the meals out so each day my family is getting one home cooked meal a day. See chart below for further explanation.

2. Don’t leave it all for Sunday.

Figuring out what to make for the week, then getting the groceries, then doing the cooking all in a day is a TALL order! Space it out.

This is what I like to do:

Thursday – Pick the meals out for the coming week.

Friday or Saturday – Grocery shop.

Sunday – Make only ONE, maybe two, meals for the week. See chart below.

I space it out to where I am only cooking in the kitchen once a day (if that). Here’s how:

Meal PlanMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
BreakfastMake protein pancakesLeft over pancakesLeft over pancakesMake breakfast burritoLeft over breakfast burrito
DinnerFrozen food/take out/husband cooksCrockpot1 dish wonderFrozen food/left overs/husband cooksPasta

Red font words are my home cooked meals.

If you’re thinking, “Frozen foods?!” I have more on that below.

Breakfast Meal Planning

three bowls of oatmeal in an article on meal planning tips for busy moms

Doubling a simple recipe like protein pancakes (you can find the exact recipe here) only takes a few extra minutes. Scrambling a few extra eggs to roll up into a couple more burritos only takes a few extra minutes.

If my left over breakfasts aren’t a hit the next morning, I keep on hand whole fat or 2% plain Greek yogurt to drizzle in some honey, fruit, and granola. I also keep glyphosate-free oatmeal in our pantry (it is priced lower at our local Sprouts grocery store) and serve that with peanut butter, chia seeds (or as my kids call it- “crunchy balls”), cinnamon, and honey.

That way, my family has healthy, nutritious breakfast options that don’t require any cooking several days out of the week.

Lunch Meal Planning

three salad jars made for meal plans for busy moms article

I don’t include lunch in my chart above because I tend to stick to the same types of lunches for myself and don’t need to write them out.

I love doing different kinds of salad jars because they are nutrient dense, easy, and fast to make.

Chopping up and assembling veggies and fruits for a salad takes 15 minutes or less. I usually make them on Sundays.

I like to alternate between:

  • hearts of palm
  • artichoke hearts
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • carrots
  • red onion
  • sauerkraut (which is great for gut health)
  • broccoli
  • Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower
  • olives
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • avocado

Salad jars are such an inexpensive, healthy way to eat.

Hard boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, or meats from my Healthy Costco Shopping List for Moms Who Don’t Cook are always on a rotation for fast and easy protein to add to my salads.

(My husband isn’t into the salad jars. He prefers Factor meals. We actually save money and time with his subscription).

As for my kids’ lunch boxes, they love:

Protein – deli meats, hard boiled eggs, cheeses, yogurt, chicken sticks, meats and nut butters listed from my Healthy Costco Shopping List for Moms Who Don’t Cook…Usually anything served in a King’s Hawaiian Roll is a sure win.

Veggies – bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots to dunk in Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing or hummus.

Fruits – berries and grapes are our staples

Dinner Meal Planning

frying pan and vegetables

Some people like to follow themed nights, like: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc.

I like to do this: 1 crockpot, 1 one dish wonder, 1 pasta, 2 frozen, 2 up in the air.

I do frozen meals like pizza, chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, etc. because let’s be real. We are busy and not every night is home cooked. With the frozen foods I buy, I aim for cleaner ingredients.

I don’t feel guilty serving pizza or any other kind of frozen food when earlier in the day my family ate a home cooked breakfast and a healthy lunch box (and me a salad and my husband a Factor meal).

I leave 2 nights out of the week up in the air because maybe a school function runs late, so I rely on a frozen meal and save the ingredients I bought for the next night. Or, maybe my husband feels like cooking. Maybe we get invited over for dinner somewhere, or we feel like going to a restaurant…

Having flexibility is important. I used to feel so deflated if I planned and shopped for meals to make every single night but then they’d go to waste because life would just happen.

3. Start small.

bowl of pasta in an article on meal planning for busy moms

A quick way to failure is going “all in” right away. Be realistic with your expectations and give yourself a range to feel successful.

Instead of saying, “I will cook 3 meals every single week,” try, “I will cook 1 to 3 meals a week.” Give yourself grace and cut yourself some slack.

When I first started, I was proud of myself for providing 1 home cooked meal a week. When I ended up doing 2 that week, I felt like a rock star.

To help with decision making so that your meal planning really only truly takes 15 minutes, stick with just one person to follow for recipe inspiration. I love The Food Dolls and Frugal Nutrition and pin my favorites from them on Pinterest.

If you are more of a cookbook kind of person, just choose one to follow and stick with it.

Busy Mom Meal Planning Ideas

empty plate with the words "meal plan" written on it in an article on meal planning for busy moms

Looking for inspiration to get your meal planning started?

Check out 21 Toddler Meal Ideas the Whole Family Can Enjoy for easy, delicious dinners. Even if your kids are older, they will be sure to enjoy these recipes! And so will YOU because they are fast and healthy. My favorite crock pots, pastas, and one dish wonders are on this list.

For breakfast inspiration, our go-to meals are within my 35 Easy AND Healthy Toddler Breakfast Ideas. And like the dinner list, your kids can be older and still very much enjoy these…I know we do!

In addition to meal ideas, these are my favorite Healthy Snacks for Moms that keep me energized and feeling my best throughout the day.

Good luck to you on your meal planning journey!

I’d love to hear from you and learn which tip is your favorite! Share in the comments section below.

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