simple meal planning

There’s nothing worse than walking into the house after a long day and suddenly hearing “Mom! What’s for dinner?” when you have literally no idea. Standing at the fridge with the door open, staring at the random items inside, you wonder what you can put together. Wouldn’t it be nice if that scene didn’t repeat itself every day of the week? We’re all busy moms, and meal planning can save us valuable time.

But what if you don’t want to spend hours of your weekend prepping for the week ahead? As a working mom, I only get two days off a week. I don’t want to spend most of that time slaving in the kitchen! Over the years, I’ve come up with some tried and true simple meal planning tips for my fellow busy moms.

Get into a Meal Planning Routine

Just like having a solid bedtime routine, a meal planning routine will save you a lot of frustration and most importantly, time. I like to choose a specific day each week to check the grocery store’s weekly ads and base my meals around that. By sticking to items that are on sale, it ensures that I’m saving money and generally eating seasonally. Next, I check what we already have in our pantry, fridge, & freezer. I write down whatever we’re missing and prepare for a grocery trip. Want to save even more time? Try out grocery delivery or several of the store pick-up options. Not having to navigate the store with my three kids in tow makes a huge difference!

Use Theme Nights

The heading “Theme Nights” might sound a little extra, but I promise you, it’s not! Theme nights are simple nights that you don’t even have to think about what’s for dinner. At our house, we always do Taco Tuesday and Stir Fry-Day (Friday, get it?), for example. You can certainly change up the recipe every week so that you’re not constantly eating the same thing, but keep it within the same theme. When you sit down to figure out your meal plan, you don’t have to devote almost any brainpower to those days! Some other possibilities might include: Meatless Monday, Pizza Night, Soup or Salad Sunday (depending on the season) … can you think of any others?

Collect Your Favorites

Even if you think you’ll remember, collect your family’s favorite tried and true recipes in one place. It never fails that when I sit down to write out our meal plan for the week, that my brain suddenly goes blank and I can’t think of anything other than a big bowl of pasta. Having the meals and their corresponding recipes all together will make meal planning much easier. Once you have a good collection of go-to’s, you can just plug & play your meal plan and be on your way! Some great tools for this are Pinterest, Trello, Evernote, or even just the Notes app of your phone.

Double the Batch

Even if you use none of the other meal planning tips, use this one! By doubling the batch of whatever recipe you’re making, you can save yourself one whole night of cooking! It doesn’t take much more time to prep the extra ingredients, and you’ll be thanking yourself the next day. One of my favorite ways to do this is to make a double batch of vegetarian chili. I serve it with tortilla chips, plain greek yogurt, and other traditional chili toppings the first night, and the second night I reinvent it into cheesy chili mac! Even though we’re eating the same thing two nights in a row, it’s different enough to keep it interesting!

Do you have any other favorite meal planning tips for fellow busy moms? Leave them in the comments below!

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Alexandra is a native Floridian, born and raised by the ocean in Daytona Beach. She graduated from Florida State University in 2011 with a Bachelors in English Literature and in 2013 with a Masters in Library Science. During her time in Tallahassee, she also met and fell in love with her husband, Paul. Soon after getting married, they settled down in St. Augustine and began a family as Alexandra pursued her dream job as a librarian with the St. Johns County Public Library System. When she’s not leading storytimes, checking out books, and running the library, you can find her hopping around town with her family. She’s a proud mama to three little boys, born in 2015, 2017, and 2019! Her husband is a phenomenal stay-at-home-dad, and can often be spotted babywearing all over St. Augustine.