Meal Planning Tips for Moms
Meal planning is one of those things that sounds easy.
Until you actually start - then you realise it’s a bit more of a pain in the arse than you expected.
So I’m sharing my simple Traffic Light Method of meal planning for moms.
There’s no right or wrong way to meal plan - but my system of meal planning is made for moms who have no time, no energy and no organizing mojo.
So if you’re struggling, why not give this system a try?
Meal Planning For Moms - The Traffic Light System
Day 1 - Meal Planning for Moms - Pick Your Mission
Before we dive into my secret meal planning system, you need to understand why you want to meal plan.
And I don’t mean this in a ‘find your true purpose’ bullshit way. We don’t have time for that here, mamas.
You need to figure out what you hope to achieve with a meal plan because that will help you decide what step to take next.
Here are some common reasons for wanting to meal plan:
Eat healthier - more veg, less meat
Start freezer cooking
Reduce stress (Just goddamn had enough of wondering ‘what’s for dinner?’)
If your reason for meal planning falls into the first 4 categories, take an honest look at what you’ve been eating over the past few days and ask yourself if you can continue to eat those kinds of meals AND achieve your goals.
Quick example - a meal plan won’t help you lose weight if you normally throw handfuls of butter into every recipe you cook. So you might have to adapt the recipes you have or go and search for some new recipes.
Day 2 - Meal Planning for Moms - Write Down Your Meal Planning Goal
Meal planning won’t change your life overnight.
(Only alcohol and poor choices can do that.)
So set some specific goals - what do you want to achieve with meal planning?
If you want to save money, write out what you’re spending now so you’ve got a figure to beat.
If you want to eat more healthily - consider what you’re already eating.
If you want to spend less time in the kitchen on weekdays, think about how much time you spend cooking every evening. Write down a time to beat.
Day 3 - Meal Planning for Moms - Choose Your Recipes
If you need to find some new recipes to help you achieve your goals, now’s the time to do it.
But I’ve deliberately only assigned 1 day for this task, because it’s one that you could go down a black hole with.
Limit yourself to finding no more than 10 new recipes.
And remember, you never want to plan to make more than 1 new recipe a week - otherwise dinner time is going to get way too stressful.
So, 10 new recipes is enough to keep you going for now.
Tips For Choosing New Recipes
Check how many ingredients and if they’re easily obtainable at a good price
Ask friends and family for their favorite recipes
Check if they’re realistic for your schedule and for your culinary ability - just because you’re meal planning doesn’t meal you just turned into Martha Stewart with tons of time on your hands.
Choose recipes with some common ingredients - eg one rotisserie chicken can be used for chicken and veg on Monday, chicken stew on Tuesday etc.
Choose recipes you want to eat - not what you think you should eat
Choose recipes you can prep in advance - chop vegetables, etc
Check your fridge and pantry for food that needs to be used up - plan recipes to use up that stuff.
And even if you aren’t one of those ‘stuff the freezer with 3 months worth of food’ types, pick recipes that will give you something to freeze or some leftovers for leftovers night.
Day 4 - Meal Planning for Moms - How to Organize Your Recipes
Meal planning is going to be majorly stressful if you have to struggle through piles of torn out recipes, scribbled post-it notes and random Pinterest boards to find the recipe you want.
So take a bit of time to choose how to organize your recipes.
Firstly, think about whether you’re a paper and pen kinda gal, or a high tech mama.
If you’re a digital person, you could try:
If you’re a paper and pen person, you could choose:
A recipe binder
A recipe notebook
A bullet journal.
If you’re asking me, then I’ll tell you that it doesn’t actually matter.
As long as you are consistent and give the system at least a month or two for you to get used to it.
Too often, people abandon an organizing system, without giving it a proper try.
At this point, I wouldn’t go back and organize all your old recipes into your new system. You can go back and do that another time.
Just organize any new recipes you come across.
Day 5 - Meal Planning for Moms - Color Code Your Days
Shit just got real, mamas.
Grab a piece of paper or download the workbook.
Think about your typical weekly dinner schedule and color code your days.
Red - crazily busy days when there’s plenty ‘o’ stress and not muchos time.
Amber - Quite busy days when you’re only a bit tired.
Green - The most relaxed days of the week when you actually have time to be in the kitchen to cook and prepare food.
Now obviously, this may change week to week for you. Or it might be broadly the same during term time for example, but different during the school holidays.
Just do your best to color code the dinners of each day of the week the best you can.
Day 6 and 7 Meal Planning for Moms - Color Code Your Recipes
Give yourself 2 days for this task.
Download the next page of the workbook - or use a piece of paper divided into 3 sections.
Now you’re going to make a color-coded list of your favorite recipes.
***Only choose 3 or 4 recipes for each section, otherwise you might be here forever*************
In the first section, make a list of speedy meals that only require advance effort. These might include:
Freezer meals ready prepared that you can just slam in the oven
Take out - let’s keep it real, y’all.
These are your RED meals - dinners that will get you through you crazy busy ‘red’ evenings.
Download the workbook for free -
no email address required.
In the second section, make a list of easy meals you can whip up in under 30 minutes with not much effort - maybe meals you’ve made lots and lots of times before.
These are your AMBER meals - dinners that you can happily cook on the evenings when you’re only ‘quite’ busy.
The types of meals I have in this category include:
Picnic stuff just prep
Breakfast for dinner
(You may think that some of these meals are actually super speedy and you might have them in your RED category - that’s OK. We’re all different).
And in the last section, make a list of your favorite dinner recipes that take a bit of time and effort to cook.
These are your GREEN meals - for days when you have a bit more time and energy for cooking.
For me this is usually the roast beef and all the trimmings kinda meals.
Day 8 - Meal Planning for Moms - Don’t Forget the Sides
Now make a list of side dishes you and your family enjoy.
Download the workbook page or divide a piece of paper into two sections.
Section One - make a list of vegetables and salad recipes you like to eat
Section Two - make a list of potato, couscous, quinoa, polenta …..etc recipes you like to eat
Quick Tip - be sure to include sides you can keep in the freezer - frozen vegetables are a super easy way to get dinner on the table fast.
Day 9 - Meal Planning for Moms - Plan to Fail
Even the best laid plays will go tits up.
So now make a list of emergency meals - meals you can make from the pantry or with some basic ingredients you always have to hand - or a number of a decent take out joint. (We still keepin’ it real, mama.)
This is your Plan B for when shit hits the fan.
Meals in this category might include:
A bag of gnocchi in the freezer with a jar of pesto and frozen green beans
Pasta, chopped tomatoes and tuna - with extra chilli flakes for the grown ups.
Frittata with whatever you can forage from the fridge
A bowl of oatmeal - no judgements here, mama.
Again, we’re all different. But pick a few recipes you can rustle up quick and easy.
Day 10 - Meal Planning for Moms - Set Your Meal Planning Schedule
Now’s the time to make meal planning a habit.
Because that’s the only way, you’re going to make meal planning a permanent part of your life.
So choose a time once a week when you can meal plan. And set it as an appointment with yourself.
How to Make Meal Planning Less Horrible And Less Boring
Meal Plan when the kids are asleep and NOT when they’re asking you to play/arbitrate a sibling argument. OR…
Ask the family what they want to eat - don’t do all the work yourself
Make meal planning a nice experience - wine, tv, cuddly blanket for winter, snacks - whatever you have to.
Make it a treat for kids to choose one meal a week (easier for you, nice reward for them) plus get them to help cook it.
Don’t make meal planning a big deal - give yourself a time limit and if in doubt add in pizza night.
And if you hate being tied to a plan, try choosing 7 dinners but not assigning specific days to them. So you can choose from your meals available depending on how you’re feeling that day.
Meal Planning Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t give up - try a system for a month to give it a shot. There is no perfect system.
Don’t give up - it’s tougher in the beginning when you’re figuring things out but it will get easier, and you’ll get faster
It’s not going to change your life - don’t expect it to
Don’t throw away your meal plans - keep them and reuse them
Don’t try too many new recipes at once
Always include a leftovers night
Don’t meal plan for the full week - leave one night free for leftovers or simple pasta.
Meal Planning Tips for Moms
There you go - my simple Traffic Light System for meal planning.
This system has really been working for me and I’m so thankful for it!
So mama, work your way through this challenge and give it a shot. Meal planning isn’t going to change your life - but it will make your evenings calmer.
Yes, there is a bit of work to do up front. But you’ll be glad you did!
Good luck, mama.