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6 Meal Planning Tips For Busy Moms Who Love To Cook (But Need A Few Shortcuts)

For busy moms, there always seems to be something changing to throw your weekly meal plan off course. This article features tips to help adapt your meal planning to the rhythm of real life.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms Who Love To Cook (But Need A Few Shortcuts) - Real Plans

Meal planning when you’re a busy mom sounds awesome, but then….life happens. A new school schedule, after school activities, an unexpected interruption, and your meal plan is out the window.

It’s frustrating, because you know how well meal planning can work. But there always seems to be something changing to throw it off course.

You feel me?

But here’s the thing: Meal planning can take the chaos of life into account. If you work it just right, it’s not a rigid plan but a flexible one that can adjust to the needs of a busy family. Here are some tips to include in your meal planning to adapt to the rhythm of real life.

1 – Prepare a realistic schedule

This may seem self-evident, but if Tuesday sees you shuttling kids to soccer practice and ballet, with violin lessons in between, Tuesday is not the day to plan the new cordon bleu recipe you’ve been wanting to try.

How much time do you actually have to dedicate to cooking each day? Even though you may have a couple hours between work and dinner, don’t forget to take into account all the little chores that add up, like one more load of laundry.

Even though you might want to make beautiful nutritious three course meals everyday, if you’ve only got half an hour a day you need to plan for the reality of getting a meal on in half an hour. That might mean bulk cooking over the weekend, freezer meals, or leftovers.

Planning for an ideal that doesn’t work with reality will only set yourself up for feeling like a failure.

2 – Unconventional cooking times

When you are assessing how much time you have to cook, don’t think of only the time just before a meal. Perhaps you work from home, and the best time to cook is after the kids are at school but before you need to start working.

Prep or cook supper in the morning, if that’s the time you have.

Or maybe once a week you clear a few hours and prep for the week ahead, or cook a few dishes at once and freeze them.

3 – Have a set time to think about the day’s food

Am I the only one who has made a beautiful plan, and then referred to it ten minutes before breakfast and realized I forgot to soak the buckwheat overnight?

Set aside 5 minutes a day to look at your (realistic) meal plan in order to make sure you pull the meat out of the freezer or soak the beans for tomorrow. Set an alarm on your phone titled Check Meal Plan – and then check it.

4 – Expect the unexpected

Life is full of curve balls, but we already know that. Make a list of Plan B meals that you know you can whip up in a jiffy. That may mean freezer meals or meals that use pantry staples you always keep on hand. Even better, make an actual list on paper and tape it up to the inside of your food cupboard for easy reference.

Here’s the thing though – keep them only for Plan B! Don’t fall back on them as a habit (did you ignore your phone reminder?).

Tip 4.b) make sure to have those pantry staples on hand for Plan B meals.

5 – Double it up

You don’t need to cook new three meals a day. There are a number of ways you can stretch out time over a number of meals.

Plan second-day-is-better meals for dinners that make great lunches. If you have to pack a lunch, invest into appropriate food containers, like a wide-mouth soup thermos.

Certain meals carry easily into another new meal. For example, roast beef one day and slice it into sandwiches the next. Yesterday’s roast chicken can become today’s chicken curry salad and tomorrows’ chicken noodle soup. In fact, although baking meat may seem fancy, it takes very little active time to cook, and leftovers are easily the basis of another new meal.

Make extra of a base ingredient, like beans or ground meat, and save it for later. A bean soup can then be ready in half an hour instead of preparing the beans for hours again.

Cook twice the amount for one meal, and freeze half for later on. And boom – you have a plan B meal.

6 – Make full use of kitchen appliances

When accessing what time you have to cook, also take a look at how appliances can help you.

Time to cook in the morning? Plan a meal with a slow cooker. Need to cook a fast meal after work? Plan for a meal that uses a pressure cooker.

The instant pot has been gaining popularity as it functions as both, as well as taking away some of the fear of a classic pressure cooker.

Click here for our best tips when making freezer meals with your instant pot.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, meal planning can really help out with your hectic lifestyle, especially when you follow these six tips.

To get even more out your meal planning, be sure to look at Real Plans meal planning app, packed with amazing features to make it even easier to meal plan.

Emily Montes

About Emily Montes

Emily Montes is the co-founder and CEO of She's also an acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine, a published author, a wife, and a mom of two. Emily hopes to make meal planning easier and inspire families to share more meals around the table.

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