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Meal Planning for Busy Families

Meal planning for busy families can seem pretty nonexistent. With our practical tips and advice, you’ll be meal planning in no time!

Busy family in the kitchen.

Meal planning for busy families can seem pretty nonexistent. With school, sports practices, work, and errands – slowing down to cook, let alone plan a meal, is probably something that rarely happens. But that doesn’t have to be the case anymore! Read our practical tips to help busy families like yours spend more time around the dinner table and enjoying good home-cooked meals.

Meal Planning Myths

Before tackling ways to meal plan for your busy family, let’s first look at a few meal planning myths. If the thought of doing it makes you cringe and want to run the other way, perhaps it’s because there are some things you believe about meal planning that may not be true. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about meal planning and the truth behind them.

You have to plan every meal.

Without a plan or not, you and your family are still consuming food every single day. Of course, in everyone’s meal planning mind, that means you’ll be planning for every single time everyone chooses to put food in their mouth. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is you can start as slow and minimal as you want. Instead of having three meals a day plus snacks planned for every single week, start with just one meal a day.

Meals must be planned with new recipes.

The very first mistake all new meal planners make is going directly to Google or Pinterest and finding new recipes to try and add to their upcoming week’s meal plan. Honestly, this is the last thing you want to do. Instead of looking for new, never-been-cooked meals, stick with what you already know your family enjoys.

Meal planning takes too much time.

At first, this may seem like the case. However, it’s genuinely a matter of being intentional and consistent. Most people find that meal planning at the end of the week for the upcoming week works best. Others plan for chunks of days (or weeks) at a time. You’ll want to find what works best for you and stick with it.

Planning meals makes for a higher grocery bill.

This is one of the biggest myths that’s only proven true when people buy foods not part of the plan. Or, in some cases, when you’ve planned a week’s worth of meals and still choose to eat out. This goes back to the logic of keeping it simple. Your meals don’t have to be packed with tons of ingredients and you don’t have to buy the most expensive foods on the market.

With these myth busters in mind, let’s look at ways to make meal planning for your busy family practical and beneficial.

 

Meal Planning for Busy Families

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide that meal planning is something you’re going to try. And by try, we mean giving it a legit 30 days at least. This will give you time to actually get into a new routine and swing of meal planning. Then…

Have a family discussion.

A family discussion may not seem like it’s part of meal planning, but it can actually be the very thing that keeps it going. Call a family meeting and discuss the new change – meal planning. Let everyone know you’ll need their full cooperation and assistance. Making it a family affair will not only make it fun, but it will also hold everyone accountable. If you have kids old enough, you can even assign them their own meal planning (or cooking) day. They’ll inadvertently learn a few life skills along the way.

Start slow.

Once everyone is on the same page, decide how much you want to start planning. It’s typical to start with dinners since most kids are in school and eat lunch there. Breakfasts seem to fly by so fast that most people skip that meal (of course, this doesn’t have to be the case). Whatever approach you decide to take, make sure everyone in the family knows the plan.

Keep your family’s schedules in mind.

You’ll also want to look at your family calendar and plan around any extracurricular activities. If Tuesdays are late days because of games and/or practices, then you know planning something quick and light would be better than going for 2-hour cooking meatloaf. For days when everyone is home for the day by 3 pm, you can go for those bigger meals.

Use kitchen gadgets to your advantage.

As a busy family, you may not have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. As you’re planning meals, look for ones that can be cooked in crockpots, InstantPots, and/or air fryers. Using gadgets like these will allow you to start a meal and walk away to take care of other things. While we don’t recommend completely leaving your house with kitchen gadgets plugged up and on, you could at least start the crockpot in the morning and let something cook throughout the day.

Use leftovers to your advantage.

If there’s one thing with meal planning that is massively overlooked, it’s using leftovers. If you’ve cooked a big meal the day before, consider having the leftovers the next day. You could also use the leftovers as the start of a new meal. There are many benefits to eating leftovers! From saving money to saving time, you’ll want to incorporate this technique into your meal planning.

 

Final Thoughts

We understand what it’s like to meal plan for a busy family. That’s why we know these tips and suggestions will work. You just have to put them to use! Remember to start slow and start small. Take it one meal at a time and make sure to get the entire family on board. Before you know it, you’ll be a meal planning queen (or king)! And of course, our meal planning app can help you along the way.

Emily Montes

About Emily Montes

Emily Montes is the co-founder and CEO of RealPlans.com. 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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