Making healthy meals for the family is one of the indispensable tasks for every mom. However, this becomes more crucial for working moms as they have little time to cook meals at home. The best way to make meals hassle-free is by meal planning. In this post, I am sharing Meal Planning for Working Moms to make it easier for you to provide healthy meals for your family. I discovered meal planning when I started to work and would find it difficult to find time to cook meals. Since then it has now been more than 10 years that I follow weekly meal planning. It has allowed me to make healthy food choices as a working mom too. Over the years I have gotten more understanding about meal planning as a working family and I have been able to evolve from cooking as a working woman to cooking as a working mom. In this post, I am sharing all these learning in a simplified way for you to start meal planning as a beginner.
So let’s start meal planning.
What is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is carefully deciding the menu for the coming days based on the food preferences and dirty needs of your family. Generally, meal planning is done on a weekly basis but you can even plan the meal for a whole month. Meal planning is not just limited to routine meals you can also use this technique to plan for special events like holidays and get-togethers.
Why should you plan meals as a working mom?
As a working mom, you have hectic schedules of juggling work, household chores, and many things on your mind. So you will not be able to spend a lot of time making meals but you still have to ensure that your family especially kids get the right nutrition and have healthy meals every day.
Here are a few more benefits of Meal Planning for Working Moms:
- Saves time and reduces stress: When you have your meal plan you do not spend time deciding the meals for the day and reduce stress. It also allows you to work more efficiently while cooking as you will be well prepared with the ingredients and can head directly to cooking instead of wondering what to cook.
- Promotes healthy eating habits: Since you will be planning the meals you can make healthy choices of the food that you wish to incorporate into your diet and not resort to last-minute unhealthy options of takeaways.
- Saves money: By planning meals you have a clear grocery list and can shop for the groceries that suit your budget and avoid wasting money on takeaways.
- Reduce wastage: There is no impulse buying with meal planning and you will reduce the wastage of food and can plan to use the leftovers to avoid food and money wastage.
How to plan meals as a working family
Here are the detailed steps to meal planning for working moms and for working families.
1: Assessing family preferences and dietary needs
The first step to meal planning is to find the needs of your family. Here are a few considerations to take into account:
I) How many meals you need to plan for a day:
If your family gets lunch at work or your kids get lunch at school you can skip lunch from your meal planning. On the other hand, if you have babies or toddlers you will need to include food appropriate for them in your meal planning. Similarly, if you have kids they need snacks during the day so you will need to consider their snack needs too while meal planning.
II) Dierty needs:
If there are specific food that your family is allergic to or certain food items during a particular time of the day does not suit them you should avoid them. Also, you need to observe to find if there are essential nutrients missing in their daily diet, you should make an effort to include them in your meal plan in a way that will be easier for them to consume. For example, most time we miss consuming fruits, so in your meal plan you can include fruits or fruit-based recipes as snacks. If you feel your kids are not consuming enough greens you should try to look for ways in which they will enjoy green in their meal without realizing it is there.
III) Tiffin needs:
If you will be taking lunch as tiffin you should include options in your meal plan that will be convenient to consume and carry as meals. You should also consider that you may need to make them in the morning so they should not be elaborate recipes that will take a lot of time to cook as you may find less time in the morning.
IV) Family favorites:
Although as moms you feel your kids should eat all healthy food and want them to explore their palate and try different foods but for meal planning to be sustainable you should include foods that will be enjoyed by your family.
2: Use a meal planner
To make meal planning sustainable and easier you must use a meal planner. You may think that you can use a notebook or paper around to do it and it will work for some time. But you will be spending a lot of time on meal planning and will not be consistent. It will eventually make you give up on meal planning without even realizing it. With a dedicated meal planner, you will be more streamlined, and meal planning will easily become part of your routine.
I highly recommend using a digital meal planner for many reasons.
- You need not do a meal plan every week once you have a few weeks of planning done you can easily reuse it within a few weeks.
- Digital meal planner saves a lot of time you can make a master list of recipes for each food type and just select them.
- You can use it anywhere, I use my digital meal planner at work during lunch breaks or boring remote meetings to plan my meals.
- You can refer to it easily while shopping.
- You need not write every time in just a few clicks and your meal plan is ready.
- You can even consolidate your recipes and refer to them easily.
I use the below Google sheet meal planner, it makes meal planning only a matter of minutes.
Google Sheet Meal Planner and Automated Grocery List
You get a monthly meal planning sheet and an automated grocery list.
- Monthly Meal Planning Calendar view
- Weekly Split to allow weekly meal planning and grocery list.
- Automated Weekly and monthly Grocery shopping Lists generated.
- Dropdown to select your meals
- Make your Meal Planning Database and use it forever.
- Save time and money with this automated sheet.
- Check the demo video here
3: Create a master list of food
Make a master of all the recipes that you cook and your family enjoy. Your master list can be made in different ways. You can make a master list of meals based on dishes you make at different times, such as a master list of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You can also make a master list based on major ingredients like Green vegetable food items, Chichen meals, rice meals, etc. You may also make a master list of quick meals like one-pot meals or instant pot meals. You also make a list of family favorite meals, weekend special meals, and a dessert master list for fun cheat days.
Based on your meal planning style you must make a master list. Making a master list is a one-time activity that will initially consume your time but since made right you will save a lot of time on meal planning every time and make meal planning very easy and effective for you.
Here is a pro tip for you:
When preparing a master list go through different recipe sites or simply Google “breakfast ideas” to get ideas for a different meal and pick the one you like and add to your master list.
4: Weekly meal planning for working moms
Let’s get to actual meal planning. For planning your meal you can either do weekly planning, monthly meal planning, or bimonthly meal planning. However, I prefer weekly meal planning.
So essentially while planning your meals you should refer to your master list and select a meal for each meal of the day. But there are some ways to help you with weekly meal planning.
- You should have a quick look at the groceries available with you that may perish and use them for meal planning for the coming days.
- You should do your meal planning a day before you buy the groceries so that you can get the required ingredients. I prefer to do meal planning by Friday so that I can get my groceries on Saturday.
- When planning meals use ingredients with low-shelf life early in the week.
- To make meal planning more easy you can theme different days of the week. I have Monday for leafy vegetables, easy meals for Friday, and Fun food for Saturday, and I make my master list the same way, this allows me to plan meals easily.
- You may not need to plan all 7 days’ meals you may choose to cook more quantity and use later. Such as you can cook a big batch of pasta on Tuesday and freeze the extra for Thursdays.
- Keep an eye out for seasonal fruits and vegetables and include them in your meal plan.
- Try new recipes on weekends and if they are loved by all you can add them to your master list.
With these tips planning your meals is going to be very easy and they will not get repetative and boring to eat.
5: Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping should be a well-thought-out and strategic plan. You should buy things that are nutritional and align with your meal plan. Once your meal planning is completed you should list out the ingredients required to make them and the quantity you will need.
If you are going to you 3 tomatoes in 3 meals, you should buy at least 10 tomatoes. This will make grocery shopping easier and will avoid waste. Make sure to include spices and sauces required for meals to be added to your grocery list. I keep a notepad on my fridge to add any items that are exhausted to be added to the grocery list.
At times it happens that a vegetable I had planned for the week is beyond the normal price range in such a case, I switch to a better option and alter the meal plan.
Depending on your preference you may either do online grocery shopping or go to shop. I mostly do online grocery shopping on a weekly basis for fresh items like dairy, fruits, and vegetable, which save a lot of time. And visit the store once a month for other groceries.
6: Meal Preparation
Preparing for your weekly meals is optional but if possible for you. It will make your week very easy. There are 2 ways to it you either cook your meals for the whole week and store them in quality containers for the next week. Or you can make a few preparations based on your meal plan and cook food as per the plan in the coming days.
The extent to which you do your meal preparation is completely your choice and depends on the time you have at hand over the weekend and your choice to eat frozen food. I just do a few preparations that are possible for me during the weekend time because as a working mom, you need some downtime on weekends. There are only 3 things that I do for meal preparation on the weekend and that makes the week easier for me without making me feel exhausted.
- Boil potato, I find potatoes so versatile and easy to use that I just boil a few every weekend and store them. They can be used to make side dishes along meals, mashed potatoes, etc. and they are loved by kids.
- I use a food processor to shred and dice hard vegetables like carrots, and cabbage. I really don’t care what shape of vegetable the recipe calls for. I put the shape my food processor makes.
- Make a batter for the pancake, and use it Monday and Tuesday.
Meal planning can make your life easier and remove the daily decision fatigue of what to cook today. You will be able to make healthy choices for your family and avoid wastage too. Meal planning looks different for each family and their need. The process of meal planning and the tips shared in this post will help you make a personalized meal plan that will be sustainable to follow and not exhaust you even if you are a beginner at meal planning. So give a try to meal planning and make your life easier with Meal Planning for working moms or working couples.
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