Simple Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families (Ditch the Mom Guilt & Serve Those Dino Nuggets!)

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Simple Meal Planning Tips - Tyson Dino Nuggets

Hi there! I’m Michelle, one of Collin’s sidekicks!

Like a lot of households, I have a very busy family. Between sports and dance and school, it’s pretty much impossible to get everyone home at the same time. My husband and I both work full time so our schedules keep us tied up as well! As you can imagine, it can create some chaotic moments.

One time, I picked my son up from school and he threw his backpack into the car from one door, then he began to walk around to the other side to get in. I thought he had already jumped in and I drove home thinking he was in the car but he wasn’t… just his backpack was. 😳 Then my phone rang – “mom, you forgot me…” 🤦‍♀️Yup, total mom fail!

Because of the hustle and bustle of our lives, we have never had the picture-perfect “everyone gathers around the kitchen table” meals unless it is a Sunday night. But here’s how I make sure my family gets fed:

Tip #1: Plan meals ahead of time.

meal planning tips busy family – cooking dinner

To make sure we all get a full dinner, even if it happens to be at separate times, my meal planning is based around dishes I can prepare, store, and be reheated when the kids get home. I love making big batches of soup since they only require a quick reheat when anyone is ready for dinner. We have tried meal kits but it’s not worth the cost since my teenagers eat SO much. I had to cook two nights’ worth of meals on ONE night to feed them all!

meal planning tips busy family – shopping the deli case

I do the bulk of the grocery shopping once a week, but my husband will always run in the grocery store for me on his way home from work to grab something that I may have forgotten or to pick up something premade. I love having him grab a rotisserie chicken when I’m in a pinch since you can make so many recipes from shredding the meat!

For the most part, meals are prepared by me; however, every once in a while my husband will throw on a grilled cheese or some pancakes for the kids. He does do a great job with breakfasts on weekend mornings, too!

Tip #2: Take advantage of in-store markdowns.

meal planning tips busy family – marked down items in a cart

I start out every Saturday by ordering my groceries from our Smith’s (Kroger) Clicklist. BEST. Invention. Ever. Hands down. This alone has saved me so much money and time because I can actually think through what I’m buying and plan my list so I’m not impulsively adding things to my cart that I don’t need.

marked down ground beef sale at smiths grocery store

I love shopping at our Smith’s because they mark down all of their meat. I save SO much money buying marked down meat and other perishables, and then I splurge on protein drinks for myself along with bacon and cheeses. I’m all about that keto life!

Tip #3: Know the family schedule.

meal planning tips busy family – weekly schedule

On Sundays, I look at our family’s schedule for the week and add it to our wipe-off whiteboard. I lay out what everyone has all week so that I can see who will be home and when. Then I fill in the calendar with very simple meal ideas. One of my family’s favorite is this simple slow cooker taco soup. It’s delicious and so easy to make since all the ingredients just simmer on low in the slow cooker.

If I know that most of us will be home around mealtime one night, I’ll plan something that night that you kind of have to eat as soon as it’s done. If we will be in and out at random times, I’ll plan something that can be assembled when they get home or before they leave for their sport or activity.

Tip #4: Sneak in moments to connect.

meal planning tips busy family – beautiful smiling daughter enjoying dinner

At our house, since everyone is coming and going, I usually always find myself helping a different kid get their dinner together when they get home from dance, basketball, soccer, or work. I don’t mind this though, because they’ll then usually sit at the counter and tell me about their day, and I get some one-on-one time with them. I really enjoy it!

I find time to touch base with them about their day, whether it’s standing at the counter while they eat or in the car driving them to and from extracurriculars. It’s not all of us around the table, but it works for our family.

Tip #5: Do what works best works best for you.

meal planning tips busy family – happy kids smiling for the camera

I’ll admit it, my meal planning is pretty basic, and I honestly used to feel lots of mom guilt because we never sat at the table together. But I learned to be okay with it because our kids are doing what they love and staying out of trouble… so we’re doing something right! 🙌 When you keep your kids busy and involved in activities they enjoy, there are so many benefits.

If I could offer some advice — don’t pay too close attention to what other families do, especially when it comes to those who operate differently. You could end up feeling ‘less than’ because your parenting style isn’t the same… I know I did for a while! We’re all doing the best we can, and if it’s working for you then, hey, keep up the good work! ❤️

Frozen Pizza

And remember…

There is no right or wrong way to meal plan. Sometimes, you’re lucky to throw a frozen pizza in the oven or some Dino Nuggets in the air fryer.

Another piece of advice? Set the bar low from the start and you’ll look amazing whenever you go the extra mile. 😂


Join The Discussion

Comments 19

  1. Melinda P.

    “Set the bar low from the start and you’ll look amazing whenever you go the extra mile.” LOL, words that I live by! Good post, Michelle! Loved it!

    • J

      Yes!!! 😂😂 love it!

      • Michelle. (Super Sidekick)


    • Michelle. (Super Sidekick)

      Thank you Melinda! We are all just doing the best we can, right!? 😘

  2. Susan Crawford

    I totally understand the managers special meat. That is pretty much what we buy at our house. Portion it out, freeze it and be done. I want and need a vacuum sealer.

    • Michelle. (Super Sidekick)

      I really would love a vacuum sealer too! Good idea.

  3. tipaye

    Love this!!! ❤️

  4. Lindsay

    Love this. We struggle with so many activities and not having a family dinner, but I’m going to change my thinking and enjoy the one on one time with the kids. Great tip!

    Your family is precious. 😍

    • Michelle. (Super Sidekick)

      Lindsay yes! Don’t beat yourself up. We are all in this together and what works for one family just doesn’t work for another. 1:1 time is priceless!

  5. Carms

    Great tips Michelle! Really we are all just doing our best to get it all in. Your view was very transparent. Thanks for sharing and affirming that we can only do what we can do. Just enjoy your family the best you can.

    • Michelle. (Super Sidekick)

      100%! Sometimes we all get caught up on Instagram and Pinterest and what we think everyone but us is doing, and you can get down on yourself. I pin things all the time, but I probably only ever make 1% of what I pin LOL!

  6. ana

    This is great! I hope you will repost this after Christmas so I can take advantage of all the great idea’s. Unfortunately it’s crunch time and I feel like I’m going to forget all this. I’m also unsure of how to save articles on h2s. Thank you!

  7. Kay

    I enjoy n cherish family time at the dinner table. I miss those days I had that with my own parents n my siblings. Now I try to do it with my husband n children. Yes, I want them to stay busy doing what they luv, but I don’t want my children to b overwhelmed with too many activities. N I want them to value the precious time they have with their fam. I hope I can find a balance n maximize our together time before they’re off to college…n life on their own. I do like the one-on-one time too. As middle-age adults my 4 siblings n are really close n I think a lot of that came from our together time growing up.

    • Michelle. (Super Sidekick)

      Great point Kay. I spent every evening at the dinner table with my family too. I think each family just has to do what’s best for them, I agree.

  8. kati

    Your kids are loved and fed…they will remeber the loved part.

  9. Melissa

    My daughter loves the Dino nuggets! I microwave them, about 30 seconds on each side, it doesn’t get easier than that!!!

  10. chantelrebecca1

    I’m not judging someone else’s style but for my family we value sitting down together for a healthy meal. We make it a point to stop and sit down together every night as a family. My husband is in the military and works all kinds of schedules and has been gone completely for long periods of time. We find making time for dinner together allows us all time every day that we have-no excuses. Would love a post about how to make that kind of dinner happen easier and faster.

  11. Laura

    Lmao @ only the backpack was in the car 😂

  12. Kathleen

    I meant

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