Simple Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families (Ditch the Mom Guilt & Serve Those Dino Nuggets!)
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 meal time 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.
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.
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! ❤️
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. 😂