Meal Planning Made Easier: 4 Tips From a Busy Mom

Let’s get real about meal planning for busy families.

“Mom guilt” is a phrase I hear from other moms. I can definitely relate because I sometimes feel the guilt, too. With packed schedules, it can be hard to find time to provide healthy and quality meals for your family. But, from one busy mom to another, these four timesaving tips can help you turn your grocery list into family favorites that can be prepared in less time than you think.

  • Plan Ahead: Use time on less demanding days to plan, shop and prep. During the week, my husband and I both work full time and the kids have school as well as extracurricular activities.  Despite our busy schedules, eating meals together as a family is a priority in my house. So we check our calendars and plan a menu, focusing on easier meals on busier days and larger, more elaborate meals (like enchiladas with all the fixings) on weekends.
  • Become a Grocery List Pro: Before you make that list, shop from your kitchen first. Often, we already have ingredients to make meals. Build on those and jot down any additional ingredients as well as the amounts you need. This is an incredible timesaver and reduces food waste. It’s also helpful to keep a running list in the kitchen, preferably on a notepad on or near the fridge. When you run out of a favorite food or ingredient write it on the list immediately. Lastly, categorize your list into food groups using MyPlate. This practice has allowed me to prepare delicious well-balanced meals while ensuring my family is getting the nutrients they need.
  • Let Dairy Be Your Guide: Need inspiration? Dairy foods can totally renew meals, making them something everyone can enjoy. I use milk or yogurt to turn soup into a star at the table, while secretly bumping up the nutrition of that meal. I’m no stranger to grilled cheese and apple sandwiches with creamy tomato soup, and my husband gets creative with prepping overnight oats for all of us to enjoy on a busy morning. I also use what I call “an un-recipe approach” to meal planning; you’ll often find me putting my own spin on a recipe repurposing leftover vegetables or cooked meats into a soup, casserole or even pizza.
  • Finally, Divide and Conquer: In my previous work as a director of a nutrition education program, I encouraged parents to involve the kids in the kitchen. It makes meal prepping more fun and increases kiddos’ confidence and willingness to try new foods. My kids have fond memories and great life skills because they know how to cook, as they are often my partners in the kitchen. My husband joins in on the fun too, and we’ve found this to be a great time for us to not only get creative, but also to talk about our days.

Want to get rid of “mom guilt” when it comes to preparing your family’s meals? Check out more of our tips and tricks to develop a meal planning routine that works for you!

By Sarah Haynes

Sarah joined the Dairy MAX team in 2019. She has a background in directing nutrition programs and teaching fitness and she is passionate about evidence-based health education. When she's not working, Sarah enjoys BODYPUMP classes. 

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