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9 Ways to Simplify Meal Planning for Busy Moms

Updated on August 29, 2017
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As a busy mom caring for three children under the age of three, Amy personally enjoys using these simple tips with her own meal planning.

One of my new favorite baked dishes, Sun Dried Tomato Chicken with Vegetables.  I love this simple and delicious dish so much I usually make four 8x8 pans at a time so we can eat one for dinner and freeze the rest for later.
One of my new favorite baked dishes, Sun Dried Tomato Chicken with Vegetables. I love this simple and delicious dish so much I usually make four 8x8 pans at a time so we can eat one for dinner and freeze the rest for later.

9 Tips to Simplify Meal Planning

  1. Do away with weekly grocery shopping trips! Saying goodbye to my ritual Saturday morning grocery shopping has been one of the best break-ups I've ever had! I have replaced my weekly shopping trips with one monthly shopping trip. It takes more work and time upfront to plan for a whole month, but then it's done! I do have to run in to the grocery store occasionally for fresh produce items or have my husband swing by on his way home after work from time to time. However, I don't consider running in for 2-3 items equiviolent to a weekly grocery trip! You may be wondering what I do with a month's worth of food?
  2. FREEZE! That's right, I typically prepare meals four at a time and we eat one fresh and freeze the rest. I do this by doubling most casserole recipes and then dividing them into four 8x8 foil pans. There are two incredible perks to this method worth mentioning here: 1. I cook a meal one time to get four meals. That means practically doing the same amount of work to get four times the meals! 2. I only double the meal but by separating it into smaller portions, we waste less AND spend less! I used to think freezing meals meant sacrificing flavor and freshness, but if you freeze and store properly you don't have to compromise either one!
  3. Adjust recipes to accommodate your family size. In my family we have two adults and three hungry toddlers. If you only have one adult and two small children you probably aren't going to consume an entire casserole that serves 6-8 people. Rather than waste half the dish, use smaller foil pans to bake in and separate the meal into two pans very similarly to what I described at the end of tip number 2. You can use one for the day of preparing and wrap the other tightly in cling wrap, then foil, and freeze. (Just don't forget to remove the plastic wrap and recover with the foil before baking once you decide to serve it.) Another option would be to just cut the recipe in half from the get go, but I always prefer to maximize my meals for each recipe in order to save money and time!
  4. Utilize sale ads and price matching when available at your local grocery store. This alone will help save money. I usually look to see what fruits are on sale each week and that's what I buy for snacks over other fruits that aren't on sale.
  5. Create a master list of all the meals you make. If you try new recipes often then make sure and include some things you have been wanting to try. Then when you are creating your monthly list you can refer back to your master list. This helps save a ton of time because rather than going blank trying to think of a month's worth of meals you are just picking out meals that sound appetizing from a master list. The more meals you have on your master list the more effective this method is. Also take into consideration how many meals you'll actually need to make for the month. I typically go for 20 dinner meals. However, I only select about 7-9 different recipes because many recipes will be doubled or tripled and then divided to make 2-4 meals.
  6. If you select a meal that requires condiments like sour cream, diced onions, etc. try and pair it with a meal that will use those same ingredients that you would typically have excess of and end up throwing out. For example if we are having tacos, I'll usually plan to serve hamburgers close by and avoid wasting onion and tomatoes. This will save you food and money!
  7. Say goodbye to excess sides! I used to feel like each meal needed to be a 5 course dinner; consequently, a ridiculous amount of food went uneaten. Unless it's a special occasion there really is no need to have three separate side dishes with each meal.
  8. Crockpot meals. Many people don't realize the full potential of their crock pot. It can do so much more than make a roast or chili! Although, I don't argue against a nice, tender roast or some homemade chili on a nice cool day. There are endless wonderful recipes online for making just about anything in a crockpot. Crockpot dishes are perfect for working moms (or dads), or even stay-at-home moms (or dads) like myself that struggle to prepare time consuming dishes with toddlers in the home.
  9. Casserole dishes. I don't understand why they get such a bad reputation! Casseroles don't have to be bland, weird, or unhealthy. In fact pictured above is a casserole with Chicken breasts, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery glazed with Sun Dried Tomato Dressing. My favorite things about baking casserole dishes are that I don't normally need to worry about making sides or having excessive dishes to wash! Another benefit of making casseroles is that with most recipes you can prep the night before and just refrigerate overnight until you're ready to pop it in the oven! Often times I'll prep a casserole dish during naptime and then refrigerate it until close to dinner time.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful! Please feel free to comment below if you have any additional tips you'd like to share.


© 2017 Amy Dean

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