The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning

woman meal planning

I didn’t set out to write a guide about meal planning.

If we’re being honest I don’t even like cooking. 

But you don’t have to like cooking to feed your family. This is where I tell you a story.

My aunt and I were working to clean out my grandparents house when I got a text from my husband, two hundred miles away, asking about dinner back at home.

 “Just take out that frozen chili and reheat.” 

My aunt was shocked. She told me that her husband of over twenty years won’t eat leftovers. She cooks dinner everyday, or if she’s lucky, one of her daughters starts dinner while she’s at work.

Then she chuckled, “But sometimes I put food in containers at the back of the freezer. I’ll serve them in a couple weeks and he doesn’t even know he’s eating leftovers.”

My aunt has ADHD and work full time outside the home.

This conversation reminds me of so many conversations I’ve had with ADHD women.

We often overwork ourselves and fail to set boundaries around things like meal planning because we don’t want anyone to be upset with us, or call us lazy.

Meal planning is difficult because you have to use so many executive function skills at one time – which some of us struggle with. Things like thinking ahead, prioritizing, making choices, and actually getting started.

It’s not like you have to have ADHD to struggle with meal planning, lots of moms struggle to get food on the table every night. This struggle to balance our schedules with our intentions is why so many of us end up relying on convenience and fast foods.

I am one of the most executive function challenged people on earth and I am here to tell you successful meal planning is possible.

Meal planning takes commitment, persistence and practice but it is so worth it in the end.

The Busy mom’s guide to meal planning

 

Budget

You need to know where your money is going.

It’s very easy to spend money impulsively without realizing it. You can’t track what’s in your account at all times, or remember every little debit purchase.

Common habits that bust your budget:

  • Eating out several nights per week
  • Buying more food than you can eat
  • Purchasing “healthy” foods you hope your family will eat
  • Allowing your children/partner to dictate what you’re able to serve
  • Planning elaborate meals you find on a food blog

You will always spend more money eating out than eating at home.

If you want to buy more expensive foods, you have to make them fit into your budget. Which means you have to cut out unnecessary items. (soft drinks, candy etc)

Create a List

In the interest of keeping this post a manageable length I will direct you to my post on stocking the pantry.

In addition to pantry stocking, I also tell people to compile a list of meals that your family loves. Try to get at least ten solid choices down on paper.

Always start your list with the pantry staples you need to restock. 

Next, ask your family what they want to eat. Then, ask them what they absolutely will not eat. Use their suggestions and preferences to guide you.

If they offer no input YOU decide.

You might decide to use a couple of the meals on your favorites list. Or you might choose something else. Choose two or three main meals for the week. 

I would never tell an ADHD mom to cook every night. That’s equivalent to torture.

Write down all the ingredients you need for the meals you’ve chosen.

Check around your home and pantry to see if you have some of the ingredients on-hand.

Add the foods you need for your meals to the pantry staples list you made first.

Complete the list with any breakfast, lunch, or snack items you might want for the week.

Choosing recipes

For recipes I love Pinterest. You can narrow the field to instant pot or crockpot recipes. Or you can search for easy recipes based on main ingredient. (ex. easy chicken recipes)

Personally, I prefer recipes with less than ten ingredients.

Take your time. Create a board with recipes that appeal to you and look manageable.

If you like to cook, feel free to choose more involved recipes. Just don’t get yourself committed to something you won’t want to do after a long day.

Grocery Shopping

Read my bulleted grocery shopping tips below.

  • Keep your list on paper or in an app of your choice
  • Shop alone
  • Avoid impulse buys. If it’s not on the list you probably don’t need it
  • Stay on the perimeter of the store. Packaged foods in the center look like a good deal, but aren’t more cost effective
  • If you become overwhelmed ask an employee to help you find what you need
  • Take advantage of store membership and rewards programs

Meal Prep

I have an entire post and an example of my own food prep that you can check out here.

I don’t do much prepping these days because everything I make is very straight forward.

If you know your week will be super busy, go ahead and prep some things so all you have to do is throw them in the oven/crockpot.

Do whatever you can to make your life easier during the week. Prep anything that you aren’t sure you’ll have the time and energy to make later.

Peel the potatoes, wash the fruit.

 Meal planning isn’t easy for ADHD moms who don’t have much help.

It takes commitment, persistence and practice but it is so worth it in the end.

If you need more detail about Meal Planning check out my Ebook. It’s inexpensive but still offers some actionable advice.

Get peer coaching** in the Enclave!

I’ve gathered a brilliant group of women and mothers to tell our stories, manage our ADHD, and create a calmer, more satisfying life.

 

Peer coaching is small group coaching designed to help you examine the patterns, relationships, and circumstances of your life and get real-time feedback from other women who, “get it.”  We offer up to 10 hrs per month for less than $20/hour.