5 Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms

cooking for moms

If you thought finding the time to prepare delicious (and healthy!) foods was difficult before you had a baby, I’m sure you’re realizing that it is almost certainly harder to find after you’ve had one. But that doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel in favor of take out. Nor do you need to compromise on the quality of the foods you prepare for your family. What it does mean is finding simple ways to help make shopping and meal prep a little less time consuming, and a little more reliable.  Here are 5 easy tips for healthy eating…with a baby!

1. Plan, plan, plan: Plan meals that allow you to make use of the same or similar ingredients– or look for recipes that help you use leftovers from one meal in another. For example, if you’re making a vegetable stir-fry with brown rice on Monday, cook extra rice to toss with some fresh fruit, nuts, lemon juice, and olive oil for a quick and easy lunch the next day. Planning a weekly menu will also help focus your shopping efforts and allow you to select a few key ingredients, thus cutting the time you have to spend in the store.

2. Shop (and eat) what is in season: Eating seasonally (whether you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, joining a Community Supported Agriculture, or looking for what you know is season in your area) helps limit the choices you have and makes weekly meal planning easier. Plus, it means that you’re more likely to be eating foods at their freshest, capitalizing on their taste and nutritional content.

3. Keep recipes simple: Again, utilizing seasonal ingredients will help limit the number of ingredients any one recipe can have. Buying what’s in season will also mean that there’s less need to “dress up” your food (a ripe heirloom tomato needs little else than a sprinkle of salt and a light drizzle of olive oil). There are many recipe sites that help you figure out what to do with produce in season. Of course, Eating Made Easy is a great resource, but a few of my other favorites are Fresh365, Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks, and Stone Soup (which specializes on recipes containing 5 ingredients or less)!

4. Prep/organize foods ahead of time: Preparing dinner wouldn’t be so time consuming if you didn’t have to do all that prep- chopping, dicing, slicing, and marinating. This is why things like baby carrots are so popular, and why stores can now charge a premium for selling pre-cut produce.  Take a cue from this trend and, as much as is possible, prep any foods you can when you bring them home or find that you have a little extra time. For example, as you’re unpacking the groceries and junior is happy in his bouncy seat, chop the broccoli and potatoes for dinner that night. Make finding the ingredients for tomorrow night’s soup easier by keeping them together in the fridge. Simple steps like this will cut down on the time you spend looking for and preparing the foods you need to actually prepare dinner.

5. Post your meal plan: Don’t try to remember what you were going to have on Wednesday and how you wanted to use the leftovers on Friday. When you prepare your meal plan, keep it posted, in plain sight, to remind you (and the rest of your family) what you had in mind. This will also help you make the most of the few small moments to follow Tip #4 if/when you have time and energy throughout the day. Don’t like the idea of posting that meal plan on the fridge? Check out this super creative way to organize and store your meal plans/recipes while keeping your kitchen clutter-free.

5 more great tips coming tomorrow!……

Thank you to Kiyah Duffy for today’s guest post.  Kiyah has a PhD in Nutrition, blogs at Our Regularly Scheduled Program, and is a mom of one (almost 2!) — yet she still manages to make healthy eating a priority for her family.  Check out her blog for other great articles on food, nutrition, parenting, and more.

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  • Timothy Baird
    August 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I am delighted to see concrete strategies to facilitate healthy, home-cooked, eating. Not only do these save time, money, and probably waistline inches – they offer up a valuable lesson to youngsters which is that shopping, cooking, and eating are integrative, family, pursuits. Which brings me to a final thought. Conspicuously absent here was evidence of a devoted sous-chef. As a husband, father, and lover of food – I can be easily coaxed into helping with or taking over any of these tasks. So – tip 6 – put us to work!

  • Amelia
    August 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

    You anticipated my next post, Tim! Here are the next 5 tips, one of which is involve the partner: I very much agree, a sous chef is key 🙂

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