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4 Family Meal Planning Tips

As a stay-at-home mom to 2 toddlers, a large part of my day is spent in the kitchen preparing food. Meal planning at the beginning of the week is essential to ensuring my family is well fed with home cooked nutrition (I give myself a break on the weekends)! If you get overwhelmed with meal planning like I used to, try these tips to sooth your soul:

1. Make a list of your favorite, go-to meals that you make well, and often. Each time you prepare a dish that is a hit, add it to your growing list of menu items. This will save you time in the future, and it ensures you have plenty of ideas to quickly choose from when you are planning out your week. These favorite dishes also become family traditions which is great for making memories with your kids! I recommend categorizing the list by cuisine or theme! Here are mine: Mexican, Italian, Asian, Comfort Food, Family Favorites, Mediterranean. Try to have several go-to recipes in each category to rotate and repeat!

2. Don’t try to plan out too many meals! Be realistic! If you know you rarely cook 5 days a week due to your family’s schedule, anticipate that! It can be frustrating when you buy too many ingredients that sit, unused, due to the whirlwind of life. It pains me to throw out groceries from the refrigerator simply because I ran out of time. Also, remember with each meal you make you will also have leftovers. This should account for another meal. I would recommend only 3-4 days for meal planning but do what works for you!

3. Pick out three meals from your established list and write down what you need to purchase for the week. This only takes about 15 minutes. It is stressful to have no plan and head to the grocery store not knowing what to buy. You end up throwing things in the cart and hoping for the best! Always take inventory of what you have in the refrigerator and pantry after choosing your meals and before shopping. Try to create a menu based on what you already have in stock. If you need to save more time, order your groceries online for delivery or curbside pickup. Do not feel you must make a meal on the exact day you had planned. It can be very frustrating and overwhelming to stick to a strict schedule. Give yourself some grace and go with the flow. This will help you not feel like you are failing in some way. Because life happens!

4. Group meals together by cuisine. This helps to reduce food waste, save money, and simplify grocery shopping. Who wants to do Italian one night, Asian the next, and then Mexican the following? You will no doubt have ingredients left over. It’s just too much. You don’t want to get overwhelmed with a long list of different items you need from the store, either. I love variety but hate food waste. I will make several different Mexican meals in a week so I know I will use all that cilantro I purchased or empty out that tortilla packet. You will not become bored thinking you are eating the same thing each night, because each meal will be different. You are just using similar ingredients. I love taking this approach, because it makes for great snacks, too! You can use the leftover meat from taco night to make nachos the next day. It’s a win/win and your family will love it!

I hope these tips alleviate your meal-planning stress! Share your own tips in the comments below. I would love to know what works for you!

Samantha Reyna

Mom to 2 toddlers and loving wife


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