These meal planning hacks are without a doubt, life-changing. You’ll never meal plan the same way again. Dinnertime, things just got real.
Let’s do some math for a minute, shall we? I promise, it will be fun. We’ll call it Mom Math.
Okay, so there are 7 days in a week and 24 hours in a day. Let’s say you spend:
- 3 hours sleeping
- 19,093 hours cleaning
- 20.2 hours chasing (dogs or kids, either works)
- 33 1/3 hours cooking
- 10.999 hours meal planning
I admittedly cannot do math for the life of me, but this sure ads up to a whole lot of nonsense.
As moms, the mental load is real.
There are approximately 4.6 billion thoughts firing through our brains at any given moment with a constant chorus reminding us of all the things we have to get done.
So my question is, why not figure out a way we can gain some time back?
Cut back on the amount of time we spend doing certain things? I mean, cleaning is cleaning and the time it takes is the time it takes. Certain household tasks just take more time than others.
But why does meal planning have to be one of them?
True story, before having kids I used to spend hours on the weekend just leisurely flipping through my beloved cookbook collection, coming up with fun dinner ideas for the week and doting over new and interesting recipe ideas.
I know, I’m literally cringing just recalling this memory. Nobody with kids has time for that, nobody. Even if you enjoy the task of meal planning, it still has to be done quickly and efficiently.
Grocery shopping without a meal plan is a recipe for disaster. And a surefire way to overspend.
Planning meals has got to happen. It is one of the many glorious tasks of being a mom. The family has to get fed, every night, on a budget, with healthy foods. We.Can.Do.This.
You Might Also Like:
- Ultimate Meal Planning Printables Bundle
- Easy Toddler Meals Planning Kit
- How to Afford to be a Stay at Home Mom on One Income
3 Life-Changing Meal Planning Hacks
1. Use a Cheat Sheet
This printable cheat sheet is something I wish I had a long time ago. Since baby #2 came along I have really been relying on any and all meal planning hacks to help save me time and get our family’s meals planned quickly – and this one is by far my favorite.
Here’s How to Use it:
- If planning out a week’s worth of meals, pick 1 meal from each day (Monday-Sunday), plus any side dishes, if applicable.
- If you think you’ll need a recipe to make a certain meal, use Pinterest, cookbooks, or your own recipe binder to help you out.
For example: Let’s say you really want to make the Black Bean Burrito Bowls from the Meatless Monday section, but don’t know where to start. Head on over to Pinterest Search and type in “Black Bean Burrito Bowls” – easy!
The great thing about this printable meal planning cheat sheet is that most of the dinner ideas provided don’t really require a recipe – but of course, you’ve gotta do you, so if a recipe is what you need, then by all means.
- Decide which things you’ll make from scratch and which will be store-bought.
For Example: Maybe you’ve decided on chicken tenders and fries for Thursday night. You could make homemade chicken tenders and get a bag of frozen fries or vice versa – or depending on how busy your day/week is, just make it a freezer meal night. Bottom line is you can make the cheat sheet work for you.
Grab your Printable Meal Planning Cheat Sheet!
2. One and Done
This trick is as easy as it gets. Use one cookbook. BAM. That’s it. Now, because of my cookbook obsession, I often find it hard to limit myself and in the old days I would pick 7 different recipes from 7 different books – but with 2 kids, I’m all about easy meal planning hacks.
Here’s How to Do it:
- Pick one cookbook off your shelf (my personal favorite for this hack is Dinnertime by The Pioneer Woman)
- Plan a week’s worth of dinners from that one book.
This meal planning hack is one of my favorite time-savers because it really narrows down the playing field of recipes/ideas to choose from.
When you’re faced with 7 nights a week of dinners, it can instantly feel overwhelming to come up with 7 different ideas the whole family will love.
That’s why my “one and done” trick is an instant go-to for me. Whether I use the Skinnytaste cookbook, or any of my PW books, planning dinners is made SO much easier by sticking to one source.
3. Use Pinterest (Smarter, Not Harder)
Pinterest is a black hole of wonder. Anyone who has used it knows this to be true.
While your intentions may be to meal plan, Pinterest has other ideas for you. Give it 5 minutes and suddenly you’ll be pinning anything with the words “salted caramel” – “dollar store” – or – “chalkboard” in the title.
So how to circumvent the addictive nature of Pinterest and still get some meal planning done? Simple.
- Go to Search
- Type in your keywords (ex: chicken, 30 minutes)
- Then click on “Your Pins“
This will show you anything you’ve pinned that has chicken and can be made in 30 minutes.
- Your primary goal here is to narrow down the playing field so you’re not sifting through thousands of chicken recipes on Pinterest.
- By searching through your pins first, you’ll also be more likely to find meals you actually want to make since you pinned them in the first place!
More Meal Planning Resources:
- Crazy Easy 3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Dinner Ideas
- No Recipe-Required Dinner Ideas from Real Moms
- Pinterest Meal Plan + Meal Planning Tips
Note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links for your convenience. I only recommend products that I love and use myself.