Don’t forget to check out Part one of our series on Busy Mom Life Hacks!
Part two of our series moves onto meal planning/prep/feeding everyone all the meals all the days. This category is a doozey! Feeding people sounds like it’s not that big of a deal. I actually did love to cook once, when it was leisurely. Then I had multiple people to cook for. With multiple schedules. Who like to eat multiple meals a day. When you add all the components together it can be overwhelming.
I fought meal planning for years. I like to cook. I should be able to do this on my own. My mom didn’t follow a meal guide, why should I? Well, maybe my mom would have if she had Google or Pinterest! Regardless, she certainly would be an advocate for me doing whatever makes my life easier. Whatever justification I gave myself, I am glad I did. Meal planning and prepping tools have made life so much easier for my family! Not to mention, when I really stick with it our pocketbooks show a big difference too!
There are many hacks to meal planning and prepping. I’m going over just a few here, but keep asking your friends what they do! Most ideas I have implemented have come from mom friends in casual conversations by the soccer fields or holding up the walls at a class party at school.
Hack One: Plug it in
- Meal templates is a fairly simple concept that works. I came up with a system where each day had a theme. My weekly themes were: Slow Cooker Sunday, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Way Fast Wednesday, Wild Card Thursday, Family Meal Friday, Something New Saturday. Don’t let the silly names throw you off. Two words: MOM BRAIN. I can barely remember if I put on deodorant some days, much less what my themed meal should be. The quirky names helped me remember, and my kids got into it too. Win, win. With the template system, you still have to find your own recipes, but it makes it kind of fun to plan for the different categories. I made Pinterest boards of recipes for each theme.
Hack Two: Ring it up
- I am not just talking about calling your local pizza joint. I am talking about businesses dedicated to selling casseroles and other family meals prepped to cook at home! I didn’t know this was a thing until I was years into motherhood. Here in the Memphis area, we have several! (Comment with your favorite places!) This option isn’t usually cheap enough for every day, but it’s helpful to have a few casseroles on hand if life gets busy or you just need a break from cooking. It’s also great for taking food to a friend in need. Another aspect I like is that there are several SAHMs who run businesses like this out of their homes! Do your research to make sure it’s from someone you know and trust. When you do find someone, it’s a great way to help support a small business!
Hack Three: Get with the Program
- Meal prep programs are another one of those golden nuggets I had no idea existed. When I first learned about this, I had actual anger at myself for never researching this topic before! For those as unenlightened as I was, this is a place where you go and put meals together to store in your freezer and use as needed. The host puts together a menu of about 12 different meals, and you register in advance for how many you want to put together and purchase. When you arrive, they have stations for each meal. Usually, the host will have extra items at the end like rolls, appetizers, or desserts. The host can be a business or a non-profit. The one I found here in Memphis is run out of a church. All profits go to their mission program to feed the hungry in Memphis. Another win, win! The cost typically runs about $220 for 12 meals. Since I have little kids, I usually get two meals, or at least some left-overs, out of each meal. This has been a lifesaver for my family! The program I use only hosts four times a year so I have to ration the meals or I would use them all up the first month!
Hack Four: Put a Subscription on it
- Along with meal prep programs, my meal plan subscription has been a huge help! I had fallen into such a rut for cooking ideas. I was cooking things I knew my kids wouldn’t fight me on which felt like the same five meals over and over again. I was tired of cooking the same things, and we were all tired of eating them. I turned to Facebook, asking moms about meal delivery kits (like Blue Apron). However, a lot of moms shared the same concerns I had: the sizes didn’t accommodate a large family, and it was still time-consuming. However, another mom, with a family of six, shared that she used an online meal subscription site. I was skeptical. Wouldn’t this be like having a cookbook? Or like my template system? I was SO wrong! In the system I found, I choose the style of eating we want: low calorie, gluten free, kid friendly, etc. I choose how many meals I want from the weekly list and it builds my shopping list from the meals I choose. I love knowing that I have all the ingredients I need. The site I chose even sends my list to my local grocery store’s online purchasing system. So all I have to do is show up and pick up my groceries! Worth. Every. Penny.
Hopefully one of these hacks will help your family! Meal planning has been, by fart, the biggest component to more sanity and peace in our lives. I don’t feel as rushed on my way home from work and picking up my kids to “figure out” supper. Even with all these hacks I still spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen. There really is no way around that unless you buy all of your meals, but all of these hacks have made it a better experience. Recently, my oldest daughter told me, “Mom, you sure love to be in the kitchen!” I about choked on the diet Dr. Pepper I was drinking, but, yea, I guess that’s one way to put it!