By TMoM Team Member Rachel Hoeing

When considering my days as a future mom, I never considered the fact that meal planning could sometimes be more difficult than actually raising children. But alas, it has been a thorn in my side for many many years.

Dinnertime occurs at the most inopportune time of the day … parents are arriving home from work … kids are getting home from school … homework needs to get started … kids need rides to afterschool activities … the baby needs a bath and a 7pm bedtime … you get the idea. Unless you have a clone, it is next to impossible to get everything accomplished.

I have made use of many modern day opportunities to cut down on my stress level and have compiled them to share with you today.

Online Grocery Shopping & Pick Up

Most larger chains now offer this option. Many are only $5 a trip and offer a year of pick ups for $50 – $100. There are others, including Walmart, that offer this service for free! The first few times you use online shopping, it may be a bit time consuming, but once it becomes a habit, you simply pull up your old list and adjust as needed. I have also found that I am more likely to buy an off-brand that is on sale because it shows all the options right in front of you. When I am in the actual store, I end up buying our usual items without ever checking the price.

Grocery Delivery

Piggy-backing on the idea of online shopping, you can also have food delivered right to your door. Some grocery stores offer this service on their own, and then there are other options that partner with grocery stores to do your shopping for you and deliver to your door. There is usually a fee involved, and sometimes the cost of items are a tad bit more, but if you are home with sick kids, a new baby, or are feeling under the weather yourself, this can be a huge blessing! You can even do this when you are going on vacation and the food is at the rental home when you arrive!

Fresh Market Little Big Meal

Each week you can look online to see what the meal deal may be. Once again, it takes the headache out of coming up with a new dinner idea for meal planning. You walk into the Fresh Market and look for the section where that week’s Little Big Meal is showcased. Most meal deals are $25 with a savings of $10 – $15, and include enough food for four. Many also come with sides and/or desserts, which is always helpful in filling up those with a heartier appetite. You can read a little more about this meal idea in our archived blog here.

Instant Pot and Crock Pot

Ahhhh, the time-saver of all time-savers! I personally still use my crock pot quite a bit and love the fact that I can throw something in there when I leave in the mornings, and the house is filled with the amazing smell of dinner when I return. We have plenty of good recipes on TMoM in our recipe section here. I have not personally used the Instant Pot, but we ran this blog that definitely shows why it is a must-have for many busy moms.

Salad for Lunch

In addition to meal planning dinner drama, lunches can be a burden as well. And I’m not just talking about the kids – moms need to eat lunch, too! One of my favorite ideas is prepping salads for the entire week in either mason jars or Tupperware containers as individual servings. I love to buy a mix of greens (arugula, romaine, kale, spinach) and chop up in small bite-sized pieces. Put these items into the containers first. I then chop up every topping and add those to the containers. I love carrots, nuts, celery, beets, edamame, goat cheese, sunflower seeds, onion, bell peppers, etc. It helps to not add dressing or avocado until the day I am going to eat the salad. When I do add the dressing, I put the lid back on and shake to evenly disperse the dressing and toppings. Delish! Check out this blog with more ideas.

Kids Lunches

I have two tried-and-true ideas for taking the stress out of this – 1. Buy lunch at school, 2. The kids pack lunches themselves. Seriously people – take this off your plate! My children packed their own lunches even in the early years of elementary school. I heard many times from other moms, “But what if all they take is Cheetos?” And to be honest, I kind of let it go. I decided they would get their proteins, veggies, and fruits for breakfast and dinner. But honestly, they are only going to be able to pack what is available to them, so if Cheetos aren’t there, they won’t pack them! I usually just encouraged mine to take one sandwich, one snacky item, and then fruits or veggies. They usually stuck to it! I know many moms who thoroughly enjoy packing their children’s lunches, but for those who don’t, see suggestions #1 and #2! (If you do enjoy packing lunches, we’ve got some ideas here.)

Costco Rotisserie Chicken

Sounds like such a simple solution – because it is! The chicken at Costco is an amazing value and provides enough chicken to make 2 – 4 meals! You can purchase the hot whole chickens, or there are also bags in the refrigerated section where the chicken is already cut up for you. Use the chicken throughout the week for soups, pizzas, chicken salad, stir-fry, etc. Find great ideas for recipes on Pinterest.

Kids Eat Free Nights

When all else fails with meal planning, take them out to eat! Triad Moms on Main keeps an updated list of local restaurants that offer discounts or free meals for kids. Check it out here. (You can always find this list by clicking the “directories” tab on our website.)

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