5 Easy Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms

These five meal planning tips are easy to implement and will save busy moms hours in the kitchen each week. Start using them today and make mealtimes stress-free and enjoyable for the entire family.

5 Easy Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms
This post contains affiliate links.

I’m the first to admit that meal planning doesn’t always come easy, but in my experience as a meal planning consultant and baby and toddler feeding expert, I can confidently say that I’ve uncovered the best hacks for making meal planning just a little bit more manageable, especially for us busy moms who NEVER seem to have enough hours in the day.

5 Easy Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms

Here are my top five meal planning tips for busy moms that you can implement today to save not only hours in the kitchen each week, but your sanity and peace of mind.

#1. USE PINTEREST TO GET ORGANIZED

If you’re one of the millions of mamas who mindlessly scrolls through Pinterest at least a few times a week, chances are you’ve already got a board or two devoted to your favorite recipe pins. So, put them to use!

Create three to four new boards on Pinterest and label them something like this: Meal Plan – Breakfast, Meal Plan – Lunch, Meal Plan – Dinner, Meal Plan – Snacks. To see an example of how this is done, check out my own personal meal plan Pinterest boards I’ve made here.

Next, go through all of the pins you’ve already saved to other boards, and re-pin those that you would realistically make on a regular basis to the appropriate Meal Plan board. Now, when you’re putting together a meal plan each week, you’ll have all of your recipes in one place for easy scrolling and selecting.

#2. SCHEDULE IT IN

Much like other menial tasks, meal planning can easily get pushed off for better, more exciting things. However, none of us can survive without eating, so us busy moms need to make meal planning a priority. That’s where physically scheduling in time to meal plan is essential. Whether you use a scheduling app, your Google calendar or a pen-and-paper planner, block off at least 30 minutes a week to devote to meal planning.  There are 168 hours in the week, so setting aside such a tiny portion of that will be completely worth it for all of the time you will save later on!

A busy mom working on her family meal plan for the week.

#3. IF YOU’RE COOKING ANYWAY, MAKE EXTRA

Whenever you’re whipping something up in the kitchen, take a moment to think if there’s any way you can make a little extra to save for later. Have a recipe that feeds six yet only have a family of three? Make the whole thing anyway and save the rest for another meal! Cooking some vegetables to throw into a salad? Cook some extra while you’re at it and use it in your kids’ lunches throughout the week. When you’re already taking time out of your day to prepare food, it will take much less time to make a little extra for later at the same time than it will for you to have a whole other cooking sesh later on.

#4. THE FREEZER IS YOUR MEAL PLANNING BFF

This simple meal planning hack is the one I have taken the most advantage of since becoming a mom, and it goes right along with the “making extra” tip mentioned above. Utilize your freezer!! When you make extra of something, freeze it up. If you have an hour or two on the weekend to meal prep some healthy snacks for your little one(s), freeze them for easy access throughout the busy week. Use resealable glass containers, Mason jars and/or Ziploc bags for freezer-friendly storage, and label them using blue painters’ tape and a Sharpie. It’s the best way to keep things organized!

Finally, if you don’t already have it, be sure to grab my Freezer Meal Cheat Sheet – part of my Ultimate Meal Planning Toolkit – to keep track of everything you’ve stashed and whatever you need to reheat and serve it when you’re ready.

A toddler helping her mom meal prep some healthy snacks.

#5. ORGANIZE YOUR SHOPPING LIST

Taking multiple trips to the grocery store – or running all over the store in one trip to grab everything you need – can be THE biggest time-suck. But it doesn’t have to be! Once you start devoting at least 30 minutes a week to meal planning, you’ll be able to make one big shopping list that should get you through most of the week. On top of that, if you organize your shopping list by section of the grocery store, you’ll be able to be the most efficient on this one trip, without bouncing back and forth from produce to dairy to meat to produce, etc. To grab your very own organized shopping list template, click here.

The goal of this tip is twofold, to (1) minimize the total number of times you’re having to go to the grocery store each week – something that takes at least 30 minutes per trip even if you’re just going for one item – and (2) to maximize your efficiency on that one trip.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to tackle some of these meal planning tips? If you give them a shot, I’d love to hear how they worked for you in the comments below.

If you still feel overwhelmed – that you still can’t fit these tips into your busy schedule, that you don’t even know where to start in the kitchen, or that you just plain don’t want to think about it – be sure to check out my personalized meal planning services, where I do all of this work for you 😉

Here’s to healthy, happy and stress-free cooking for all you busy mamas out there!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Foodie In Your Life

Whether you’re a foodie yourself or have other “foodies” to do some holiday shopping for, here is a list of some of the most sought-after gifts we’re all hoping for this year. I’ll be updating this holiday gift guide with any Black Friday deals, so bookmark it and keep checking back!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Foodie In Your Life
This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only share products that I truly love!

(Clockwise from top left.)

I love, love, love my reusable beeswax food wrap and use it in place of plastic wrap whenever I can. Plus, they have so many cute designs out there now!

How chic is this glass pour-over set? As the only coffee-drinker in the family, I love a good single-serving coffee maker, especially if it looks this good sitting out on my counter.

These Dansk Kobenstyle Casseroles are all the rage in the foodie world right now. Get one for your favorite foodie before they’re gone!

Have you caved in to the air fryer craze yet? I haven’t, but it’s definitely on my radar. I recently received the Ninja Foodi hot/cold blender (see below) and they’ve won me over with their appliances. In case you’re not sure what an air fryer is, it basically allows you to “fry” foods without the oil. So fun!

The Coravin is another pipe dream of mine. If you have a friend or family member who’s a wine lover and they don’t own this wine preservation system yet, consider your Christmas shopping done.

Melamine bowls with lids. These are some of those things you don’t know how much you need until you get them. I LOVE my larger bowls that come with lids for easy transfer to the fridge. And these ones are so cute!

Okay, how cute is this lunch tote? Any foodie in your life who frequently packs her own lunch for work will LOVE this stylish option.

If you haven’t already gotten into the InstantPot game, now’s the time to do so! Busy mamas, this will be the hugest lifesaver for you. It saves so much time in the kitchen!!

This adorable honey pot deserves a spot on any kitchen counter. We love our warm lemon water with honey in the morning, and I’ve been dying for a stylish honey pot like this one.

Finally, here’s the Ninja Foodi hot/cold blender I mentioned above. If you’re in the market for a new blender and are a busy mom like me, this is going to be another lifesaver for you. You can make everything from smoothies to mixed drinks to hot soups all in this one appliance. Yay for fewer dishes!

In case you missed them, be sure to check out all my other holiday gift guides as well!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Moms In Your Life

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Older Toddler

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Young Toddler

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Moms in Your Life

Whether you’re a mom yourself or have other mamas to do some holiday shopping for, here is a list of some of the most sought-after gifts we’re all hoping for this year. I’ll be updating this holiday gift guide with any Black Friday deals, so bookmark it and keep checking back!

2019 Gift Guide for the Moms In Your Life
This post contains affiliate links and is partially sponsored by The Mom Shoppe. As always, I only share products that I truly love!

Today I’ve rounded up some of my current favorites as well as a few things I’m eyeing already for Christmas this year. Here are some of the best gifts to get for all of the moms in your life this year (and mamas, I’m sure you’ll want to add some of these to your list!)

(Clockwise from top left)

I already own these Quay On the Prowl sunglasses and LOVE them, especially for the price. I’ve been jonesing for another pair and specifically have my eyes on these cat-eye ones!

If you haven’t already invested in (or gotten your wife/mom) a Patagonia quarter-zip, you’ve totally been missing out! I wear mine ALL the time, even in Santa Barbara where the temps rarely dip below 60.

Busy/overwhelmed mamas, this is for you! We got a Roomba last Christmas and we are OBSESSED. It’s such a timesaver when you can’t bring yourself to man a vacuum throughout the house!

This Dyson hairdryer is a total wish list item of mine. You see, I don’t really NEED it, but it would be so amazing to have! Don’t you think??

Air Pods. Another total wish list item. It never seems to fail that my headphones are all tangled up in knots every time I go to use them. These Air Pods just seem so convenient! (If I could manage to keep track of them.)

If you haven’t yet gotten on the AllBirds train, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice! These shoes are THE most comfortable tennis shoes EVER. And, if you have abnormally large feet like me, the men’s styles are just as cute. I have them already in a sand color, but I’m eyeing some in a darker shade so they don’t show as much dirt. (Although these shoes can easily be washed!)

OMG this robe! I need it. I have been dying for a cozy, fluffy robe and this Ugg one looks absolutely perfect. Keeping my fingers crossed!

How stylish is this diffuser? Not to mention the fact that you can control it through your phone or in-home personal assistant. What will they think of next?

This may be a silly gift idea, but these fun Stance no-show socks are my absolute FAVORITE and I think every mom needs a pair. They’d be perfect as a stocking stuffer!

I got my Apple Watch for Christmas last year and I have absolutely LOVED having it. It gives me so much more freedom to NOT have my phone attached to my hip and also helps me keep better track of my movement everyday. Highly recommend!

What mom doesn’t want a cute little tumbler to house a glass of wine after a long day?? This travel-friendly cup from The Mom Shoppe is the perfect White Elephant gift for all of the busy mamas in your life.

Okay, now it’s your turn to let me know what I missed! What’s at the top of your holiday wish list this year??

And be sure to check out these other gift guides for the year:

2019 Holiday Gifts for the Younger Toddler

2019 Holiday Gifts for the Older Toddler

2019 Holiday Gifts for the Foodie in Your Life

How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Purée

Forget the canned stuff, learn how to make your own homemade pumpkin purée from scratch. It takes just one simple ingredient and less than an hour to make!Homemade pumpkin puree in a glass dish surrounded by a black spoon, black and white checked napkin and a small bowl of ground cinnamon.

The recent pumpkin spice-everything craze has made it hard to ignore the rows and rows of canned pumpkin that pop up on grocery store shelves once summer starts coming to a close. I’ll be the first to admit that I love pumpkin so much I’ve been known to stock up on it right after the holidays to get me through the better part of a year.

But what if you could easily make your own and store it in the freezer to have ready to go at a moment’s notice? It’s easier than you think, and today I’m going to tell you all about it!

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Since I’ve become a mom, having some pumpkin purée on hand has become even more important as I love using it as a way of sneaking some extra nutrients into my little one’s diet. It’s super easy to mix into baked goods like pancakes, donuts, muffins and breads to up the healthiness factor. Not only does pumpkin have loads of Vitamin A, it’s also rich in antioxidants and can boost immunity – and it’s tasty to boot!

Pumpkin’s sweeter flavor is often appreciated by tiny eaters so if you have kids, take advantage of it and add some pumpkin to their diet. I’ll give you some great recipe ideas below.

An overhead shot of a glass bowl of pumpkin puree surrounded by a black and white checked napkin, a spoon, cinnamon sticks and a bowl of ground cinnamon.

What You Need to Make Pumpkin Purée

Perhaps the most exciting thing about making your own pumpkin purée (besides having it on hand to use whenever you want) is that you need next to nothing to make it. We’re talking one ingredient and a couple of common kitchen appliances/utensils. That’s my kind of recipe!

Here’s what you’re going to want to gather up before you start cooking:

A baking pumpkin
A knife and cutting board
A jelly roll pan
Aluminum foil
A food processor

That’s it! Well, you’re also going to need an oven, but I’m hoping you’ve already got one of those on hand 😉

How to Make It

The first step in making the perfect homemade pumpkin purée is to cook your pumpkin. To make the process go a bit faster, you’ll go ahead and cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and wrap each half in aluminum foil to really seal in some steam from the oven.

After just 30 minutes baking away (and a little bit of cooling time) your cooked pumpkin will be scooped into the food processor – sans skin – and puréed until smooth. I mean, could it be any simpler?? No oil, no butter, no liquid, no nothing. Just good ol’ pumpkin to make all your fall baking dreams come true.

An overhead shot of homemade pumpkin puree in a food processor.

How to Use Homemade Pumpkin Purée

Oh let me count the ways! There are so many great uses for homemade pumpkin purée. Here are just a few ideas:

In some super-simple muffins

In a twist on Shepherd’s Pie

In an adults-only latté

In a healthy smoothie

Or a cozy coffee cake

To add some extra sweetness to marinara sauce

Or in ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls.

Even in a spicy curry!

The possibilities are endless.

Get the easy recipe for homemade pumpkin purée below. For more pumpkin inspiration, be sure to check out my Fall Foodie Ideas board on Pinterest (so many delicious recipes I’m dying to try) or sign up for my weekly newsletter where I’ll be sending out all the fun fall content in the coming weeks!

Homemade Pumpkin Purée
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

Forget the canned stuff, learn how to make your own homemade pumpkin purée from scratch. It takes just one simple ingredient and less than an hour to make!

Course: Condiment, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baking, condiment, fall, homemade, pumpkin
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 12 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 baking pumpkin May also be called a Sugar Pie pumpkin
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Cut the pumpkin in half horizontally and scoop out all the seeds.

  3. Tear two pieces of aluminum foil that are each large enough to wrap around one half of the pumpkin. Wrap each pumpkin half, sealing the aluminum foil as much as possible.

  4. Place wrapped pumpkin halves on the jelly roll pan.

  5. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes, or until you can easily squeeze the pumpkin halves with tongs. You want the pumpkin to be soft enough that you can scoop it out of the skin.

  6. Let pumpkin halves cool for at least 10 minutes, or until they are cool enough to touch.

  7. Scoop the inside of the pumpkin into the food processor, discard the skin and foil.

  8. Turn the food processor on and process until smooth.

Recipe Notes

Purée can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Use as a substitute in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.

3 Easy and Nutritious Dip Recipes Your Toddler Will Love

What toddler doesn’t love dip?? Here are three nutritious dip recipes that are easy to whip up for your little one at a moment’s notice.

Title graphic for 3 Easy and Nutritious Dip Recipes Your Toddler Will Love.

If there’s one thing I can count on to get my toddler excited about eating, it’s offering her something delicious (and yes, messy) to dip her food into. I mean, what toddler doesn’t immediately spot (and demand) the bottle of ketchup on the table whenever you go out to eat? Or beg for the side of ranch dressing that comes with your salad?

Why not capitalize on it by making some of your own delicious dips that are not only tasty, but loaded with nutrients?

The three nutritious dip recipes I’m sharing with you today are just that. They’re all super easy to make, and don’t require any crazy ingredients.

If you’re struggling to get your toddler to eat certain things, dipping can be a great way to up the novelty and get him or her into the adventurous spirit. That’s why, for each dip recipe, I’ve also included ideas for “dippers”.

Finally, I encourage you to get your toddler into the kitchen to make these dips with you. The steps are all fairly simple, and while you always want to be careful around hot stoves and knives, getting your toddler involved will make them all the more excited to eat something when it’s served at a meal.

And for more toddler cooking inspiration, head on over to my Toddler Food board on Pinterest 🙂

Let’s get cooking!

Black Bean Dip

A jar of black bean dip with a spoon alongside it.

Hummus is a popular standby, but as far as bean dips go, why not mix it up by using alternate types of beans? This Black Bean Dip has some Mexican flair with cumin and fresh lime juice, and comes together quickly in the food processor with no cooking required.

Some great “dipper” ideas for Black Bean Dip include:

  • Jicama
  • Tortillas
  • Pita bread
  • Tortilla chips (if your toddler can eat them without choking)
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Radish
  • Chicken strips
  • Shrimp
Black Bean Dip
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 

Forget hummus, this black bean dip is going to be your new favorite condiment. With hints of cumin and lime, it's the perfect accompaniment to any sort of Mexican food.

Course: Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: black beans, condiment, dip, healthy, Mexican, toddler
Servings: 4 toddlers
Calories: 178 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.

  2. Keep refrigerated or freeze for future use.

Tzatziki

A dish of homemade tzatziki with a spoon sitting next to it.

 

This popular Greek condiment is the perfect way to introduce some new flavors into your toddler’s diet. Fresh dill, grated cucumber and garlic are all adventurous, but become a bit more approachable when mixed into yogurt, which most toddlers are pretty familiar with.

Some great “dipper” ideas for Tzatziki include:

  • Pita bread
  • Pita chips (if your child can eat them without choking)
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Tortillas
  • Pretzels (watch for choking)
  • Grilled chicken
  • Thinly sliced beef or lamb
  • Gyro
  • Crackers
Tzatziki
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

Fresh dill, grated cucumber and garlic are all adventurous, but become a bit more approachable when mixed into yogurt, which most toddlers are pretty familiar with.

Course: Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: condiment, dip, healthy, Mediterranean, toddler, tzatziki, yogurt
Servings: 4 toddlers
Calories: 35 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Persian cucumber, grated and water squeezed out with a paper towel
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Whisk together ingredients in a small mixing bowl until combined.

  2. Keep refrigerated or freeze for future use.

Marinara

A jar of homemade marinara sauce with a spoon next to it.

It’s not just for pasta! Marinara is also great for dipping. It’s also loaded with nutrients from tomatoes, and you can even easily sneak in some other veggies if you’re feeling adventurous. An added bonus? Marinara freezes well, so make a big batch on the weekend and freeze it up in ice cube trays or small food storage containers for quick and easy defrosting at a moment’s notice!

Great “dippers” for Marinara include:

  • Garlic bread
  • Breadsticks
  • Cheesy bread
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Pizza
  • Chicken strips
  • Sliders
  • Sausage
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Roasted cauliflower
Marinara
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

It’s not just for pasta! Marinara is also great for dipping and loaded with nutrients.

Course: Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: condiment, dip, freezer-friendly, healthy, hot sauce, Italian, pasta, toddler, tomatoes
Servings: 10 toddlers
Calories: 26 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer in a saucepan on the stove.

  2. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.

  3. Keep refrigerated or freeze for future use.

And that’s not it! I have a ton more nutritious dip inspiration here on the blog. Be sure to check out my recipes for hummus, guacamole, and peanut sauce the next time you’re looking for inspiration.

I’d love to hear if you have any nutritious dip standby’s you like to serve your little one. Let me know in the comments below!