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
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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!

The Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce contains over five different vegetables, yet your little ones will never even know it. It’s the perfect base for a weeknight meal the entire family will love, plus it’s simple to make and freezer-friendly!A bowl of whole wheat penne loaded with Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce, the perfect family-friendly freezer meal!

If you’re sick of struggling to get your toddler to eat anything of nutritional value, stuck in a rut with what to make for your family’s picky palates, or just ready to mix up your dinner game, this Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce recipe is for you!

You’re going to love that this recipe is packed with nutritional value, comes together with almost no waste, can be made well in advance AND makes plenty to cover at least two dinners for your family. Every mama’s favorite kind of recipe!

Why Hide Veggies in Your Food?

While it’s important to remember to continuously offer your baby or toddler vegetables in their truest form, there are several arguments to be made for hiding them in recipes whenever you can:

Textural Issues of Whole Veggies

First, it introduces your child (or hey, even your picky spouse) to a new flavor or flavors even if he or she can’t get past certain textural issues with the vegetables in their pure form. The texture issue is a real one for many picky kids and this is a great way to overcome it!

Increased Nutritional Value

Secondly, sneaking veggies into a recipe your family already loves is a fantastic way to up its nutritional value. Many little ones love foods like muffins, pizza and pasta, so why not make them healthier versions and get some extra nutrients in in the meantime?

Benefits the Entire Family

One of the biggest things I stress to my clients and course students is the importance of eating together as a family and everyone eating the same thing. If you’re always thinking of ways to add more veggies into what you’re making for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the entire family will benefit from the increased nutritional value.

Food Segue

Hiding veggies in foods your little one(s) already love is also a great way to begin a food segue. This is a gradual technique used for feeding babies and toddlers that eventually gets them to like a certain food in its purest form. You can read more about how to do a food segue with your baby or toddler here.

A dish of pasta topped with Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce.

Tips for Hiding Veggies in Food

I know what you’re thinking: But where do I start when it comes to hiding veggies in all my favorite recipes? Well, this Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is a great start, but here are some general guidelines you can follow when you’re experimenting with adding veggies to other types of recipes:

Match Colors and Shapes

Think of a vegetable that will compliment a food that your little one already loves – and looks like it, too! For example, pair diced beets with berries, or kiwi with avocado.

Make It Small

One of the best ways to slowly start introducing a vegetable to your baby or toddler is to do it in small doses and then gradually increase the amount. Shredded or puréeing vegetables are perfect ways to work them into the mix.

Take Advantage of What Your Little One Already Likes

If your babe is already obsessed with sweet potato, slowly start working some butternut squash into the mix. If he or she can’t get enough of muffins or pancakes, play around with the different ways you can up their nutritional value the next time you make them. Capitalize on what already works!

An overhead shot of a bowl of Hidden Veggie Pasta.

How to Make Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

The simple answer: throw everything together in a big saucepan or Dutch oven, let it simmer away, then purée!

Once you have all of the ingredients prepped, this recipe involves almost no hands-on time. I also love that this recipe has almost no waste, we use a full cans or cartons of everything, so you don’t have to worry about half a carton of broth sitting unused in your fridge for weeks to come.

Freezing Your Pasta Sauce

 If your making this recipe in advance and plan to serve it later (which you totally should!) follow these tips for storing:

  • Once the sauce has cooled down slightly, transfer it to Mason jars or a resealable plastic bag
  • Let it cool completely
  • Label it (and be sure to include the date you made it)
  • Freeze until ready to use!

Different Ways to Serve Your Sauce

News flash: This red sauce isn’t just for pasta! Here is a list of all of the different ways you can use up your batch of sauce:

Pasta
Pizza
Lasagna
BAKED chicken
Egg bake
stirred into Polenta
Eggplant Parmesan
Chili
Stuffed peppers/spaghetti squash
Minestrone or other tomato-based soups
As a dipping sauce for grilled cheese

Now, who’s ready to get cooking??

If you try this recipe, be sure to rate it and leave a comment below!

Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is great for all ages and is the perfect base for a weeknight family meal. It's freezer-friendly and makes a ton so you'll always have a healthy dinner option on hand. It's also loaded with more than five different veggies!

Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, family-friendly, freezer-friendly, Italian, kid-friendly, make-ahead, pasta, red sauce, toddler, vegetables
Servings: 20 people
Calories: 40 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium roasted sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning Salt-free for young babes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 32-ounce carton chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste Minimize for young babes
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once oil is heated, add onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until onion starts to become fragrant and translucent.

  2. Add garlic, carrot, bell pepper, zucchini and sweet potato and stir to combine. Allow to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and stir to combine.

  3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth, and once again stir to combine. Bring to a low boil (very gently bubbling), then turn off heat.

  4. Transfer sauce to a blender in two batches. You may need to use a mixing bowl to hold some of the extra soup while you are blending. Blend until smooth, then return to the original saucepan or Dutch oven on low heat.

  5. Season with salt and pepper as needed, but if you will be serving this to young babes, minimize the salt as much as possible.

Recipe Notes

TO FREEZE: Let sauce come to room temperature, then transfer to Mason jars with lids, label (including date made) and freeze.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Young Toddler

This roundup of THE BEST holiday gifts for the young toddler is perfect for little ones ages 1 to 2. There are many classics but some great new ideas as well. I’ll be updating the list with any Black Friday deals so be sure to bookmark it and check back!

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2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Young Toddler
This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only share products that I truly love!

(Clockwise from top left.)

Baby Stella was our babe’s first doll and she still loves her to death to this day. She is super-soft and her clothes and pacifier are all removable. Great for little ones who are just getting into imaginative play!

Raia got this teepee for Christmas last year (when she was just over a year old) and continues to love it. If you have the space, it’s so fun for the little ones to have a spot of their own to curl up and play or look at books. Plus, I love the muted colors of this particular one.

Ahhhh, the musical tea set. As much as I hate toys that make a bunch of noise, I can’t ignore how much Raia loves this. Another great toy to ease the little ones into more imaginative play.

We have the Honey Sticks bath crayons and I’m dying to get my hands on some of their regular crayons! I love that they are all-natural and non-toxic. They’re also a great idea for a stocking stuffer!

Raia got a glockenspiel (which is very much like a xylophone in case you’re as unaware as I was) in her music class this year – and she LOVES playing it – but this Papa Bear one is so much cuter!

There are a ton of great books out there for our little ones, but I’m especially fond of books that pack a powerful message. This one has been a favorite of ours for a while now. It’s never too early to start instilling a healthy sense of self in our babes!

If, like me, you’re a fan of toys that actually help our little ones LEARN (and that look stylish to boot), then you’re going to love these sensory blocks.

Finally, the Cozy Coupe. Raia got one for her first birthday and it continues to be the most in-demand toy whenever we have parties with tons of kids over. If you have the space (indoor or outdoor), you’ll set yourself up for hours of entertainment with this one.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out these other helpful gift guides!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Older Toddlers

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Moms In Your Life

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Older Toddler

This roundup of THE BEST holiday gifts for the older toddler is perfect for little ones ages 2 to 4. There are many classics but some great new ideas as well. I’ll be updating the list with any Black Friday deals so be sure to bookmark it and check back!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Older Toddler.
This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only share products that I truly love!

(Clockwise from top left.)

Our little one got her first Play-Doh set for her birthday in October and she is OBSESSED. She also happens to be obsessed with her toy ice cream set, so I’m thinking Santa might need to put this Play-Doh ice cream set under the tree for her this year!

We’re deciding between a scooter or a balance bike (see below) for Raia this Christmas, but this Radio Flyer scooter looks perfect for little ones who are just learning how to keep their balance.

Are any other mamas toddler daughter’s super into watching them put on their makeup? I know mine is and she’s often asking to “pretend” with my brushes. This wooden makeup set is so cute – and I may just be able to start getting through my makeup routine without interruption!

At the moment, my little one is really into helping us clean, so I’m going to milk it for all I can! This Dyson vacuum is sooo cute for kiddos and has real suction and sound, so I’m seriously thinking about adding it to this year’s Christmas haul.

Raia also got a doctor kit for her birthday and I had no idea she’d be so into it! She now walks around the house with her glasses and stethoscope on and calls herself “Dr. Roo.” While she has a different set, I couldn’t resist adding this super cute wooden doctor kit to this list.

I don’t know about you, but there have been so many times in the past few months I KNOW Raia would love to do some painting, but I can’t bring myself to deal with the mess. I may just havae to give in after buying some of this Veggie Baby Finger Paint that’s both baby- and eco-friendly!

This Little Tikes adjustable basketball hoop is the perfect gift or older toddlers. It helps with hand-eye coordination and also gets them outside and active.

Lastly, as I mentioned above, we’re waffling between a balance bike and scooter for our babe this Christmas. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

And be sure to check out these other gift guides I’ve put together just for you!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Moms In Your Life

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Younger Toddlers

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies

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