Here are over 70 recipes you can make using common pantry and freezer ingredients this week. Perfect for when you can’t find what you need at the grocery store (or get there in the first place!)
Whether you’ve stocked your pantry or freezer thanks to a natural disaster, global pandemic or to just plain be prepared for ANY unforeseen event, there are tons of ways you can put your ingredients to good use without getting bored. Here are over 70 of my favorite recipes (from CaliGirl Cooking and beyond) that will help you get creative in the kitchen when you have limited supplies to work with.
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.
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!
#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!
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!
If you have your baby or toddler in daycare – or even have to prepare food for a babysitter or nanny to serve your little one at home – this list of Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas is for you!
For many of us, between 6- and 24-months is often the age we begin sending our child to daycare, or having some sort of regular childcare schedule implemented in our own home. This is also THE most important time for our little ones to be introduced to a wide variety of foods, so it’s crucial that we parents are on top of our game when it comes to sending our babes off with a healthy, well-balanced and flavor-diverse lunch.
That being said, I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in the rut of serving the same thing over and over again. So let’s first talk about some of the roadblocks I know we ALL face…
ROADBLOCK #1: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GET CREATIVE
Well, you’re in luck! I’m taking the guesswork out of it for you today by providing some interesting, non-repetitive options. It’s not that hard if you’ll just open your mind to it!
Also, meal prep is a godsend for busy parents like you and me. One hour of planning and prepping can set you up for HUGE success the rest of the week. I urge you to take 20 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday and roughly plan out your meals for the week. Be sure to leave some flexibility for eating out once in a while and making good use of leftovers. Then, make a shopping list and head to the store!
I’ve found that since I’ve implemented meal planning into my life over the last six months or so, I’ve saved so much time by knowing exactly what I’ll make each night, taking just one trip to the grocery store each week, and also always having healthy, interesting leftovers on hand.
ROADBLOCK #2: MY CHILD ONLY LIKES CERTAIN THINGS
C’mon, mom and dad. Don’t give up that easily! Your child probably only likes certain things because (a) they’ve not been introduced to enough variety early on in life, or (b) you give in to them refusing certain things and offer to make them an alternative. I understand this may be controversial for some of you, but take a look at my healthy meal prep for your baby or toddler post to get a better idea of where I’m coming from.
Also, keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ palates are constantly changing and evolving. If they don’t like something the first time you give it to them, try again in a week or two with the food prepared in a different way. You might be surprised!
ROADBLOCK #3: MY CHILD DOESN’T GET EXCITED ABOUT THE FOOD I PACK THEM
Question for you: Do you get excited about the food you pack them? Does your child ever see you eating the same foods that you’re putting in their lunchbox? We often underestimate how much children learn by osmosis. If they see you getting excited about the different things you’re giving them, they’re more likely to get excited about it themselves.
Take, for example, the time I made posole but decided my little one probably wouldn’t like it, so I made her a quesadilla instead. NOPE! She saw mom and dad eating the yummy posole and wanted some of her own! Kids always surprise us – especially if you just give them a chance!
So, how’d I do? Did I squash all your fears or concerns? If there’s something else that’s holding you back, I want to know! Give me a chance to prove you wrong 😉
Now, let’s get to the good stuff!
Here are some ideas of creative lunches you can pack your baby or toddler (also note, many of these include snacks):
Lunch: String cheese, sautéed mushrooms and cauliflower, Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Sliced pear; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin
Lunch: Half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Orange
Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Raspberries
Lunch: Sliced steak, avocado, roasted veggies (carrots, zucchini and broccoli), Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Freeze-dried strawberries; Snack: Happy Tot Fiber & Protein Granola Bar[*affiliate link]
You get the gist…
In short, I try to offer a main protein, a vegetable, and either another protein or vegetable or whole grain as the main lunch, plus a fruit for dessert and a well-balanced snack. I love making healthy muffins for snack (as you can see) or sometimes I just end up throwing in a granola bar.
If you still need some more ideas, here are some other ideas in each category for you:
Turkey sandwich with avocado on multigrain bread
Cheese quesadilla with hidden vegetables
Slider on a whole grain bun
Shredded chicken with hummus
Steamed green beans
Roasted sweet potato
Sauteed carrot dimes or sticks
Sliced roasted beets
Whole wheat pasta
Peanut butter crackers (make your own, the store-bought ones have so much junk in them!)