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!

Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl with Tzatziki Marinated Chicken

This easy Mediterranean Bowl is full of so much flavor, you’ll want to make it a regular part of your weekly meal plan. Loaded with tzatziki marinated chicken, tzatziki sauce, crispy chickpeas and more, most everything can be made in advance for quick weeknight assembly.

A Mediterranean Bowl loaded with chicken, tomatoes, cucumber and tzatziki.

I hope you’re ready for a life-changing, flavor-packed weeknight meal, because this Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl with Tzatziki Marinated Chicken is just that! I’ve been dreaming about creating a recipe like this for a while, and now that it’s finally here, I couldn’t be more excited.

The other exciting part? All of the components of this bowl that require ANY sort of cooking can be made well in advance. I mean, this meal can even be served cold without ANY reheating! That’s the ideal weeknight meal if you ask me.

I think it’s about time we start talking about all of the delicious things that go into this Mediterranean Bowl. Shall we?

What Goes into an Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl?

This recipe is so loaded with flavor, the real question should be, “What doesn’t go into an Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl?” Because there’s not much!

Let’s start from the top with the real star of the show:

Tzatziki Marinated Chicken

I consider this a pretty genius idea on my part if I do say so myself. Yogurt marinated chicken is nothing new. It’s a great way to infuse some moisture and flavor into grilled chicken. So, when we’re talking about a Mediterranean Bowl, why not marinate our chicken with everyone’s favorite Greek yogurt-based sauce – tzatziki!

You’ll want to mix up the sauce and start marinating the chicken at least a few hours before you want to cook it, so this is where you’ll have to plan a bit in advance. The good news is, once the chicken is cooked, you can keep it in the refrigerator for a few days before using.

Tzatziki Sauce

While you’re mixing up the marinade for the chicken, why not make the tzatziki sauce you’re going to top your bowl with? The ingredients vary only slightly, and there is a lot of overlap, so you can proverbially kill two birds with one stone.

You can store the tzatziki in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days before using as well. In fact, it gets better the longer it sits since the flavors have more time to meld.

An overhead shot of a healthy Mediterranean Bowl with Tzatziki marinated chicken.

Couscous

Since we’re going Mediterranean, we’re using couscous as the grain base for our tasty bowls. If you’re not familiar with making couscous, let me tell you, it’s so quick and easy to make! I just bought the whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe’s and whipped it up in less than 20 minutes. It’s also great to make in advance and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Crispy Chickpeas

Yes, crispy chickpeas! These are another food that, if you haven’t yet made them, you better hop to it because they are the BEST healthy snack. And the flavoring possibilities are endless. For these bowls, I kept the crispy chickpeas simple with a dusting of garlic powder and dried oregano. They tie in perfectly to the rest of the ingredients with the best crispy crunch. You may want to make extra, because you won’t be able to stop nibbling on them as you cook!

The chickpeas can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for at least a couple of days. You’re going to have to practice your self-restraint to not eat them all before it’s time to top your bowls with them!

These are all of the ingredients for the Mediterranean Bowls that require any sort of prep, and as you can see, you can make them all in advance. Now you’ve got the hard part out of the way, let’s talk about how to make these bowls your own!

Two Mediterranean Bowls surrounded by fresh tomatoes, dill and cucumber.

How to Customize Your Bowl

The ingredients I mentioned above are the basic building blocks of your Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl, but they’re certainly not all there is to it. Here are the other ingredients – that require no prep at all – that you can mix and match to really customize this recipe to your own personal taste:

Tomatoes
Cucumber
Avocado
Olives
Hummus
Fresh dill
Fresh oregano

Serving Your Mediterranean Bowl

Since we’re still in the heat of summer, I highly recommend serving these bowls cold. Sure, they’re a great weeknight dinner option, but they’d also be great to pack for lunches for both yourself and the kiddos. I think they’d be the perfect picnic fare! Heck, you could even make a full Mediterranean feast for a crowd and serve these bowls with my Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb.

I hope you give these Med Bowls a shot ASAP because they are seriously bursting with flavor. And if you’re looking for more great meal prep recipes, be sure to check out my Meal Prep board on Pinterest!

An overhead shot of two healthy Mediterranean Bowls flanked by gold forks, fresh tomatoes and dill.

Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl with Tzatziki Marinated Chicken
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
30 mins
Marinating Time
3 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 30 mins
 

This easy Mediterranean Bowl is full of so much flavor, you’ll want to make it a regular part of your weekly meal plan. Loaded with tzatziki marinated chicken, tzatziki sauce, crispy chickpeas and more, most everything can be made in advance for quick weeknight assembly.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: bowl, chicken, family-friendly, Greek, marinade, meal prep, Mediterranean, weeknight, yogurt
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 739 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the chicken:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the tzatziki:
  • 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
  • Dash of salt (to taste)
For the crispy chickpeas:
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Other ingredients:
  • 5-6 cups prepared couscous
  • 1 Persian cucumber, sliced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, cut into sixths
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Olives
  • Hummus
  • Fresh dill and oregano
Instructions
To make the chicken:
  1. Place chicken breasts in Ziploc. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients, then pour into Ziploc. Seal Ziploc, smoosh around to coat the chicken with the marinade, and refrigerate for a few hours, or ideally overnight. 

  2. When ready to cook, turn grill on medium heat. Place chicken breasts on grill and cook until done, about 10 minutes on the first side and 8 minutes on the second side (but use your best judgment.) Let cool before storing.

  3. Before adding the chicken to your bowl, dice it up.

To make the tzatziki:
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Place in a resealable container in the refrigerator to store until ready to use. 

To make the crispy chickpeas:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Using a sieve, drain the chickpeas and rinse off with water.

  3. Pour the chickpeas onto a dish towel and rub until dry. It’s okay if some of the skins come off.

  4. Place chickpeas in a small bowl and coat with olive oil and salt. You’ll add the other seasonings after cooking.

  5. Pour chickpeas out onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until crispy.

  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle on garlic powder and oregano, toss to coat. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

To assemble the bowls:
  1. The couscous will form the base of your bowl. Then, just top with diced chicken, a dollop of tzatziki, a sprinkle of chickpeas, and whatever other toppings you decide to use. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: High

Nutrition Facts
Easy Meal Prep Mediterranean Bowl with Tzatziki Marinated Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 739
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

“Feed a Crowd” Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas

These Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas are the perfect breakfast to feed a crowd with less than 30 minutes of prep time the morning of. They’re loaded with eggs, shredded meat and vegetables and topped with the easiest homemade red enchilada sauce.

A finished dish full of Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas.

If you haven’t yet discovered the beauty of make-ahead enchiladas, you’ve really been missing out! They’re a great meal prep dish for weeknights, as they can be composed well in advance and then just popped in the oven right before you’re ready to serve them. They’re also incredibly freezer-friendly once they’re cooked, making them a great option to make for friends and family who have just had a baby, experienced an illness or death in the family, etc., etc.

And what do I love most, in particular, about these Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas? The fact that I can prep them and just pop them in the refrigerator the night before I need to serve a crowd in a hurry.

I don’t know about you, but our little one does NOT have the patience to sit around and wait hours for her first meal of the day, so these have been a fantastic option for us in the mornings when we have family visiting and need to get something on the table fast.

So let’s get into the details about how to make the only crowd-pleasing breakfast you’ll want to serve from now on:

How to Master Enchilada Prep

The first thing you’ll want to do is make your enchilada sauce. Sure, you can use store-bought [*affiliate link], but let me tell you, this was the first time I’d ventured into making enchilada sauce on my own and it was soooo easy. You should totally do it because you’ll never turn back. And most of the ingredients are things you’ll already have on hand in your pantry.

A dish of breakfast enchiladas being prepared, covered with homemade red enchilada sauce.

There are three other ingredients you’ll need to prepare before assembling your enchiladas:

  1. Shredded meat of your choice (I love buying the Trader Joe’s carnitas or making up a quick batch of my favorite Instant Pot Shredded Chicken.)
  2. Sautéed onions and peppers.
  3. Scrambled eggs.

Once you have the sauce and these three essential components ready to go, you’ll want to set up a big assembly line for all of your tortillas. The more space you have to spread out multiple tortillas, the faster the assembly process will go.

Now line up your tortillas and assemble away!

Tortillas lined up and filled with eggs, vegetables and shredded meat to make breakfast enchiladas.

Fill your choice of corn or flour tortillas with the shredded meat, vegetables and scrambled eggs. Roll each one up tight and line them all up in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Before tucking the enchiladas away in the refrigerator for the night (or into the freezer if you plan on serving them more than a day later), top them with your homemade enchilada sauce and plenty of shredded cheese.

Then cover, refrigerate (or freeze) and tuck them away until you’re ready to serve!

A dish of make-ahead breakfast enchiladas all prepped and ready to be refrigerated or frozen until serving.

How to Feed a Crowd

The morning you’re ready to serve these yummy enchiladas, simply uncover the dish and pop it into a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes (more if the enchiladas have been frozen.) If you want to get the cheese on top extra brown and bubbly, turn on the broiler for the last five minutes or so.

Finally, you can’t forget the toppings! Be sure to top your breakfast enchiladas with plenty of fresh cilantro and avocado before dishing them out to your hungry crew.

This is the perfect breakfast for any time of year: summer mornings when you want to get outside first thing, busy school days when you have lots of hungry mouths to feed, or special holidays when your house is brimming with family and friends.

A single serving of delicious make-ahead breakfast enchiladas.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins
 

These Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas are the perfect breakfast to feed a crowd with less than 30 minutes of prep time the morning of. They’re loaded with eggs, shredded meat and vegetables and topped with the easiest homemade red enchilada sauce.

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: breakfast, enchiladas, freezer-friendly, kid-friendly, make-ahead, meal prep, Mexican
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 446 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the sauce:
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
All other ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 8 eggs
  • 8 medium tortillas (corn or flour)
  • 12 ounces shredded meat (carnitas, beef or shredded chicken)
  • 5 ounces shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheddar, fontina and jack)
  • Cilantro, for topping
  • Sliced avocado, for topping
Instructions
  1. First, make the sauce. Place tomato paste and broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

  2. In a small bowl, mix together the oil and flour with a fork, then add it to the saucepan with the tomato paste and broth. This will help thicken it.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan mixture and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, cooking until sauce thickens slightly, then turn down the heat to low to keep warm while you make the rest of the enchilada components.

  4. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

  5. If you are planning on serving the enchiladas right away, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  6. Place a medium saute pan over medium heat on the stove and add 1 tablespoon oil. Once oil is warm, add bell peppers and onions. Saute until onions are translucent and fragrant, then move the mixture to a separate mixing bowl.

  7. Using the same saute pan, scramble the eggs using the leftover oils and juices from the vegetables. Once eggs are cooked, remove to your other mixing bowl.

  8. Lay tortillas out onto a large prep space so you can assemble them all at once. Divide the vegetables, shredded meat and eggs evenly among the 8 tortillas.

  9. Roll each one up and tuck it into the prepared baking dish. It’s okay if they’re a bit snug.

  10. Once all of the tortillas are tucked into the baking dish, top them with the enchilada sauce, then with the shredded cheese.

  11. At this point, you can cover and freeze or refrigerate the enchiladas until you are ready to serve them OR you can bake them right away.

  12. When you’re ready to bake, place the enchiladas on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips) and pop them into a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. If your enchiladas are frozen, you may need closer to 30-35 minutes. To make the cheese on top extra-bubbly and brown, turn the broiler on for the last 5 minutes or so of baking.

  13. Once enchiladas are warmed through, remove from the oven and top with fresh cilantro and sliced avocado before serving.

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: High

Nutrition Facts
Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas
Amount Per Serving
Calories 446
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Top 5 Favorite Foods for 6-Month-Olds

Here is a list of some favorite foods for 6-month-olds (including recipes) – perfect for when you’re just starting out on your baby-led weaning journey.

Title graphic for Top 5 Favorite Foods for 6-Month-Olds featuring Freezer Oatmeal Cups and butternut squash.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the 6-month mark and your baby has exhibited all of the signs that he or she is ready to start solids. I’ve covered the topic of the Best First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning in an earlier post, but today I wanted to personalize things a bit more and let you know some specific foods that my little one absolutely loved at this age.  

I know it can be hard to get creative when you’re worried about your child even being able to chew, so I’m taking the guesswork out of things and arming you with tons of ideas. Some of these will be repeats of what I’ve already told you about, but you’ll get the idea. 

#1 AVOCADO 

Aside from oatmeal, this is the very first food we offered to Raia on her baby-led weaning journey. Like you, I was nervous to give her anything that required too much chewing, especially because she had no teeth. I also love the nutritional benefits of avocado. To this day, it is still one of her favorite foods (although now she calls it “ah-co” and has mastered spearing it with a fork.) As they get their chewing skills down, avocado also turns into a great healthy spread for a turkey sandwich or the quintessential avocado toast! 

#2 OATMEAL 

An overhead shot of Freezer Oatmeal Cups - an easy breakfast to have in the freezer for your 6-month-old!

As I wrote in this post, Raia was exhibiting all of the signs of being ready to start solids when she was a little less than 6 months old. Breastfeeding wasn’t going so well for us and she was wanting more. Because of this, we decided to start her on oatmeal at a little over 5 months old (in addition to a combination of breastfeeding and formula-feeding.) I’m not going to lie, it’s messy! But it’s certainly fun to see your little one exploring the food – touching it, smearing it, attempting to scoop it. It’s just too cute. A quick note: Although we did use a specific BABY oatmeal for a while, it certainly isn’t necessary unless your babe is low on iron (most baby rice cereals and oatmeals come fortified with iron). You can just as easily make a batch of rolled oats from your own stash or whip together some freezer oatmeal cups (pictured above), just make sure they do not have any additional ingredients like sugar, salt, etc. Quaker Instant Oat Packets are not the answer here. 

#3 HEALTHY BAKED DONUTS 

A stack of healthy carrot cake donuts showcase another great recipe for 6-month-olds.

If you continue reading these posts all the way up to the 18-month mark, you may see a pattern of healthy baked goods. I’ve spread them out a bit, but alllllll of these donuts, muffins and pancakes have literally been saviors in our baby-led weaning journey. From 6 months on, I started making these baked goods as a fun way to sneak more nutrients into Raia’s diet and, you know what? It totally worked! Most of the recipes I’ve used include eggs, oats (or whatever type of flour you prefer), ground flax, bananas, some sort of vegetable (spinach, beets, carrots and pumpkin are favorites) and whatever herbs and spices you like. Mix it up between donuts, muffins and pancakes, try different types of veggies every week, and pop the batches in the freezer once they’re cool. When you’re little one is in need of a healthy breakfast or snack, simply pop the frozen good into the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute and you’ll be set. So easy! 

#4 BANANA 

I think this is a no-brainer for most new moms, but I had to say. This is another food that Raia still absolutely loves. In fact, we’ve had to limit her to one “nana” a day because otherwise I think she’d turn into a monkey! What’s also great is that, with baby-led weaning, you can give your little one the entire (peeled) banana and just let them go at it! It’s so fun to watch them learn how to eat it. 

#5 BUTTERNUT SQUASH 

A whole butternut squash sliced in half on a cutting board.

Butternut squash is a common first puree for babies (if you’re following that route), but did you know it’s also a great first food for baby-led weaning? You may think it’s too hearty for a baby to eat right away, but it all depends on the cooking method. As with many vegetables you prepare for your little one as they’re just starting out with baby-led weaning, you’ll want to slice your squash into easy-to-pick-up sticks. I’ve found the best way to cook the squash is roasting it in the oven, and simply roast it until it is very fork tender. Now, do you want in on a little secret? I just buy the pre-cut Butternut Squash Zig Zags at Trader Joe’s and roast those with some olive oil and a little seasoning, 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. So easy! Some of my favorite ways to season butternut squash are curry powder and a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

And there you have it! I hope this list makes you feel more comfortable and ready to embark on your baby-led weaning journey with your little one. As he or she grows and has mastered the foods listed here, be sure to check out the next post in my series: Top 5 Favorite Foods for 9-Month-Olds! 

Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas

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!

A toddler having a lunch picnic on the beach. Creative lunch ideas are important for exposing your child to a wide variety of foods!

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.

A basket of fresh produce. Meal planning and prepping is a huge help in making creative lunches your little one will love.

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: Ground turkey, butternut squash zigzags, avocado; Dessert: Kiwi; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin

A packed toddler lunch consisting of ground turkey, butternut squash zig zags, avocado, and sliced kiwi, with a healthy pumpkin muffin for snack.

  • 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

A packed toddler lunch consisting of half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zig zags and a power protein bite, with an orange for dessert.

  • 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]

A packed toddler lunch consisting of sliced steak and avocado, roasted vegetables, a power protein bite and dehydrated strawberries for dessert. There's also a fiber and protein bar for snack!

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:

MAIN
  • Turkey sandwich with avocado on multigrain bread
  • Cheese quesadilla with hidden vegetables
  • Meatballs
  • Slider on a whole grain bun
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Shredded chicken with hummus
VEGETABLES
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Steamed green beans
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Sauteed carrot dimes or sticks
  • Sliced roasted beets
  • Roasted asparagus
OTHER
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Peanut butter crackers (make your own, the store-bought ones have so much junk in them!)
  • Veggie straws
  • Rice cakes
  • Hidden Veggie Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Two toddlers enjoying an outdoor lunch at a kids' table.

Have I inspired you yet? I sure hope so! I’d also love to hear some of your ideas. What are your favorite lunches to pack your little ones?