6 Mistakes Moms Make When Meal Planning

It’s that dreaded time of day again. It’s almost like you didn’t realize it was coming. It’s time to feed the kids. Ahhhh! That’s right…again!

Seriously?!? Do we think it’s just not going to happen?

My friends ask me frequently, “How do you plan your meals?” or sometimes it’s, “Please send me your meal plans.” I never do. The truth is, there’s nothing magical to how I plan for meals. No fancy spreadsheet. No automated shopping lists. No special recipe collection to choose from.

But, I must say, my meals do run pretty smoothly (no judgment for bragging—I’m proud of this and, when you conquer it, you should be too). After thinking long and hard about this (because, of course, I want to help my friends), I realized there are some things that I don’t do (anymore) that have made meal planning go from dreadful to do-able.

So, here they are, the six mistakes that moms make when meal planning (or, at least, I think they do because these are the mistakes I used to make).

Mistake #1: NOT meal planning at all.

Okay, so this one is a little bit obvious. But, seriously, you know it’s going to happen EVERY DAY, three times a day, and you know you should plan for it. It’s definitely no secret that meal planning is an essential practice to feeding your family well, reducing stress, and saving time and money. No excuses though. I am a creative person…unorganized, chaotic, and awful with schedules. I promise. If I can do it, you can too. Just do it.

Mistake #2: Trying to plan for too long of periods. And then ending up frustrated.

Stop trying to plan out too far into the future. Anybody who actually says they plan for a week is lying (okay, maybe not, but, seriously, do they have to brag about it?). For me, planning for a week is downright awful. If that’s the task ahead, I won’t do it. Ugh. But, planning for a few days…now we’re talking. I usually plan for 3 or 4 days, at most (enough to make me feel accomplished but not so much that I want to poke my eyeballs out).

Mistake #3: Not doubling recipes.

If you’re going to go through the trouble, you might as well get your bang for your buck. Not only are you making MORE but you are actually getting started on the meal plan for the next few days. Woo hoo! For all of you over-achievers, pouring your tendencies into doubling recipes is far better than planning meals for a week that you won’t stick to. Just sayin’.

Mistake #4: Doubling recipes.

That’s right, you read it. Not doubling up recipes AND doubling up recipes can both be mistakes. Here’s the key: if you KNOW you like it, double it up. If not, don’t. This way, that new “clean-eating-orange-chicken-that-you-were-uber-excited-about-but-ended-up-tasting-awful” doesn’t sit in your fridge for days, causing you to feel guilty about the money and, thus, delay meal planning because, by golly, you should be eating that nasty tasting orange chicken. Seriously, nobody wants to be wasteful. If you don’t know for sure that you’re going to like it, don’t double it up.

{Note: there may or may not be some orange chicken rotting away in my fridge right now.}

Mistake #5: Trying to make it look perfect.

Now, if you have an awesome meal planning spreadsheet that you actually use and can stick to, fine. Power to you. I was an accountant in my former life and can appreciate a good spreadsheet. But, if you’re anything like me (ugh—yes, I said accountant) and you like to actually use your old school handwriting skills every now and then, pull out a piece of paper and a pen and just write it down. Scribble it out. Go shopping and repeat. You are going to be doing this a few times a week for the rest of your life. Invest in some fun writing utensils (to spice things up a bit) and call it good.

Mistake #6: Purchasing meal plans.

When you are trying to plan meals out a week in advance, purchasing meal plans (or even just getting them from someone else) seems so much easier. But, when you use my tips from above, you will find that meal planning can actually be fun. You will feel much more accomplished when you stick to your 3-day meal plan then when you fail to follow the ones you bought because they’re entirely too cumbersome. Plus, you actually get to choose what you are going to eat. Last I heard, people like to do that.

Bottom line: keep it simple and start small. Get online, start searching for something that you WANT to eat, and have some fun with it.


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Kristyn H.

Author: Kristyn H.

Kristyn is a recovering CPA! After struggling for 3 years to get pregnant, she overhauled her diet and lifestyle overnight and was expecting 6 weeks later. Needless to say, this experience changed her life and she is pursuing her passion of inspiring others to lead healthy lifestyles.

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  1. Great tips for busy mom’s and what mom isn’t busy! Love the realistic tips.

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  2. I LOVE these tips! Although I’m not a former accountant, I, too appreciate a good spreadsheet! Lol! But, truth be told, our meal plans go much smoother when they’re scratched on paper!
    I write all my ingredients out (especially ones that are about to go bad, then jot menu ideas next to it!) This has been very helpful now that we’ve ditched processed foods and I look in the cabinets and think we have ‘nothing’ to eat!!!! Ha! 🙂

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