I hear these words from my clients (and say them myself) like eleventeen thousand times per week. We're all busy, and we all feel like we can't add even ONE MORE task on our list.
This is a universal sentiment, and people who have zero children and minimal responsibilities say this just as often as those who have multiple children and a million responsibilities. It seems that "free" time is really difficult to come by, because we tend to fill it pretty quickly with the things that we feel have to be done.
I think the only difference between people with no kids and people with kids is that the people with no kids tend to do things like laundry. They clean mirrors. They retrieve the grape that fell under the fridge.
Am I right?
Something that almost immediately falls out the window when we are "busy" with our kids and responsibilities is eating. As in...eating something other than fast food, take out, or opening a package and heating it up in the microwave.
I'm not throwing shade here--we do what we have to do in order to feed our children (and ourselves)!
But meal planning and grocery shopping takes TIME! And since I just told you that nobody has TIME, of course we can't meal plan and grocery shop. There's just no TIME. What if I told you that you do have time?
I am the mom of 3 small children (6 years, 4 years, 11 months), and I have meal planned for most of the past 520 weeks. That's ten YEARS.
Yes, meal planning was a much easier task when it was just my husband and myself to feed. Grocery shopping was relaxing back then. It's more difficult to fit the task into my week now, but I know that it's worth it because of the proven benefits.
- Women who meal plan at least occasionally eat a higher overall variety of foods.
- Women who meal plan have lower odds of being overweight and obese (Ducrot et al., 2017).
- Women who plan meals or prepare dishes ahead of time are twice as likely to eat more servings of vegetables (Fruh et al., 2013).
For Families and Children:
- One of the largest perceived barriers to eating meals together as a family was the ability to meal plan.
- Family meals result in greater consumption of healthy foods in children, adolescents, and adults.
- Adolescents and children who consume fewer family meals consume more unhealthy food overall.
- School-aged children and adolescents who consume more family meals have greater intakes of typically under-consumed nutrients.
- Increased family meal frequency may decrease risk of overweight or obesity in children and adolescents.
- Frequent family meals also may protect against eating disorders and negative health behaviors in adolescents and young adults.
- Psychosocial benefits include improved perceptions of family relationships.
So the question is: why WOULDN'T you make some time to meal plan?
"BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE TIME!"
OK, I know. Me neither, but I've developed a pretty quick and EASY way to do it, and you can have my tool for free.
I've tried various methods of meal planning over the years, and what I've realized since having children is that it MUST be simple, easy, quick, and effective. The end.
I don't need 4 different lists of things to keep track of, or a schedule of what to cook when and how. I just need to know two things: 1) What are we eating each day of this week? and 2) What do I need to buy in order to accomplish the task of making the meal?
There are detailS that I need to be aware of, like who has martial arts, what assignments I have due for school, work deadlines, what my husband's schedule is for the evenings during the week, who has to schlep which child to what activity, etc...but at the core, I only need to know what we're eating, and what ingredients I'm missing.
For the most part, my meals take no more than 30 minutes to prepare, they're kid friendly, and they have to be on the table within an hour of starting the prep. Ain't nobody got time for gourmet meals right now, ya hear me?
The first thing I do is go to Pinterest and start looking for recipes. I mainly only plan dinner recipes, because everything else falls into place pretty easily for breakfast and lunch, so that's all I focus on with meal planning. If you want some inspiration, you can use my "Recipes For Dinner" Pinterest board to get you there. That board has recipes for conventional, vegetarian, vegan, Whole 30, Paleo, and every other type of eating pattern on it, since I don't discriminate.
I also have around 50 FULL MENUS that I completely planned out and posted right here on my Pinterest Page. Those boards include a pdf of the weekly menu as well as a link to each one of the recipes, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
After I've rounded up all of the dinner recipes that I want to use, I just fill them into each day of the week on the left side of my handy Meal Plan and Grocery List.
After that, I write down the ingredients that I am missing from each recipe on the right side of the Meal Plan and Grocery List. I also add anything "extra" that I'm missing (items for breakfast and snacks, for instance). This meal plan and grocery list is MY meal plan and grocery list. It's one of my favorite tools that I've developed, and I literally use it every single week.
Using this list, as well as my efficient recipe saving and searching skills on Pinterest, I can have my meal planning done in an hour or less each week. It normally only takes me about 20 minutes these days, because I have an entire arsenal of recipes on Pinterest that I have tested and given my 'seal of approval'.
Starting is the most difficult part, but once you get the momentum, it becomes just part of your normal life, and you stop worrying about whether you have "time"...you just do the thing that makes your life easier in the long run.
Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!
I am Elisabeth Smith, am empath and practitioner or Integrative Wellness and Health. My clients are women who are ready to do the emotional and physical work that it takes to make long-term changes to their lifestyle so that they can start to enjoy their lives to the fullest! Women who are ready to put down their calorie counter, get rid of their scale, and get down to the real business of wellness: personal growth. I'm part motivator, part supporter, part mentor and teacher, with a sprinkle of "woo" thrown in there for good measure. My life purpose is to help women align with their most concentrically-well self, from the inside out.
If you want to talk about working with me on a 1:1 basis, or if you just want to see what I'm up to, come join my VIP Facebook Group, Diets Are Crap!, where I share all types of information on mindful/intuitive eating, Health At Every Size, and I promote all things non-diet and pro-positivity!
Ducrot, P., Méjean, C., Aroumougame, V., Ibanez, G., Allès, B., Kesse-Guyot, E., … Péneau, S. (2017). Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14, 12. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5288891/
Fruh, S. M., Mulekar, M. S., Hall, H. R., Adams, J. R., Lemley, T., Evans, B., & Dierking, J. (2013). Meal-Planning Practices with Individuals in Health Disparity Zip Codes. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners : JNP, 9(6), 344–349. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3718071/
Martin-Biggers, J., Spaccarotella, K., Berhaupt-Glickstein, A., Hongu, N., Worobey, J., & Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2014). Come and Get It! A Discussion of Family Mealtime Literature and Factors Affecting Obesity Risk. Advances in Nutrition, 5(3), 235–247. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013176/