As a mom with many full-time jobs including running a business, homesteading, and homeschooling, searching for the best meal plans to save time has been one of my priorities for years. If you haven’t started meal planning yet, let me just say it’s a key activity to reducing stress and shortening your to-do list.
Now I’m sure you’ll agree that feeding our families healthy meals on a daily basis is the top goal. However, as a working homeschool mom, I’m sure you know that when life happens… well, it sometimes means cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you share the same concerns I had about meal planning in the beginning
- Not sure where to start…
- It probably takes too much time…
- Hard to find meals you can actually cook (and the family will eat)…
- Seems like it could get a little expensive…
Then you, my friend, are in the right place!
Meal planning isn’t as hard or as intimidating as it sounds. Actually, it’s one of the first time management strategies I put in place when I started working from home and homeschooling my two youngest children.
Here are my best tips and meal plan suggestions for (busy) working homeschool moms.
Why meal plan?
You probably already know the answer to this question, but just in case you need convincing that this is something you should do, here it goes.
You know those times when you’re standing in front of the refrigerator and searching through the pantry wondering what to cook? Or when you’re trying to homeschool through a work-from-home sick day?
Meal planning is for those times. Or, how about when you go to cook something only to realize you don’t have all the ingredients? That can make meal prep tough! It’s for those times as well.
Oh, and let’s not forget when it’s the end of the day and you’re not sure if anyone even ate all. Yep, it’s for those times too.
Simply put, meal planning helps you take the guesswork out of what you’re going to cook and when. It helps take one extra thinking step out of your day because you’ll be prepared.
Quick Tips for Making Meal Plans Work
There are many ways to approach meal planning, so first you’ll have to decide how often you’d like to do it. You can meal plan:
… and then you can break your meal plans down by type:
- Baked meals
- Slow cooker (or Instant Pot)
- Freezer meals
- Bulk meals (to have leftovers)
- Quick meals (4 ingredients or less)
With this in mind, use these following tips to get started in no time.
I prefer to meal plan weekly during most of the year to take advantage of our weekly sales flyer. This helps me to keep our food budget in line and shop seasonal meats and produce.
Over the past few years we’ve really increased our backyard garden and get more vegetables from it each year. So it’s a bit easier for me to add a bag of frozen veggies or a jar of preserves to our meals on busy nights.
Choose a template to keep track of your meals
You can find all kinds of spreadsheets for meal plans online. You’ll see weekly to full monthly layouts.
A great site that provides several different templates to accommodate the type of meal planner you want to be is Money Saving Mom.
Also, don’t feel tied down to one type of layout. Switch up how you want to do as you see fit, but hang on to all those plans you create (you’ll see why in a bit).
Start with your family’s favorite meals
If there are meals that your family absolutely loves, start there. No need to rush out and try to plan a full week of new meals with recipes you’ve never tried. That’s stress in and of itself.
If oatmeal, cereal, pop tarts, and Greek yogurt are the go-to breakfasts, then put those in rotation and breakfast is done!
Keep meals heavier for lunch and lighter for dinner to help take the pressure off having to cook so much in the evening.Sarita Harbour – Thrive@Home
Not to mention there are health benefits to eating less before going to bed!
Get the whole family involved in meal planning (especially the children)
Make meal planning a family affair. This also helps hold you accountable to stick with meal planning all while giving everyone a say in what will be on the menu.
Most of my children started helping me in the kitchen from the age of about three years old. By the time they’re 11, they can cook a basic family meal. I believe cooking is an important life skill so we incorporate it into our homeschool days.
Ask your children to pick meals for a certain day and even let them help with the grocery shopping. Suddenly a mundane task becomes fun and anticipating!
Plan meals with like ingredients
This will not only make planning meals easier but it will also save you money. Having salad several times during the week doesn’t sound so bad when you add chicken one day and nuts and berries with the next. It’s also easy with soups and sandwiches too!
Establish a planning time and stick with it
This is super important if you want to create the habit of meal planning.
I plan every Saturday for the upcoming week of Sunday through Saturday. With so many weekly plans made out (going almost a year strong now), I have them in rotation (and by season) and can easily make the tweaks I need.
I also plan a time to grocery shop, which is usually once per week during the summer, but twice per month in the winter.
If you’re cooking with more fresh produce, you might find it’s better to buy it no more than a couple of days prior to when you’re planning to use it.
Free Best Meal Plans to Help You Get Started
I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed with finding the best meal plans for homeschool moms when you first get started.
That’s why I rounded up a few good resources with free meal plans to help give you a jump start. Just a small disclaimer… Some of these may require signing up to join an email community. Remember, you can always opt out.
- Large Family Meal Plans (Large Family Table)
- Weekly Meal Plans (Tastes Better From Scratch)
- Calorie Diet Meal Plans (Good Housekeeping)
- Monthly Meal Plans (Homeschool Giveaways)
- Weekly Meal Plans (In All You Do)
As a working homeschool mom, meal planning will now be your best friend, best time-saver, and best money saver!
As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.