“Dinner Time Bliss: 10 Tips for Busy Moms”

Finding the time to Meal plan 

When you are a working mom it can be merely impossible to find time to cook dinner and spend valuable time with your family. Eating those same takeout options every week can get pretty boring and off budget. The real time it takes to have dinner on the table can seem like all night. Also, what mom doesn’t appreciate a relaxing hot shower before bedtime? To think of all the effort it takes to prep, cook, and clean up can leave you feeling exhausted every night. Busy moms need help executing and enjoying a successful family dinner. If your spouse helps with dinner or helps cook, these can be valuable tips for them as well. What better way than to support the efforts of getting your family happily fed. 

Here is an ultimate meal planning guide that will make it easier for you

1- Pick out your menu

image credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/front-view-barista-taking-order_7053349.htm#query=pick%20your%20menu&position=6&from_view=search&track=ais&uuid=23400ba4-8676-4200-8eaa-4172f262149c

This key is to get organized and have a plan of execution. First, let’s research recipes online. Let’s compare and choose the best ones that you think your family will love. Always ask yourself if this is something your entire family will enjoy eating. Always make note of the length of time it will take to prepare each meal because you don’t want elaborate meals prep unless you prep the day before. The goal here is to prepare delicious and nutritious meals in 30-60 minutes tops.  Here are a few of my family’s favorite recipes.  Having a magnetic menu board is an awesome tool for a beginner meal planner. The best part about the menu  is that your family can look forward to meals you are planning. 

The best way to stay organized is to have a menu. This magnetic menu board with dry erase markers will help you and your family get excited about dinner time. 

2- Review your pantry and make a grocery list. 

Save time and money by doing a quick inventory of what you have in your fridge and pantry.  You can make a list of what you already have and then browse recipes online…Hello Pinterest! You want to plan and shop the week before not the week of. Need milk?….. Check! Need chicken stock?…….Oh Yes! Now add it to this week’s grocery list. Once you have your grocery list ready, shop on a Saturday or Sunday to begin meal prepping on Sunday night for the upcoming week.  A great tip is to only buy what you need and utilize what you already have. It’s a lot easier to incorporate food items you already have in your fridge and pantry. You want to use food items before they go bad like that bushel of broccoli or that block of feta cheese. Check your freezer for frozen meats and veggies. Also, don’t forget to use those herbs before they go bad. You will also waste less and feel more accomplished as a super planning mom who is on top of her dinner-making game. It sounds corny, yes, but just wait! With these tips, you will master a successful dinner routine and feel like the family superhero. 

3- Go Grocery Shopping

image credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/woman-pushing-shopping-cart-shelves-supermarket_11450489.htm#page=2&query=grocery%20shopping&position=45&from_view=search&track=ais&uuid=80fa4dc3-8829-43bd-94a9-95fa42940c4e

You have a list of all your ingredients for your meal plan; now it’s time to grocery shop. There are many time-saving options available nowadays to make grocery shopping easier. You can shop online and opt for curbside pickup. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can save time by shopping during non-busy hours to avoid crowds. Always plan your weekly menu carefully, checking off the ingredients for each meal while shopping. Don’t forget to shop for your family’s weekly essentials and also the smaller items you’ll need but might not be thinking about, such as cooking oil, butter, spices, and salt. You’ll thank yourself later for always having everything you need on hand.

Be attentive with the recipes and grocery list to ensure you have all the ingredients, including the smaller items. After all, you can’t make tacos without tortillas or lasagna without marinara sauce. If you want to succeed in meal planning, learn to cut the margin for error by reviewing the entire plan at each step. Make this a part of your preparation, and everything will run much smoother. It’s often a good idea to plan two weeks of meals, typically 8-10 meals. You can change it up, add new meals, modify old recipes, and include a few super easy options like frozen pizzas or nugget days. Shopping in bulk for items like value packs of meat and cheese is also a smart strategy.

Here’s a must-do tip: when you get home, separate portions of meat into different storage bags. For example, if you bought 2 pounds of ground beef or a value pack of chicken thighs, 1 pound is roughly a dinner serving for 4 people. This will make it easy to grab and go and can help you save money and reduce food waste in the long run.

A great method to help organize your grocery list and the overall meal plan is to put up a dry erase menu on your fridge. Many of these menus have a grocery list area where you can add items as you remember them. For those nights when evening plans change, it’s always helpful to have a quick heat option on hand. This could be a frozen option you can pop in the oven, a frozen casserole or stew you made ahead of time, or a family favorite like frozen pizza, which can be ready in 30 minutes or less. When you shop, ensure you always have 1-2 of these easy options available and ready to use.

Remember that the goal is to feed the family, save time, and conserve energy. It’s important to give ourselves some grace; while we would love to provide nutritious fresh meals every night as part of this plan, for some families, it’s just not realistic, and that’s perfectly fine. We’re trying to make little changes with baby steps to simplify our lives.

Shopping bags for your shopping cart. Sort items at the store by color, grab and go, easy peasy. 

4-Meal Prep

image credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=meal+prep+images&sca_esv=593418533&tbm=isch&sxsrf=AM9HkKlE-FxAFDF0AwN22q5d7E58rKsZyQ:1703422212541&source=lnms&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjU3oWfjqiDAxXb7bsIHf5dDKgQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1536&bih=695&dpr=1.25#imgrc=4FWHa_euq_Y6ZM&imgdii=AKz-OAB0-i4FzM

Time to prep! In this step, you definitely want to defrost, chop, organize ingredients, and do any pre-cooking the night before. For example, take the meat out of the freezer the night before and thaw it in the fridge. This one tip is very important, you don’t want to try and defrost meat at the last minute. Some meat packages take about 48 hours to fully defrost in the fridge, so keep a note of that. It is way easier to cook with defrosted meat. Frozen ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken are the only meats I can try and defrost at the last minute in a pan on low heat. Anything else has been an epic fail.

Another tip, when using a microwave to defrost meat will be a hit or miss. You really want to avoid defrosting in the microwave and not deal with that crusty cooked layer that starts to form on top. You want a fresh and easy process and this will help you tremendously, seriously!

Most frozen veggies, rice, and sides are ok to use frozen but always check the package for directions as you’re setting up the meal plan for the week. If you have several fruits or vegetables to chop, try chopping and air-tight storing these items no more than 1-2 days before. You want fresh ingredients but you also want to save time. Chopping anything longer than 1-2 days before might result in major food oxidation. Have you ever noticed when fruits and veggies begin to oxidize they tend to start losing their taste? Guess what else? They will lose their nutrients as well.

This leads to my next prepping suggestion. Always check the freshness of old herbs and spices and review the expiration dates. Herbs and spices will start to lose flavor with time. You don’t want to cook with old herbs and spices because they won’t add any flavor to your recipes anyway. Do yourself a courtesy and go through your spice cabinet regularly and throw out any that have expired.

When prepping the night before, another helpful idea you can do is to take 10-15 minutes to prep for the next day’s dinner. Especially if you know you are going to be short on time that night. Round up all the spices, dry ingredients, and whatever else you can leave out that will prepare you and save you time. Not being prepared creates unwanted panic and a little frustration and I want to help you avoid this if possible.

5 – Always start with a clean kitchen before cooking

image credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/young-dark-haired-woman-cleaning-surfaces-kitchen_22706410.htm#query=cleankitchen&position=6&from_view=search&track=ais&uuid=b75d0c11-6dd3-4807-8035-0d030a0e647e

Ok, you might disagree with me on this, but if you add a messy kitchen on top of adding more dishes from your dinner, you will get discouraged every night with having to do it all. Even worse, if you hand the dishes onto a family member, they will dread the piles and piles of dishes too. This can be an issue, and you want to set yourself up for success. You can also clean as you go. When you have to wait 2-3 minutes here or 5-10 minutes there, don’t stop. Help yourself by keeping the kitchen clean as you go.

You may start throwing away trash or putting up ingredients you are no longer using back into the fridge or pantry. You can also take it a step further and start on the dirty dishes. You got this! If you make this a habit, you will feel a lot better after dinner and not have such a big load to deal with. You will notice that this makes your life a lot easier when your kitchen is clean from the start. You want a tidy workspace to cook in, and you want all of your kitchen tools clean and ready for use.

6 – Be Mindfully Prepared

If you are using a new recipe you don’t know by heart, go over the steps first. I like to read it and make mental notes of the steps in my head. With some recipes, after doing this, I don’t keep referencing back to the recipe as much. If meat is thawed and marinated, a few veggies are already chopped, all the spices gathered, and you’ve reviewed your recipe a few times then you’ll be setting yourself up for success. You will take less time and effort in getting these meals cooked.

7 – Cook and Clean while you go

image credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=clean+and+cook&sca_esv=593418533&tbm=isch&sxsrf=AM9HkKlZmjxCm8-CP7GhoUovA_xQgtmFBA:1703422459773&source=lnms&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjnyveUj6iDAxXJh_0HHR15BcUQ_AUoAXoECAMQAw&biw=1536&bih=695&dpr=1.25#imgrc=6Yt5qplhNIY8xM

Busy moms can really get ahead with this simple tip. This is a no-brainer. So, while food is baking or simmering and you’ve reached a stop, wash that cutting board and knife, rinse out that blender, clear off the counter of trash and ingredients you’re done with. It’s a good idea to leave out herbs/spices until the very end in case you need to add a pinch extra when you taste your food. We want to be productive and breezing through the process quickly. When you clean as you go, your kitchen won’t look so messy. Your family will be more willing to help out when they don’t see an overwhelming amount of chaos in the kitchen. Try this step and let me know how it worked out for you in the end.

8- Ask for help cleaning up

It is always best to do this immediately after everyone is done eating, don’t sit on this task. If you cooked, get help cleaning, make it a rule, everyone enjoys a home-cooked meal so it will be worth assigning smaller tasks afterward to help tidy the kitchen. Clean the table, load the dishwasher, wipe down the stove, store leftovers, and take out the trash. When you delegate each family member with a task, things will run smoother and quicker. You will be amazed at how quickly the kitchen was cleaned and be able to move on with your evening routine.

Cleaning degreaser that smells wonderful and works great on that greasy stove splatter. Always have a bottle on hand. 

9- Definitely Store the leftovers

image credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/chicken-recipe-preparation_3423846.htm#query=leftover%20food%20storage&position=33&from_view=search&track=ais&uuid=a63a5da7-a57e-4793-afca-2a5fa7bce8e0

My weekly lunch meals depend on hearty and healthy leftovers. Sometimes I cook enough to eat twice and this helps so much when you are a busy mom. If your family is easy and not picky, at least once a month, make enough of an entrée to eat dinner twice. A good example is a huge pan of taco meat for tacos one night then use leftovers for quick oven enchiladas. Or a crockpot of tortilla soup on a cold week. Doing this will help you on a busy week. You’ll just heat and serve and believe me, it takes the load off. You want at least one day a week for dinner to be super easy like heating leftovers. This gives you the flexibility to focus on other things like laundry or decluttering the house from weekend activities. 

You want your food fresh and you don’t want it to spill. These will help store your leftovers and keep those fruits and vegetables fresher longer. 

10- Ask for feedback on meals

image credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=feeback+on+meal&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwidsPGVj6iDAxVMTaQEHVwgD0AQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=feeback+on+meal&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQAzoFCAAQgAQ6BggAEAgQHjoECCMQJzoHCAAQgAQQGDoHCCMQ6gIQJzoICAAQgAQQsQM6CwgAEIAEELEDEIMBOgoIABCABBCKBRBDOgQIABADOg0IABCABBCKBRBDELEDOgYIABAFEB46CQgAEIAEEBgQClCqB1iGMmC2NmgBcAB4BIAB7QGIAakikgEGMC4xLjIwmAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWewAQrAAQE&sclient=img&ei=_SmIZd29LsyakdUP3MC8gAQ&bih=695&biw=1536#imgrc=P4vUKX0E4uF1RM

After new meals, ask your family for input on the meal. Did your family like this particular dish? What did they and didn’t they like about it? Was it easy for you to make? Decide if you will add it to your meal plan rotation. You can include it on a theme night and find ways to perfect it. Maybe you can find ways to make it appealing to everyone. By adding it to the rotation you will get faster at cooking it by making mental notes for easier and quicker cooking times.

Some tips to consider:

To make choosing dinners easier, a lot of family’s have theme nights, like pasta night or meatless days. Feel free to add whatever theme you like and see how interesting it gets to find new recipes and more themes. The kids love it and you can make mealtime fun and enjoyable. 

  • Make sure your family is aware of dinner time, it can take time to round everyone up and you definitely don’t want to have dinner ready while you’re still waiting for a member to arrive from soccer practice. I always like to shout out a 10-minute warning “ Dinner should be ready in 10 minutes y’all” ( that southern accent is all me). You don’t want to wait on anyone and you don’t want the food to get cold. Some nights may have different dinner times so keep times in mind when preparing your meal plan for the week. 
  • If you cook, someone else helps clean, it’s only fair and polite to help mom or dad clean if they cooked. This is why having everyone participate is so compelling to thrive as a family. Have the kiddos help out, clear the table, take out the trash, wipe down counters, help store leftovers. When everyone participates and lends a helping hand, you can move on to weeknight rituals, family time and most importantly unwinding for the day. The goal is to create a process that works for your family and to stay consistent to see the benefits of a dinner routine. After a few months of practicing these methods with the kids and spouse, they’ll know what is expected.  
  • On those hectic nights, I get my teenage son to help start dinner. He preheats the oven and operates the air fryer. This is a huge help for me!  When you feel your kids are old enough and responsible enough, they will be a great help in the kitchen. Not only are they helping to cook but they are learning to move about the kitchen and be self-sufficient. One day they might surprise you with breakfast in bed or a late-night snack of cookies and milk. Score and score! 
  • If you have a toddler and want to start including them in a safe family dinner prep, these toddler stools are amazing tools.

I hope you found this article of tips and tricks helpful. I realize this is going to take a lot of effort, but know that this is totally achievable. Again it may look  impossible but understand if you study these tips and start with baby steps, it can help make life just a little easier. This process takes years of consistent planning and modifying. There are even breaks in between where you cook lees or cook more.  Think  of those meals in the past that were easy to execute. Pay attention to how they became successful for your family. Each family will have their own modifications to the meal planning process.  Make a few changes here and there and see what works for you and your family. Drop a comment or sign up for my email list for more awesome articles like this one. Happy cooking my dear ChambaMadres! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How can I ensure I have all the necessary ingredients, especially smaller items, while grocery shopping?

Carefully plan your weekly menu, check off ingredients for each meal, and don’t forget family essentials and smaller items like cooking oil, butter, spices, and salt.

Q. Why is it recommended to separate portions of meat into storage bags when you get home from shopping?

Separating meat portions makes it easy to grab and go, helping save money, reduce food waste, and simplify meal preparation.

Q. How does asking for feedback on meals contribute to meal planning success?

Seeking feedback helps improve and refine recipes, allowing you to tailor your meal plan to your family’s preferences. It also aids in identifying quick and easy options for busy nights.

Post Disclaimer

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by "Dinner Time Bliss: 10 Tips for Busy Moms" and while we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the post for any purpose.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top