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6 Meal Planning Tips For Busy Families

With both parents working in many families these days, things can get pretty hectic during the week. Sometimes, this would mean other household chores are compromised such as preparing and cooking food. Mums and dads might be too tired to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals, especially during weeknights.

Fortunately, you can still whip up delicious and healthy food for your family with the right strategy. Meal planning is a tactic that parents utilise to offset time scarcity and improve the diet and food quality of their families. It allows you to keep track of you and your kids’ nutrition while ensuring that there’s food variety.

Planning and preparing your meals ahead can seem daunting for first-timers, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are some tips that can help you:

Take small steps

When you decide to go for this strategy, you don’t necessarily have to change up your entire dining routine. You can take small steps, like focusing on making either breakfast, lunch, or dinner ahead. This way, you don’t give yourself undue stress and demotivation to push through with meal planning.

Plus, it doesn’t even have to be all breakfasts, lunches, or dinners as well. You can start by doing meal prep for two or three meals a week first.

Maximise tools

You can find lots of valuable products and resources online that can make meal planning more straightforward. It just takes a bit of research to find the ones that will fit your family’s needs and preferences. 

To help you get started, these are some tools that you can maximise for your meal prep:

  • Menu templates – There are plenty of free menu templates that you can download online. They can come in daily, weekly, or monthly formats so you can choose what style you’re most comfortable with.
  • Meal subscription services – Providers like EveryPlate aim to make meal planning more convenient by providing easy recipes and meal kits with pre-portioned ingredients. You can customize the packages based on the number of people in your family and how many meals per week you want to use their service.
  • Single-portion containers – If you’re planning to make meals ahead, you ought to invest in single-portion food containers. These are particularly useful for lunches that your partner or kids can just take from the fridge right before they go to school or work.

Determine your go-to dishes

You may already have a list of your favourite recipes or go-to dishes that you can whip out when you’re pressed for time. You can dive right into this strategy by starting with those meals and keeping them in rotation for the first few days or weeks.

These recipes can also serve as your plan B when, for some reason or another, you can’t cook the dish that’s on your primary meal plan. By the way, keeping something familiar is one of the best ways to handle a kid who undereats by allowing you to incorporate healthy whole foods into their diet.

Make meal prep time your family’s quality time

You may be dreading the thought of meal planning and prepping taking away a significant portion of your family quality time. After all, you’ll most likely have to make the plan and meals during the weekend, which may be the only period that you can spend time with your partner and kids.

Hit two birds with one stone by letting your family join you in choosing which meals to cook for the week. Their insights can make it easier to find recipes, and you’ll be sure that they’ll enjoy the dishes since these are their suggestions. You can also let your kids cut the carrots, beans, or other greens, under your or your partner’s watchful eyes, of course.

Stock your pantry well

Variety is one of the benefits of meal planning. Having a well-stocked pantry can help you create different dishes from staples such as flour, oil, grains, beans, garlic, onions, salt, pepper, and other spices. These ingredients are typically used in several recipes, so you can be sure that you have several options from these pantry regulars.

Persevere until you get the hang of it

It can take some adjusting right at the start of your meal planning journey, especially with time and resource management. Nonetheless, you should press on until you master this technique since the rewards you reap are well worth it.


Meal planning is a viable strategy for busy families since it gives you one less thing to worry about during the week. Thinking about what to cook for every single meal can be stressful when you don’t plan or prepare ahead. You can avoid all that trouble when you plan your dining routine.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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