As a busy mom, you are likely juggling so many things every single day: kids, spouse, work, house, meals, appointments, schedules. Your brain is in serious overload at all times. One of the most stressful parts of your day might very well be waiting until dinnertime to decide what your family is eating. Here are some of the top shortcuts & mom hacks that make dinner time easier to plan, easier to prepare, and easier to intentionally enjoy with your people. These are the exact steps that can help you stop the dinner drama and enjoy meals together again.
For many families, planning dinner on the fly works for them. For others, cooking once a week works. But if your family is like many, you’re somewhere in between. This approach is a middle of the ground, semi-planning, semi-flexible, stress minimizing approach that can help it all feel easier.
- Assess the week ahead.
Always start with a quick assessment (i.e., a simple review) of where your family is currently & what’s coming up for however many days you need to plan for, whether over the next week or for the month. Look at things like your schedule, your family budget, and what supplies you already have on hand to use up. The better you understand where you are now, what’s ahead, and what you expect, the less likely you are to be caught off guard in the 5pm Dinner Drama.
After assessment, start to plan out what you’d like to see happen. Planning meals doesn’t mean every meal from scratch, and it doesn’t mean starting with new, fancy recipes each day. Find ways to streamline your brain space, and use recurring patterns. Plan a leftover day. Try theme days (um- hello Taco Tuesdays!). Try planning for an intentional fast-food night between the kids’ activities during the week. If you need to, purchase ready to eat or easily prepared foods like bagged salads, pre-cut fruit, or freshly cooked meat at the grocery deli counter. The main point is after you assess where you are, start to plan where you’d like to see the meals this week go & use shortcuts wherever you can.
As with many busy moms, you likely know the real value in planning comes with the preparation. When you’re preparing for the week, you’ve already assessed what the week has in store, as well as planned what you’d like to see happen. When you move into the preparation step, this includes reviewing sales, gathering groceries, even doing slight prep work (like having produce ready to eat, as mentioned above). The more you can prepare for the week ahead, the more peace you’re actually gifting to yourself for later in the week.
As the plan unfolds throughout the week, execute with grace. Assume that not everything will go as perfectly as you planned it, but changes are not a sign of failure. Quite the opposite. Look at changes to the plan as an opportunity to teach your family how to make decisions with confidence and be flexible with the goals you’ve laid. When things go awry, be intentional about prioritizing food that will go bad, and about saving your brain space for the most important things in your life- your family.
Once you’ve taken the time to Assess, Plan, Prepare, and Execute- don’t forget to enjoy. Enjoy the food, even if meals don’t go as planned, and enjoy the people you’re eating with. Think of your meal together as an opportunity to pour into your family, and to share part of their life with them. Whether you’re eating in the car, the living room, at a practice, or at a family table- always look for ways to connect with your people and prioritize investing in their lives. By planning your meals (and backup plans) ahead of time, you can save your brain space for the most important part of your life- the people you share it with.
As a mom, whether you’re staying at home, working from home, working full time, a bonus mom, or any other version of parenting, you know the priority is providing for your people. Take the time to plan ahead, save yourself some brain space on the crazy days, and stop the dinner drama. Practice investing emotion and time into the relationships that matter the most, and give yourself and your people the grace to do it imperfectly. Perfect behavior, perfect houses, and perfect humans were never the point anyway. The point is to love them, and love them well. And with these 5 steps, you can save your brain space to love them well over a meal together.
Heather Campbell, RD, founder of Glory Nutrition, is a Registered Dietitian, Mom of 3, Military Spouse, and a family and child nutrition expert with over a decade of experience in the field. You can learn much more from Heather on her website.