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As a stay-at-home mom with ADHD, I know how hard it can be to keep up with meal planning. There are so many things to juggle, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can be a lifesaver!
Meal planning can help you save time, money, and stress.
When you know what you’re going to eat for the week, you’re less likely to impulse buy food or order takeout. You’re also more likely to make healthy choices because you’ve already thought about what you’re going to eat.
But I know what you may be thinking: meal planning is hard! How am I supposed to find the time to plan out meals for an entire week?
Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
I’m going to share my best tips for ADHD meal planning. These strategies are simple and easy to follow, and they’ll help you get started on the path to a more organized and stress-free daily routine.
So if you’re ready to take the stress out of meal planning, keep reading!
What is meal planning?
Let’s start with the basics because I see people confusing meal planning with meal prepping. Meal planning is the act of planning out what you’re going to eat for the week. That’s it!
It can be a great way to save time and money, and it can also help you eat healthier. When you meal plan, you’re more likely to make choices that are nutritious and well-balanced, and you’re less likely to waste food (and money).
What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping is the act of preparing meals ahead of time. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as cooking multiple meals at once or making individual portions of meals that can be reheated later.
Here are some examples of meal prepping:
- Breakfast: Overnight oats that you make on Sunday and store in the refrigerator
- Lunch: Chicken teriyaki that you batch cooked so you can eat for the next few days
- Dinner: Salad in a jar that you can just pour onto your plate and eat.
With meal planning, you have a plan for what you want to eat. With meal prepping you cook or prepare the food in advance so you can quickly eat it throughout the week.
If you want to meal prep but need some inspiration, this list of 80+ budget-friendly meal prep ideas should help you get started.
Meal planning and meal prepping are both great ways to save time, money, and stress but I recommend starting with meal planning if you’re a beginner.
Why is meal planning hard if you have ADHD?
Meal planning can be hard for people with ADHD for several reasons. You might find it difficult to focus on the task, or you might get distracted by other things.
But meal planning is important because it can help you save time and money. Plus it can take the stress out of deciding what to eat everyday.
And if you’re anything like me sometimes I just avoid eating because I have no idea what to eat and I feel overwhelmed.
But as a mom with kids who need to eat (frequently!), skipping meals isn’t an option.
Here are a few reasons why meal planning can be so hard for people with ADHD:
- Focus: You may get distracted by other things like your phone or Netflix.
- Planning: You may not think about what you’re going to eat until you’re hungry, and then you might end up making impulsive decisions.
- Inconsistency: You may get bored with the same meals week after week and not stick to your meal plan.
- Forgetfulness: You may forget to buy the ingredients you need or that you have food already cooked in the refrigerator.
Meal planning can be a challenge especially if you have ADHD, but it’s worth it.
Benefits of meal planning
Hopefully, by now you’re pretty convinced that meal planning can be a simple solution to help you simplify feeding your family.
Here are a few more reasons why you should consider meal planning:
Reduced Stress and Overwhelm:
Picture this: it’s 5 PM, the kids are hungry, and you’re scrambling to figure out what’s for dinner. Chaos, right? Meal planning takes away that last-minute panic.
By setting aside some time each week to plan your meals, you’ll always know what’s on the menu. It’s like having a little roadmap for your week, and that alone can lift a ton of stress off your shoulders.
Improved Time Management:
Your time is precious, and with ADHD, managing it can be a real challenge. Meal planning helps you use your time more efficiently. Instead of spending precious minutes each day thinking about what to cook, you’ve already made those decisions.
This means you can dedicate more time to other important tasks, whether it’s helping the kids with homework or making some time for self-care.
ADHD or not, being mindful of your budget is crucial. Meal planning allows you to create a shopping list based on your weekly menu, helping you stick to your budget and avoid those tempting impulse buys at the grocery store.
Plus, it minimizes food waste since you’re buying only what you need.
Healthier Eating Habits:
It’s easy to fall into the trap of grabbing fast food or making unhealthy choices when life gets hectic. With meal planning, you’re in control of the ingredients and portions, making it easier to stick to a balanced and nutritious diet. This is not just good for you but for the whole family, too!
Boosted Confidence and Self-Esteem:
Life can be a rollercoaster, and being a mom with ADHD adds an extra loop or two. But when you consistently nail your meal planning, it’s like a little victory every week that deserves a pat on the back.
Meal planning isn’t about being perfect; it’s about making your life a bit easier and more enjoyable.
How to start meal planning
There are a few different ways to meal plan. You can do it all at once for the entire week, or you can break it down into smaller chunks, like planning your meals for each day or a few days at a time.
I only plan for 2-3 days at a time because any longer than that I know I won’t stick to the plan.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to get started:
Set a Weekly Planning Date
Pick a day each week to plan your meals. It could be Sunday morning or Tuesday night – whatever floats your boat. Make it a little ritual; light a candle, play some music, and let the planning magic begin.
Create a Master List
Jot down your family’s favorite meals and go-to recipes. Keep it handy – this is your mealtime treasure map. It’ll save you from the “What should we eat?” dilemma.
Check the Calendar
Take a peek at your week ahead. Busy soccer practice on Tuesday? Quick and easy dinner it is! Knowing the schedule helps you plan meals that fit your family’s lifestyle.
Keep it Simple
No need for gourmet masterpieces every night. Embrace simplicity. Pick meals with fewer ingredients and quick prep times. (Tacos are my favorite go-to recipe!)
Rotate the Basics
Build a foundation of easy-to-make meals that you can rotate. Spaghetti Monday, Stir-fry Wednesday – you get the drift. It adds predictability to your week.
Batch Cooking is Your BFF
Cook once, eat twice! Double up your recipes so you can have leftovers for the next day. Future you will thank present you for this genius move.
Make a Shopping List
Jot down the ingredients you need. Stick to the list to avoid those sneaky impulse buys. Your budget will thank you too!
OPTIONAL: Prepare Ahead
Spend a little time prepping veggies, marinating proteins, or even assembling parts of a meal. This is a bonus step that will save you even more time throughout the week.
The planning part can be easy. But how do you actually stick to the plan? Let’s talk about that next.
How to make ADHD meal planning easier (and stay consistent!)
Now that you know the basics of meal planning, let’s talk about how to stick to this plan.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with planning every meal for the month or even the week. Begin with planning a few days at a time, and as you get the hang of it, you can gradually plan for longer stretches.
If your brain is anything like mine, it’s a very busy place! Set a reminder on your phone, Alexa, or leave colorful sticky notes where you’ll see them. A little nudge can make a big difference.
Make a planning time
Create a specific meal planning routine. This is non-negotiable! Same time, same place each week. Maybe not that strict but you get my point.
Create theme nights
Theme nights are the key to keeping things simple– Taco Tuesday, Pasta Thursday, you name it! It adds predictability to your plan and saves brain power.
Involve the Family
If you have picky eaters like I do, I’ve noticed they eat better when they choose their meals. They also eat more if they help me cook whether that’s stirring the food or just grabbing the ingredients out of the fridge.
It may take a little more time if they’re under 5 like my kids, but they eat better and we waste less food.
Embrace simple recipes
A common mistake I see people make when they’re brand new to meal planning is they create a meal plan with all new recipes they found on Pinterest. Please don’t do that!
Start with recipes you know your family loves and then gradually add in new recipes on days that you have more time to cook (and time to cook a new meal if you mess up the recipe).
Be flexible and forgiving
Life happens, and that’s okay! Embrace the flexibility of your plan. Swap days or keep a few backup meals for those extra hectic times.
Take a few minutes each week to review how your plan went. What worked? What didn’t? Adjust as needed. It’s a living document, not a strict rulebook.
Consistency is about progress, not perfection. Meal planning is a skill that takes time and practice.
Remember, consistency is your progress, not perfection. Life with ADHD and a busy family can be a whirlwind, but you’re doing great.
Embrace the wins, learn from the twists and turns, and, most importantly, be kind to yourself. Creating routines that simplify your life is an ongoing process.
If you’re looking for more tips, tricks, and a supportive community of like-minded moms, I invite you to join our Facebook community – a space filled with productivity gems tailored for ADHD moms with young kiddos.
Come share your victories, offer a helping hand, and build each other up.