Meal planning for last-minute moms: Easily create meals your kids will eat

Meal planning.

Ha ha ha.

I say that because I am an extremely disorganised and last-minute person. Meaning I have read every blog and even had a coach for planning menus and shopping efficiently. I know exactly what meal prep is and how it can save your life. I know about cooking in bulk and freezing and all that jazz, and still – most days at 4pm I start thinking about what’s for supper at 5pm.

So, being a great feeder does not mean you have to love cooking or prepare gourmet food for hours.  I am working on accepting my weaknesses and working in my reality of being a last-minute person.

And somehow, we get by. You can provide your family with tasty, varied, nutritious food without spending loads of time cooking.

Here goes:

Serve one of every food group at the meal

Why? This means I do my job of OFFERING a balanced meal. It also means that I have a basic outline of what to serve at a meal, and can fill in the missing pieces.

I want my children to be successful at meal times, and for them to find something they can and want to eat.

My basic food groups:

  • Protein (animal or plant-based) eg meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes
  • Starch/ Carbs – bread, rice, pasta, potatoes etc
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Fats eg butter, nuts, sauces

I think like this whatever meal I serve. If I serve toasted cheese sandwiches, I will add cut up fruit and vegetables on the plate. Maybe a little pile of nuts & seeds too. They may eat them, they may not.

Children are SO unpredictable in their eating, so having more options & variety increases their chance of finding something they want to eat.

My middle son – my 4 year old – is my most erratic eater. His go-to safe food is bread or fruit. Last night for example, I served chicken & butternut and nothing else. He ate nothing. Not ideal.

And that’s why, I try stay away from offering chicken and potatoes alone – and when I do, the outcome is not good.

Steps to meal planning for even the most disorganized mom

  1. Choose your protein. Your protein needs the most planning, needs to be defrosted maybe and needs more cooking time. We do different kinds meat, chicken, and fish and I have some ready-to-go protein options too for rushed days like smoked salmon, boiled or scrambled eggs, and tinned chickpeas. Minute steaks are my favourite because they take a minute to cook and are yum.
  2. Choose your starch. I have a list of items which are quick / easy – boiled baby potatoes, sweet potatoes baked in foil, rice in the microwave, pasta etc. Sometime they “fit” with the protein, sometimes they don’t.
  3. Add in the rest (fruit, vegetables, fats). Forget about “matching” food items. Sometimes I cook veggies, more often though I serve fresh fruits and veggies. Yes, cut up oranges or strawberries with the main course. I also offer salad dressing to dip veggies into.  Cut up or mashed avocado is big on my table. Tick off each food group in your head as you go.
  4. Add in a single serving dessert for each person – once in a while, and here’s why
  5. Survey the menu. You always, always want to have a SAFE food for every child. A safe food is one you know your child will eat. It usually is bread, pasta or the like. It helps him eat at the meal, if there is nothing else he wants. He may ONLY eat his safe food. If there is no safe food on the table, add one in – for everyone.
  6. Serve (family style if you can) and sit WITH your kids.

Note – Breakfast does not follow this plan – but when I can I will add butter and ground almonds to the oats, or offer a fruit smoothie to round off the meal. More often than not, cereal and milk is good enough for us!

Note – I sometimes buy ready made food which I know we like for example chicken shnitzel or rotisserie chicken or fried fish. There is no rule that you have to cook the food you serve. But you need to provide food regularly.

This meal-planning strategy which can be summarised as:


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