General,  Nutrition

The 3 meal-planning mistakes moms make and how to avoid them

Some moms I know have asked me how I stay sane while consistently feeding healthy meals that please six people ages 8-87 all with different preferences—while managing to work, take care of kids, and exercise most every day. 

The answer is meal planning! 

I haven’t always been a great planner, but I’ve learned a lot over the years. I had to plan especially carefully when training for a world-championship triathlon and getting in two training sessions per day. Just like scheduling my workouts, I found it absolutely necessary to plan meals in advance. 


If you’ve struggled to find time for everything, including your running and getting healthy meals on the table, read on to discover three of the biggest meal-planning mistakes moms make and how you can avoid them. 

1. Not having any plan

The biggest mistake anyone, including moms, can make is not having a plan at all. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Many moms don’t plan meals because they don’t realize how simple and flexible it can be. 

I recently surveyed the Run Like a Girl Community about their meal planning habits. Out of 190 who voted, a majority (110) said they don’t plan meals. The next biggest group (55 votes) spent more than 30 minutes, but less than an hour planning. Twenty-five women said they spend an hour or more per week meal-planning. 

Planning meals doesn’t have to be a lengthy endeavor. In fact, if you’re spending an hour it’s taking too long. Read “Top 3 Tips to Make Meal Planning Easy” to learn how to plan meals in less time. 

Having a plan, even if it’s loose or general, can save you so much time and money in the long run. 

Avoid the mistake of not having any plan by just starting where you are. If you’re just getting started, try planning one meal per week. 

2. Aiming for "perfect"

There’s no such thing as perfection. It’s an illusion. 

The second mistake many moms make is thinking they have to be ultra-organized or professional planners before mapping out their meals for the week. Anyone can plan meals. It doesn’t require a spreadsheet, org chart, or anything fancy. A simple list will do, even if it’s just notes on your phone. 

Keeping your meal plan visible will help you remember it better. This can mean writing the plan in a notebook or planner for your own use. Write planned meals and post them on the fridge or anywhere in the kitchen for the whole family to see.

Meal planning also doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You don’t have to plan seven days’ worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. 

Avoid this mistake by starting small and simple

3. Going at it alone

A third big meal-planning mistake moms make is not involving their family. Planning meals shouldn’t be only one person’s responsibility. Getting your partner and kids involved increases the likelihood they will eat and enjoy the meals served. 

Sharing the responsibility also frees up your time to do what you need (or even want) to do. It may seem like more of an effort in the beginning to sit down with the whole family and map out the week’s meals and get input from others, but you’ll find it worthwhile in the long run. 

This doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down time and of course this will look different for every family. 

I’m probably most guilty of trying to do everything on my own.  But, now that we live very close to my elderly in-laws and eat with them most nights of the week, my mother-in-law and I make a weekly date to sit down with our calendars and decide who will cook on which day. We coordinate on menus so we don’t cook the same things.  I’ve learned a bunch from her organization. 

And now that my kids are getting old enough to cook, we’re starting to give them the task of cooking for the group once a week, and they’re really enjoying it. Well, they don’t always enjoy it, but seeing them learning these life skills gives us great satisfaction. And I love that they’re eating more adventurous meals and enjoying them.  

To recap, the top three mistakes are: not having a plan, aiming for perfection, and going at it alone. Which of these mistakes have you made the most? 


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