Feeding Your Family II – Meal Planning

Busy Mom’s Survival Guide Podcast Episode 044.
Meal planning can be a very time consuming job for busy moms.  Not only are we trying to figure out what to feed our family, but we are also try to make healthy meals that everybody will actually eat.


In this episode, I talk about how to set up a meal notebook and use it to facilitate your meal planing.  I assume that you do have a pantry, so if you haven’t already done so, please listen to the podcast episode 43 on setting up your pantry and integrated food shopping list.

Episode Resources

Listener Questions

Janiece:  Hi PJ. We have five children between the ages of 7-15. My 13 year old daughter has many food allergies and my 11 year old chose to go vegetarian about a year ago. Everyone eats a good amount of fruits & veggies except for my daughter with allergies.  She “dabbles”. How do you suggest I keep shopping and cooking orderly with the additional complications of “special diets.” It’s very time consuming at this point. Thanks so much.

Jane: Does your family eat meat or are you more vegetarians? And do you make your own ice cream with goats milk by chance?

Gena: How do you do it? I am a fairly organized person, but when it comes to grocery shopping I must have some kind of problem. At NO given time can you go in my kitchen and say “I want to make this” and actually make it without going to the store…not gonna happen.

Ashea: Meal planning is my biggest area I need to work on. We are a homeschool family so we are home a lot and I feel like all I do is constantly think about the next meal and what it will be. I think if I would get into the habit of planning ahead it would make it a lot easier. But where do i start?

Karen: Getting tired of cooking… been cleaning my pantry and it is very overstocked with stuff I haven’t used… I overbuy sometimes.. how can i clean up my pantry with only 2 people home?? son is away at college… I started taking inventory and typing a list…

Marilyn:  I would like to come up with a solid plan for meals. I cook at least one big day a week – soup, beans, rice, bread, salad, etc. It will last for almost a week, but I still don’t really have this down.

Karen: How do you get them all to eat the meal? I always seem to be making a couple of meals a night…unless it’s pizza

Hallie: My homeschooling, goat & chicken raising friend has five kids ages 8-18 who are always hungry. She’s looking for meals that keep them from getting hungry so soon after meals. She also wants snacks that feed the brain besides nuts. Their budget is so, so small.

Episodes in the Series

Do you struggle with the food side of motherhood?  If so, please leave me a comment so I can answer your questions in the upcoming episodes.

Thanks for listening!  Tune in next week as I discuss food shopping on a budget.


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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jill

    Thanks PJ! Such great advice. Can’t wait to make my Meal Notebook!

    • goatmilkstuff

      Glad to help! You’re going to love it once you have it. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    About to do a massive notebook overhaul. Slightly nervous but ready to press on with a better plan than I have going on right now!

    • goatmilkstuff

      I hope it goes well!! Let me know if you need any support. I’m cheering you on. 🙂 PJ

      • Jennifer

        I do have one quick question. (I could easily find the answer by listening to the podcast again, but I thought I might ask here instead.) I wanted to know what you said to write on the corners…

        I think you said in the top right-hand corner you would write how long before dinner you’d need to start preparing (or how long it would take the kids, or both). In the bottom right hand corner do you write any items that you need to purchase for that meal that wouldn’t already be in your pantry?

        I’m fairly certain that this is what you said, but I wanted to double check.

        • goatmilkstuff

          On the top right, I put how long before the meal the recipe needs to be started.
          On the bottom right, I put how long the prep time is.
          On the bottom, I put any ingredients that I don’t keep stocked.

          So on chili, it would say
          Top Right: at least 8 hours
          Bottom Right: 30-60 minutes
          Bottom: Fresh peppers

          I can usually make it a lot faster than the children if there is a lot of prep work and dicing, so sometimes I note that on there as well. But generally it is just in the range (I can get chili started in 30 minutes, it takes the children 60).

          Does that make sense?

          • Jennifer

            That does make a lot of sense. I have to include a “Day Before” section at the top because it seems most of our favorite meals include meat (or homemade sauces) that I keep frozen. So I have to remember to thaw those the day before.

            Once a Month Cooking worked for me for several years and so I will be keeping a lot of things stocked that I learned to make in bulk in those years like 8 quarts of each: spaghetti sauce, homemade chili, homemade chicken tortilla soup. I would PAY to see your list of “Pantry” meals because it seems I only have one meal that is a true “only out of the pantry supplies” meal. Everything else requires something from the freezer – which I know you count as “pantry” in a way – or something I don’t necessarily want to keep stocked in my pantry. For example, tortilla chips for the chicken tortilla soup… my family loves these and would want to eat them before we ever cooked the soup. This may just mean I have to train them to leave my pantry alone. Any ideas?

            PS. Just listened to your most recent podcast on Saving Lives and I want you to know we’re praying for your family as you heal. Please take your time in responding. My pantry isn’t going anywhere. (Well, until the Army tells us to pack it up and take it somewhere, I guess, but you know what I mean.)

          • goatmilkstuff

            Thanks for your prayers – I appreciate that. I am working on getting my meals ready for online. It’s on my to-do list, but fairly low priority so it is slow going. I’ve found that most recipes can be easily converted to pantry recipes if you think about it. I usually end up adding a lot of fresh stuff if and when we have it, but most of them have a simplified version with stuff I just stock up on.

            And I’m so bad about defrosting things. Most of my stuff from the freezer goes straight from the freezer into the meal. LOL

  • Sarah

    Just listened to this podcast and was so inspired! Not having a well stocked pantry is my missing link for having a meal plan that works. I love that your meals are mainly built upon things in your pantry/freezer – this is something I struggle with as most of my recipes need fresh ingredients (which so often tend to get gobbled up before I have had the chance to make the meal! augh!). I would love to see what kinds of things you and your family cook – are you planning on sharing your meal plan online at all? It would be wonderful to see what kinds of things you all come up with, especially since the meals you speak of always sound delicious! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us all! 🙂

    • goatmilkstuff

      Hi Sarah, Yes – a pantry is definitely the starting point. I would like to get more of our meal stuff on line. But I have to do it in my “free time” so it may not happen very quickly. I’m trying, though! 🙂 PJ

  • Abby

    because of this podcast/blog post, we now have a meal plan, recipe book, shopping list, & are building a new pantry. thanks so much!

    • goatmilkstuff

      Yeah!! Yeah!! Yeah!! I’m so glad to hear that. 🙂