When you have ADHD, meal planning can feel overwhelming and even impossible. The lack of structure and organization that comes with having ADHD can make it difficult to plan, shop for, and prepare meals on a regular basis.
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But, meal planning is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, especially for individuals with ADHD who may struggle with impulsivity and poor time management.
In this post, we will explore some tips and strategies for meal planning with ADHD, so that you can take control of your nutrition and feel more in control of your daily routine. From simplifying meal prep to creating a flexible meal schedule, I will give you practical advice to make meal planning more manageable and less stressful.
Have you seen those articles or photos on Instagram or Pinterest of families who are meal planning and getting their weekly meals ready on the weekend? Meal planning looks like such a fabulous way to save money and time, but how in the world can one do it when you’re busy? overwhelmed? Unorganized? Have trouble planning? Or all of the above?
My story with ADHD
I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Although I suspected I had it already, confirming it made it easier for me to give myself grace, but also find the support, tools, etc., that I need.
I was compelled to get tested after my youngest was diagnosed to better understand him and how he was experiencing the world.
While I don't use it as an excuse for my (or his) inability to do something or the struggles we have with sometimes accomplishing things that require focus, planning, etc., I use it as a source of better understanding myself and figuring out how to make things less stressful and overwhelming.
Meal planning is actually one of the ways I have found to minimize stress on the homefront. It has proven to be an absolute necessity in my life. And now that I have gotten away from it for a little while, I can definitively say that was true when I worked outside the home, being home full time, and now that I work from home full time, it is sooooo necessary.
I swear I am always trying to find balance. There's an ebb and flow to it. Where sometimes, I feel balanced, and others, I feel totally out of whack. Meal planning helps me be on the side of the scales aligning.
My family loves to eat.
Part of it is because I conditioned them that way. The other part is cause they are just greedy.
No matter your reason, if you’re a busy adult, particularly one with ADHD, who wants to figure out how to meal plan to save some coins and reclaim your time, then you’ve come to the right place.
What Exactly is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect both children and adults.
The symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person, but some common characteristics include:
- Inattention. Difficulty focusing, staying on task or completing tasks, forgetfulness, disorganization, and procrastination.
- Hyperactivity. Restlessness, fidgeting, constant movement, and difficulty sitting still or remaining quiet.
- Impulsivity. Acting without thinking, interrupting others, having difficulty waiting turns, and making impulsive decisions.
- Difficulty with executive functions. This can include poor time management, difficulty planning or prioritizing tasks, and forgetfulness.
- Emotional dysregulation. ADHD can cause intense emotions, difficulty managing emotions, and mood swings.
It's important to note that everyone with ADHD experiences it differently and that it can affect people in many different ways.
Some individuals with ADHD may struggle more with hyperactivity, while others may experience more inattention or impulsivity.
And ADHD symptoms can change over time and may be influenced by factors like stress or sleep deprivation.
Why I Personally Meal Plan
Let me be clear, I don't meal plan cause I like to. I actually do it cause sometimes I'm lazy and if I don't have a plan, dinner will be courtesy of the nearest take out spot. And there are no savings happening with taking out for the whole family.
Truthfully, when I am on top of it, meal planning makes my life easier. And I am all for anything that makes my life even the slightest bit easier.
Meal planning is especially important for individuals with ADHD because it can provide structure and routine to daily life, which can be challenging for those of us with this condition.
Here are some good reasons why meal planning can be helpful for people with ADHD:
- Improved Nutrition. Meal planning allows you to plan your meals in advance, which makes it easier to ensure that you are getting a balanced and healthy diet. This can help to improve your overall health and well-being.
- Reduced Stress. Meal planning can help to reduce stress and anxiety by eliminating the need to make decisions about what to eat each day. When you have a plan in place, you don't have to worry about figuring out what to eat at the last minute or running to the grocery store multiple times a week.
- Time Management. Planning meals in advance can help to save time during the week, which can be especially helpful for individuals with ADHD who may struggle with time management. Having a plan in place can also help to reduce the likelihood of getting distracted or forgetting to eat altogether.
- Saves Money. Meal planning can also be cost-effective, as it allows you to plan your meals around what's on sale or in season. It can also help to reduce the amount of food waste, as you can plan to use leftovers in future meals.
My Themes-by-Day That Help Me Meal Plan
I cook enough on Sunday for leftovers on Monday. So Sunday dinner recipes I usually double.
Monday's are hard enough. Who wants extra tasks? I prefer to ease into it. Lol
But if I have to cook on a Monday, I make it easier by doing a meatless Monday theme.
Tuesday is Taco Tuesday. I normally find some sort of simple yummy taco recipe or just make plain ole tacos, turkey and my homemade taco seasoning, of course.
Wednesday and Thursday are whatever I make it to be. I always try for a meat and vegetable or sometimes a meatless meal. Anything extra (like carbs) is a bonus. Skillet meals for these days are awesome as well.
When I was home full time, I’d normally make a quick meal on Fridays. Burgers, sliders, pizza – something with minimum effort, maximum yum. Saturdays the kitchen is CLOSED!
Nowadays, I either follow that weekend schedule, or I don't cook on Friday or Saturday at all. I look at it like, I work all week and if they give me weekends off, so will the people I feed, dagonit.
Other Weekly Food Themes For Simplified Meal Planning
Here are some additional weekly food themes that you could consider for your meal planning:
- Stir-Fry Wednesday. Stir-fry dishes are a quick and easy way to incorporate lots of veggies and protein into your meals. You could try a different stir-fry recipe each week, or stick with your favorites.
- Slow-Cooker Thursday. Slow-cooker meals are a great option for busy weeknights, as you can throw everything in the pot in the morning and come home to a delicious, hot meal in the evening.
- Fish Friday. Incorporating fish into your diet is a great way to get omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients. You could try a different fish recipe each week, or stick with your favorites.
- Soup and Sandwich Saturday. This theme allows for a lot of flexibility, as you can switch up the types of soups and sandwiches each week. You could also make a big batch of soup at the beginning of the week and enjoy it throughout the week.
- Brunch Sunday. Brunch is a great way to kick off the weekend, and there are so many different dishes you can make. From eggs to pancakes to waffles, there's something for everyone.
These are just a few ideas to get you started with your weekly food themes. You could also consider themes based on different cuisines or ingredients, such as Italian night or sweet potato week. The possibilities are endless!
Getting the Shopping Done For Your Weekly Meal Plan
When I worked outside the house full time, I use to shop for the month at the wholesale club for dry and frozen items. That way, I would only have to hit the store for a quick run once per week for things like milk and those things that would expire quickly.
Now my shopping schedule working from home has remained pretty much the same as when I stayed home full time. I actually shop every 7-10 days. And the only difference now is I order groceries instead of going to get them. I still use my same strategy though for saving money. And now I save even more time!
The main takeaway here is, to find and do what works for you.
Considerations for Making YOUR Weekly Family Meal Plan
There are a few things to take into consideration and determine before you start the process of meal planning for your family. Below are the first four things to take into consideration before you start planning your family meals for the week:
- Grocery shopping. You’ll need to grab a pen and paper while looking at a calendar to figure out what day of the week you’ll want to go grocery shopping. If you are like me, and REALLY like to save time, you can even order your groceries and essential items. That is time-saving fuh real.
- Plan Your Week. Now that you know which day you’ll go grocery shopping each week, it’s time to figure out what meals you want to plans for, and what you’ll make for meals for the entire week. Having themed days helps with making this easier. Things like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Breakfast for Dinner. Or whatever your family fancies.
- Budget. It’s important that you take a moment to figure out how much you can spend on groceries per month and what that breaks down into a weekly amount. And stick with it. No worries, I’ll help you figure out how to do that a little further down, keep reading.
- Finalize. Once you’ve established your weekly grocery budget, you can easily start working to figure out what your weekly meal plan will look like. And if you are way fancy, you can plan for the month. Not my style, but do you boo!
Now that you’ve established your weekly grocery budget and shopping schedule and know just how much you can spend, it’s time to start the process of meal planning.
The Breakdown on Creating YOUR Weekly Family Meal Plan
Look on Pinterest and other recipe websites (like this one right here) to find recipes you want for the week. Keeping in mind your theme days.
Look at Supplies
Take a moment to review what you have in the pantry, kitchen cupboards, and the refrigerator or freezer. Make note of any other supplies you have on hand for your recipes.
If you want to go further with saving switch steps 1 & 2 around. Find your recipes according to the ingredients you have on hand. Take note of what’s expiring soon so that you have a list of items that need to be used sooner rather than later. That way groceries aren't being wasted. Look on Pinterest and other recipe websites to find recipes that will use as much as you can of your supplies already on hand.
Look at the Calendar
Now that you have an idea of what you have on hand to use and the recipe ideas, it’s time to review your calendar to see if you have any outings this week or dinner at friends’ homes so that you know which day you don’t have to plan a meal for.
Plan the Week
Now that you’ve determined all of the tidbits of information you need for your weekly meal plan, it’s time to make a list. Write down the week by day and fill in each day with a recipe idea. Be certain to leave room for leftovers. Some of the recipes may allow for a leftovers night, like my Monday. I gauge this because days other than Sundays leftovers are better spent on lunches in my home. But sometimes there is enough for two days worth of eating for another weekday.
Implement whatever shopping strategy works for you. Making sure to get the things that are needed for your recipes as well as the basic essentials. I have to plan for packing my son’s lunches as well. My husband eats leftovers, my daughter eats at school and I pull something together at home. So I make sure they have breakfast items they can make fast in the morning. Things like bagels, english muffins, microwave pancakes, etc. And I get items for my son’s lunch and kids snacks, and then my grocery items.
THE SUMMARY // Stress-Free Meal Planning for a Family On A Weekly Basis Broken Down In 3 Easy Steps
Make Menu Selections
I start with thinking about Sunday since it has to be something I can double easily for Monday. Then I check Pinterest for recipe inspiration. This way, I can see what kind of tacos we having for Taco Tuesday and any days I don't have a plan in place.
Write the plan
I sit down and write it all out, and then I check to see what ingredients I don't have on hand already.
Then, I write out my shopping list, making sure I include all of the ingredients I will need for the week. Making sure to also include regular items like bread, milk, eggs, snacks, etc.
Hit the aisles
Meal planning makes it easier to eat healthier. It saves on trips to the store. And, best of all it also keeps you within the budget. Because you are not grabbing food on the fly or eating out for lack of preparation. In my book that is winning all the way around!
This is the low down of getting started with weekly meal planning to save money and time. I hope this helps you get that whole balance thing down. Or at least start.
If you continue using these tips every week to plan your family’s meals, you’ll find that you start having more money on hand. As well, more time to spend with your family. Meal planning truly is a fantastic way to create more quality time for family. All while still serving delicious meals every night.