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The 5 Best ADHD Meal Planning Hacks to Say Goodbye to Last Minute Stress

group of people making toast

The Friendly ADHD Meal Planning Tips You’ve Been Looking For

I came home from the latest kid activity tired, sweaty, and doing my best to tune out the sibling arguments happening, only to look in the pantry and realize that I have no idea what I’m going to feed these people. I mean, do they really need to eat every day? Kidding. Kidding. But, does this sound familiar at all? After this exact scenario occurred more times than I would like to admit, I knew I needed to come up with some ADHD meal planning hacks.

ADHD meal planning because we are a neurospicey family, and many of the traditional meal planning tools don’t work for me. While I know that meal planning is good for our health, finances, and family bonding around the kitchen table, it often feels overwhelming and complicated.

And when a task feels too big, I can’t make myself do it. So, I worked on developing new habits and routines, and they have been life changing. Here are my best hacks to make menu planning easier for someone with ADHD.

#1. Pick a Day to Make a Menu

If you haven’t picked up on my style yet or are new around Intentionally Well (welcome!), you know I need a good routine. Our ADHD brains are relaxed and happy when there is familiarity and routines. So, pick a day and schedule your menu planning. Write it in your calendar or set a reminder/alarm on your phone to help you remember.

I like to meal plan on Saturday mornings, then I make a grocery pick-up order for Sunday. But there have been other seasons when I did everything on Mondays or even Fridays. Try a few different ways (maybe even monthly meal planning) and see which feels easiest and the most doable. Friendly ADHD meal planning needs to be low hassle. We won’t do the thing if the thing is too hard.

Bonus: Scheduling a grocery pick-up order cuts impulse buying and helps me focus on what I need.

#2. Check Your Weekly Schedule

Knowing your weekly schedule is so important in ADHD meal planning. Heck, knowing your weekly schedule is important in ADHD life! Knowing what your afternoons and evenings look like will significantly impact menu planning because you will identify your capacity for each day.

If your kids have sports or other activities two afternoons a week, then you might not want to plan a fully made-from-scratch meal that night (our go-to quick meal is scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit). Or, if you are going to be home all day doing school, it might be nice to end the day by preparing a meal.

#3. Shop Your Pantry First

A woman is ADHD meal planning by looking at all the items in her pantry first.
ADHD Meal Planning is made simpler by shopping your pantry first.

Look at what’s in your pantry and refrigerator first and determine your weekly meals based on what you already have. Remember those ADHD impulse buys we are prone to? Now is your chance to use them! What about that meal you wanted to make last week but decided on take-out instead? Make it now.

Additionally, shopping your pantry first enables you to cycle through pantry staples on a consistent basis, as well as cut down on food waste. I know I like to buy random things when there is a great sale. Looking at what I already have ensures that I actually use everything.

#4. Check the Weather

So, this step is out of left field, but here me out. Checking the weather brings a little bit of intentionality to your meals. Remember when you were a kid and came home to Mom making that perfect comfort food that feels like a warm hug? Paying attention to the weather creates that atmosphere.

For example, if it’s chilly outside, it’s going to be a perfect night for warm soup and crusty bread instead of a salad. Also, planning to grill hamburgers outside would be disappointing if you’re suddenly caught in a downpour. Then you’re left scrambling for a last-minute something to feed your people.

ADHD meal planning is easier when you check the weather first. Image is viewed through a window looking out on to a backyard deck while pouring rain outside.
This definitely looks like a soup day!

#5. Make It Themed

Assigning a meal theme for each day of the week can make choosing recipes less overwhelming. One example would be this:

I find using a loose schedule like this makes ADHD meal planning less mentally taxing and more streamlined. The less I have to think about it, the better. There are lots of options for recipe kits that are theme-based, too. I regularly use the Menu Planning boxes from Passionate Penny Pincher.

Developing a menu planning habit can be a game changer for you and your family. I hope these tips and tricks help you to start and keep at it. What are some of your favorite family meals? Let me know in the comments below. As always, share this post with your friends if you enjoyed it!


  1. Shanna

    I love the idea of themes. I try to do this occasionally but need to keep it in mind often. That makes meal time more fun for everyone, including me who cooks most of the days during the week.

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