Meal Planning and ADHD

So, I’m not very good when it comes to planning ahead. I usually forget about eating until I’m too hungry to make good choices, or I just impulsively want to eat something that sounds good. I’m not very good about going to the grocery store or planning ahead. This ultimately ends up in not so great food choices and also a large amount of money spent eating out.

Does anyone have tips for meal planning that they’ve used? Are there any apps or other programs that have helped you? Are there any “go to” meals that you eat on a regular basis?

When I have been better about meal planning in the past I relied heavily on frozen meals or things that were easy to cook in a matter of minutes. Highly involved meals aren’t really my thing unless it’s a special occasion.

Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated. Thanks everyone!


I’m also pretty poor planning for food and eating at random times.

You must know what you like to eat, how about getting a list together and then breaking it down to ingredients so you have it all listed on your phone or in a notebook when you need to go shopping. I guess it would still need some planning to get food in advance and avoid impulsive hungry food shopping.

I do batch cooking when making some meals, you can make a better quality meal for a lot less money instead of buying prepared meals. fill a big pan, like cooking for 6 people, eat 2 days fresh and put 4 meals in the freezer in separate portions. It keeps the preparation and cooking time and labour down to a minimum. Say I’m making a basic sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, beans etc. You can add extras and different flavours to the basic sauce when you re-heat.


I used to hate cooking but Many years ago I injured my back and in my recovery I started cooking meals from scratch, as it was one of the few physical things I could do at that time, I discovered that the more effort I put into cooking the more I enjoyed it, I put my headphones on and hyper focus on the cooking, finding new recipes and creating my own helps to keep it interesting and with that i also found that meal planning was more interesting and easier to do as well.


I like cooking and am usually pretty good at having ingredients in the house, but sometimes things are still frozen shortly before I want to eat. Here are some things that help me (even if others have mentioned similar things).

  1. For those times when I want to eat in just a few minutes, but my planned meal still needs to defrost, I always keep a few quick meals stocked. Pasta, grilled cheese, pancakes, eggs, frozen entrees. I haven’t fallen back on breakfast cereal in a long time.
  2. Cooking for others helps motivate me. Pasta 4 nights a week and cereal 3 would be much more common if I were the only one in the house. I’m not advocating anyone get married or have kids only for this reason.
  3. I am awful at coming up with ideas on the fly, or remembering which recipe book or web site I found something on. So I make copies of recipes I like and store them in one or two places. I generally copy them into a single “Recipes” google doc. I also print them and keep them in a 3-ring binder. The printed copy lets me take it out and put it on the counter while preparing it. My laptop really doesn’t like being splattered if I put it on the counter while preparing food. And with paper, there is no screensaver that always kicks in when my hands are dirty.
  4. It might sound counter-intuitive because it is slow, but I like sous vide cooking, as it allows a much bigger margin of error regarding timing. After a given amount of time, I know the food is safe to eat. And 60 versus 90 minutes cooking isn’t going to be the difference between raw and charcoal.
  5. As someone who likes camping, I tend to gravitate towards one pot or dutch oven meals. They are often simpler and if I like them, I can make them away from civilization as well.
  6. Cook during stay-at-home in a pandemic. When we are only supposed to shop every week or two, it almost forces me to plan meals better.
  7. Find things you like to eat and cook those. I’ve mentioned some of the things I like, but you are much more likely to cook things you are interested in eating.
    Good luck and enjoy!

I dont know if you struggle with perfectionism like I do but sometimes I get really concerned with going by the book and preparing a ‘meal’ when it would be fine to just throw some ingredients together that taste the same as said meal.

e.g instead of cutting up vegetables for a salad, just throw some tomatoes, lettuce, whatever else in a bowl and eat it as is! Or if you’re working from home, a ploughman’s lunch. This works with meals that can go over several days like roasts, you just keep the ingredients in the fridge and you can turn them into whatever you fancy.

In short, if you think of eating more in terms of ingredients (carb + protein + fat) than meals it may give you more flexibility and therefore healthier choices :slight_smile:


Think about what’s easy to make, and how often you’ll eat it. Maybe write a list of what meals you have in the house and pin it on the fridge?
I try and have some flexibility so that I still eat if whatever I planned doesn’t sound particularly appealing at the time ( ie. I can heat up some rice and chicken, or rice and curry, or rice and a fried egg… rice is super useful!! )

Another tip is to buy groceries that you’ll use in a variety of things. If you buy pasta, can you make it several different ways? Will you put tomatoes in your sandwich? Your salad? Your snack?
Potatoes is a great example of this. Mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes as a side, microwave loaded potatoes, etc. ( whole chicken is also a good example bc you can roast it whole, and there’s lots of leftovers for various meals. Plus, the bones make an easy stock! )


  • meat and cheese sandwich. Lots of options and very filling.
  • no-chop salads ( like @Assynj described ). I generally add spinach, nuts, tomatoes, any berries on hand, and some shredded cheese.
  • curry w/ rice ( we make curry at home, and it reheats really well. I’ve been told chili is the same way )
  • I also add a side to whatever I’m eating so it’s more filling. Right now it’s: baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, apples, or yogurt.

Meal/snack suggestions:

  • yogurt w/ fruit + nuts
  • mashed potatoes and veggies
  • apples and peanut butter
  • leftover chicken and cheese sandwich
  • granola bars
  • roast beef sandwich w/ tomatoes and cheese
  • pizza bread ( bread w/ tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings toasted )
  • pretzels and string cheese
  • hummus and chips

I would also disregard the idea of certain foods being for certain meals… if you eat it at lunch time, it’s a lunch food, and so forth…

Hope this is helpful and good luck w/ your meal planning :grin:


I love cooking but horrible at remembering things like taking meat out. How can I remember?

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For me, I actually try to do things like that the night before if possible. I will look at the day I have planned tomorrow or what I’d like to make, and then I set out the ingredients the night before. I don’t usually prep things, but just having them out and ready helps keep me motivated to follow through. If I leave meat out overnight it thaws, and then I can put it in the refrigerator before work in the morning.


My life changed a little bit when I discovered you could freeze pizza. Did you know that that’s a thing?

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For me, meal planning got much easier when I switched to a vegetarian diet. No more worrying about thawing meat, no more cooking until the proper internal temperature is reached, no more fear of leaving it in the fridge for a few days and wondering if it went bad. When vegetables go bad, you KNOW it because they get moldy. If they aren’t moldy, they are fine to eat. You can cook vegetables directly from frozen, with very little effort. Nuts are shelf-stable for months, so it is fine if you forget about them for a few days. Cheese and yogurt are usually good for at least 2 weeks, and again, if they go bad, you know because of the mold.

Then it’s just a matter of deciding which seasonings to put on your food so they taste different. I would say 90% of my meals use the same basic ingredients. Frozen bell pepper, onion, and mushroom blend, nuts, cans of beans. Then I can add coconut milk, curry powder, and veggie broth to the pot and BAM! Coconut curry. If I add a can of crushed tomatoes and Mexican seasoning instead, it is chili. If I saute them with taco seasoning, they are black bean tacos. If I add in cut up potato, spray them with oil, shake a bit of garlic salt over them, I can roast them in the oven for fancy home fries. If I leave out the beans and saute them with some instant noodles and soy sauce, it is stir fry!

All of these ingredients can

  1. last for months in the freezer or on the shelf
  2. take less than 5 minutes to prep
  3. be completely cooked within 20 minutes
  4. use only one pot or pan (less clean-up)

As a bonus side effect, I had to stop with fast food almost entirely, because Burger King is the only place that offers a vegetarian option besides french fries.

I’m not saying everyone should go vegetarian. Just that vegetarian meals take about 90% less work than cooking meat.


I did not. You freeze leftover pizza and then reheat it?

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I buy pizzas especially for freezing! I put the individual slices in a resealable bag separated by the liner at the bottom of the pizza box cut into slice-sized triangles (I guess you could use parchment paper if you’re fancy… it’s a little more effort to save yourself from eating a little bit of paper when the pizza freezes onto the paper) And yeah, you can microwave it or put it in the toaster/ oven. With microwaving, it tends to be on the soggier side, and with the toaster oven it tends to be crispy. One time it turned out PERFECT, as if straight from the pizza store, but I can’t remember which one I did and for how long. Will have to experiment.

It’s great to have that ready to go in the freezer for when you don’t feel like cooking. And of course I’ll try to balance it out with like an orange or something haha.


This is the exact reason I’m a vegetarian cook! As in, I’ll eat meat if it’s made for me, but everything I cook is vegetarian. Cooking is stressful enough without having to worry about whether I’m going to give myself salmonella poisoning.


I try to minimize the choices, and eat the same thing every day. I don’t actually end up eating the same thing every day, but at least I have fewer exceptions to deal with. I find decision-making really hard, especially when it’s something minor. Food routines really help.


It’s been a never ending struggle for me.
Catering to other people in the house had made it so so much more difficult too. Especially when they expect dishes made only one way.

I used to spend 2 to 4 hrs cooking each night, because I enjoyed it and was only cooking for myself. :rofl:

Then I got married and had kids. :sweat_smile:

The meal planning that worked for me then, doesn’t now. And am still tweaking how we do things.

In short what I’ve learnt:
– on your own:

  • it’s a lot easier to track your individual spending and eating, i had spreadsheets right down to how much each dinner would cost me per serving, to keep track.
    *I only recorded the meals i really enjoyed and could eat often.
  • from there my dinners were a mix of one’s from my spreadsheet, usually cost effective and a couple of new dishes that I’d research.
  • I lived close to a grocery store and only purchased perishables for the next few days.

– now as a family (my wife is pro mostly vegetarian now)

  • similar principal’s but on a simpler scale.
  • a few(2 maybe 3) exciting yet exhausting dishes to make (6+ ingredients, 80min prep and cook)
  • a handful of quick, easy and cheap family hits.
    We have about nearly a dozen of these, so we just rotate through them each week.
    Things like ravioli, butter noodles, sausages on bread (The kids love!), soups with a few ingredients, simple pasta dishes, and vegetation Mexican dishes, that we’ve done many times before.


I recently discovered you can freeze avocado/mashed avocado!

The key is to keep it airtight so it doesnt go brown and if mashed, add lemon

GAME. Changer.


Pizza stone, and reheat in the oven is the bomb!

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Yeah, it’s a problem. Especially everything that involves any planning and preparing that goes beyond setting up the rice-cooker in advance. (I don’t eat rice that often, btw, because that’s hard enough. But when I do, I make rice for a couple of days.)

Right now, there’s a net of brussels sprouts on my desk. It’s been there since after breakfast to remind me of preparing them before the hunger kicks in and I move to the kitchen for a quick fix. I bought them over a week ago and that’s exactly how I haven’t eaten them yet. That and I had some rice left. I expect I’ll have them ready if not tonight, then tomorrow at worst.

In my book, brussels sprouts qualify as Fancy Food. As fancy as I get, in fact.

Apart from that, I’ve pretty much dumbed down my cooking to three and a half basic formulas:
Rice/noodles/potatoes/tofu plus a pan of vegetables plus maybe some (instant) sauce plus spices. Or, like tonight, steamed vegetables plus maybe some tofu thingy I can fry plus sauce plus spices. And, of course, salad: vegetables plus one of two sauces plus maybe some fried pumpkin seeds.
Within these formulas, you can switch up the actual ingredients any way you like (or can, depending on what’s available).
The half one, of course, is leftovers plus some new stuff to fill it up.

I don’t do recipes. I do algorithms.

I try to always keep the basics in the house. Enough to get some variety in.
Rice, noodles, potatoes, various tofu products, beans, tomatoes and peppers, trusted spices, five or six different kinds of instant sauces (although technically, I think, some of them are soups), whatever seasonal vegetables I can get but also several bags of pre-packaged frozen vegetable mixes because otherwise I’d end up with always the same vegetables. Plus, they just keep so much longer!

There are pretty good frozen and instant foods these days, especially if you don’t look for meals. With organic ingredients and not so heavy on the salt and artificial taste enhancers.

Of course, whenever I find other stuff that tickles my fancy, I’ll go for it. Like the Brussels sprouts. But I rely heavily on the standards.

I keep a checklist on my phone for shopping. Before going out, I browse the kitchen and uncheck everything that’s out. That way, I won’t forget to put stuff on the shopping list like I used to. Beware if you want to adapt that idea: I used to be on a tight budget, and a large part of my staying within the budget was due to stuff I forgot to buy! I was surprised to find how much more I’m spending now.

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I’m planning on starting to meal prep things to freeze. It’s hard to believe I never thought of it before, but now that it’s dawned on me, I realise that a lot of my go-to meals can be made in bulk and then frozen for a couple months. I am also a vegetarian cook for the most part. Chicken and seafood I am fairly comfortable cooking, but mammals sketch me out. Some things on my list of stuff I can cook and freeze so far are:

Broccoli casserole
Black bean burritos
Mini pot pies
Twice baked potato
Homemade Mac n cheese
Cajun pasta

I hope to add more to the list as I go. In addition to having something I can pull out and easily make myself, my bf is an awful cook and if I’m not around or up to cooking for him, he settles for easy stuff like cereal. Prepping in advance means that he can feed himself real food without the hassle, which is a big plus too.

There are so many helpful articles on meal prep options and what can/can’t be frozen for later. Sometimes a big mood strikes where I just wanna cook all day but not eat, and now I can! Setting aside an afternoon for several weeks worth of meals is so worth it imo.


I’m home duties dude since COVID hit and will be until at least when there’s a proven vaccine, so meal preparation is one of my standard daily tasks. My wife is vegan, and my daughter is gastrostomy fed and doesn’t eat, so that means I’m basically vegan too. This actually hasn’t been a bad thing on a few levels, but most particularly it has engaged the novelty, motivated hyperfocus to research and prepare a range of meals that feel like a reward for the work involved.
Best purchase ever: a pie maker
Chilli, stroganoff, stew, etc can all be made in large batches and thrown into the pie maker with puff pastry for relatively instant meals.
I’ve found a form of fake meat–Fable mushroom meat– that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing and with it:
Vietnamese Beef Pho, from the NY Times recipe
Thai Laab Neua
Thai Pad Ga Prow
Indian Dahl

These meals are all so unbelievably good that the reward factor is motivating enough to keep me on task.
On the bad days, we just get Uber Eats🤷