Who among you actually enjoys making lunches? DM us if you do—you can come over and make ours.

But seriously, why does meal prep suck up so much time? A new survey commissioned by PC Insiders Subscription Service has turned up some unsurprising results:

  • Two out of five moms (40.2%) are less satisfied than half of dads (49.9%) with the amount of “me” time they get.
  • Close to half (49%) of parents said they’re interested in outsourcing meal planning and grocery shopping. Among them, over half (57.7%) are willing to pay $15 or more per week for this service.
  • More than half (52.7%) of parents spend at least one hour per week planning meals, and more than three quarters (77%) spend at least one hour per week grocery shopping. A surprising number of parents spend 5+ hours in this area, most of them women (57.6% of moms vs. 43.3% of dads).

We chatted with parenting expert Maureen Dennis on how we can get around this rigamarole and make meal planning less annoying. 

What are 5 solid ideas for reducing the amount of food planning/shopping we do?

  1. Set up a meal prep routine. By making similar meals and snacks for your family each week, it reduces the time and energy put into planning while leaving room to mix things up.
  2. Stock up on products that you use often. Watch for sales and buy extra of pantry or essentials that can be stored in the freezer (like bread) to reduce your time shopping each week.
  3. Pre-order your groceries online for pickup. Services like PC Express save your shopping cart from the prior week, so it cuts back on time on planning as well on physical time in the store.
  4. Buy staples that can be incorporated into multiple meals. This helps reduce the amount you’re purchasing each week to streamline your shopping process.
  5. Keep a list on your fridge or phone of food items you’re running out of. Family members can contribute to it as they see supplies dwindling, creating your shopping list for you!

Do you have any tips when it comes to prepping kids’ lunches? 

I find shopping online on Sunday morning and picking it up in the afternoon the best for me. I have a list of items for lunches I know the kids love. It may sound like a cliche approach, but if you buy good food and let your kids pack their own lunches the night before, you will dread the process less and your kids are more likely to eat what they bring, because they played a role in putting it together!

What stood out to you the most from the survey results? 

What surprised me from the PC Insiders survey results is that almost one in two parents (49%) said they’re interested in outsourcing meal planning and grocery shopping, and of those, more than half (57.7%) said they’d be willing to spend $15 or more per week to pay for that service. That adds up to more than $780 a year! There are services that reduce the burden of those tasks for significantly less. Personally, I use PC Insiders, which is just $99 a year and lets me order all my groceries online instead of dragging my four kids to the store. It surprises me that more parents aren’t doing this!

How have you managed to simplify meal planning in your own household?

Just like with prepping my kids’ lunches, I try to block some time on Sundays to get ahead of this. I’ll sit down and go over what’s coming up for me and my family in the week ahead to plan our schedules and meals. I have some stand-bys I know my whole family loves that I keep on rotation, and then I try to add in a couple of new recipes (or old ones I haven’t made in a while!) each week.

Then I log into PC Express and re-order my typical shopping card with all our favourite foods and snacks and add in anything else I’ll need for what I’m planning to cook that week so it’s ready for me to pick up at Loblaws on Monday. Because I’m a PC Insiders subscriber, it’s free, plus I get 200 PC Optimum points for every dollar I spend on PC Organics and PC Black Label products, which I love because I can use those points to treat myself!