Planning meals ADHD-friendly

by , published July 15, 2021
With ADHD on board, we try to have as little friction as possible. Even with cooking.
With ADHD on board, we try to have as little friction as possible. Even with cooking.

Long ago, I read from someone I know very well how she plans meals for her family for a week.

Although this might seem to be off-topic on a business-related website, it is not because the time we saved planning smarter was about six hours a week.

(And six hours? Is huge even if you like cooking.)

So, I thought I share with you how we do it.

My friend will sit down Friday evening and search for recipes. Later her husband gives his input and approval.

After that, she writes down what she needs to buy. The following day, she and her husband will go grocery shopping.

This is a very structured approach.

And I admire her for being able to stick to the recipes for a whole week. Let alone for being able to carve out time to cook something unique constantly.

Mike and I would probably look into recipes, reminiscence in holidays that remind us of certain food (hello France!, we miss you!) and debate the whole weekend what to cook.

Then we would receive a crazy invoice from our pizza service at the end of the month. (Or we would starve, but I doubt that. No, we would not die, that is for sure.)

And if we would agree on a daily meal plan, we would for sure not stick to it.

Still, we have a way of planning meals ADHD-friendly.

But first, let me tell you about the origin of my method. My experiences with my grandmother and grandfather as a child laid the foundation.

Contrary to most of the stories I heard from other grandmothers, mine could not cook.

Really, not. Not. At. ALL.

But – I did not know, as a child.

When I visited her, my favorite meal was: Potato mash with peas and carrots.

You may think this does not sound that bad, and you are right – it could have been delicious and nourishing.

But – the potato mash was from the ready-made German brand MAGGIE (which is not really on the healthy side of food).

The vegetables were canned and served in a thick sauce made with wheat and butter (“good” butter, like my grandmother called it. I guess this is a typical German expression, which has its origins in history.)

Looking back, I think the sauce was why I liked this meal so much.

And because the cooking abilities of my grandma were limited, I did not suffer from decision paralysis.

My grandmother could also make great pancakes with yellow plums she grew herself. But it was only served in their allotment garden, so it does not count.

My grandfather, on the other hand, was the man when it came to more refined food.

I am talking about self-made potato fritter with (also self-made) applesauce. (Both from the allotment garden, of course.) My grandfather rubbed the potatoes by hand and added a rubbed onion for better taste.

Then he cooked them in a pan in – you guessed it – good butter. He also used to make typical German meat called Sauerbraten, which is not easy to make and takes a lot of time and knowledge.

The reason my grandmother and grandfather build the foundation for my meal-planning method is this: They cooked the way it fitted into their life.

I remember both always had time for me.

And I liked that.

So the first rule for the ADHD friendly meal-plan we have is:

Life dictates which planning method to choose.

In the case of my grandparents, these were the influencing factors.

Both my grandparents worked.

They had different things they were good at when it came to cooking.

Both had experienced the 2nd world war, which led to a certain attitude towards food. So, we are looking for attitude as one influencing factor.

What did that mean for Mike and me?

Like my grandparents Mike and I work. But from home and we have appointments with customers. Meals must fit in our schedule.

We like cooking, but Mikes’ attention is not on food during the week. He cooks on the weekends. And we do more extravagant meals during holidays.

My attention is more on food because I had bulimia and need regular meals to handle it well.

We both like to eat healthily, but that can include something like a homemade pizza, and it is perfectly fine to eat the same thing two days in a row. This is our attitude towards food.

My “planning meals ADHD-friendly system” takes me 5 minutes on Sunday evenings.

The premise is: I do it by myself. (I do not ask Mike if he likes it, do you remember? Be brief … one of our mantras to keep ADHD friction low.)

Step #1: I check our calendar for appointments.

Step #2: I check the fridge. (We go shopping once or twice a week and buy what looks good and is available. So, no asparagus in winter.)

Step #3: I look at my “go-to-meals,” see how many appointments we have – and what I would like to have. (See examples in the next column.) We regularly come back to 10 to 15 meals we like.

That changes with the season (in winter, more soup, in summer more salad with some kinds of topping).

The most important thing for me: I do not have a rigid list. I write down five or six meals fitting the criteria mentioned above. Suppose we do not like to eat something on one day, fine.

If something lasts for two days or we decide to go out for dinner, that is fine too.

This way, my meal plan gives me the freedom to not overthink (I look on my list and choose).

And it still saves time because I don’t have to start from scratch.

Do you want some examples?

I was hoping you would.

What are “go-to-meals” and examples?

Disclaimer: A go-to meal for me is easy to prepare and to cook. Mostly because I’ve done it a thousand times, that can include a longer cooking time (like chicken soup).

But it is never complicated, like having to chop eight kinds of vegetables into nice-looking figures. For chicken soup, I use frozen vegetables, and it is just fine.

Something that takes longer or is more complicated usually lasts for two days. Or I freeze it.

I often prepare the basics the evening before, like tzatziki, pancake batter, or dough for pizza. It’s no problem as long as I put it in the fridge.

The last thing to know: We eat these meals in the evening and have kind of a bigger snack for lunch. (See below to find out what that is.)

And here are my examples:

  • Jacket potatoes with self-made tzatziki (we live in Cyprus; this is a must).
  • Thin pancake rolls filled with tzatziki, salad, and smoked salmon (usually for two days).
  • Salad with feta or tuna.
  • Salad with fried salmon or chicken.
  • Self-made pizza (usually for two days), with different kinds of toppings.
  • Local fish from the oven with baked tomatoes or salad (often on Friday).
  • Barbecue (chicken, or self-made burger, or local fish) with salad or vegetables.
  • Barbecue left-over with salad.
  • Self-made hummus, pide bread, and salad.

Winter-meals (last for at least two days):

  • Potatoes & carrot soup with fresh herbs from the garden.
  • Chicken soup with rice noodles and vegetables.
  • Chili with minced beef.
  • Noodles with mushrooms or lemon sauce or self-made pesto.
  • Chicken curry (with rice or bread).

That’s it.

It seems as if we do not have a lot of variety with our meals, but I do not miss anything.

It is different when we travel. Then we try new things (which I look forward to doing again).

What to do with breakfast?

The system stays the same. We have four things we like to eat for breakfast. Mike eats a mixed fruit bowl. I have the same or porridge with fruit (cinnamon and nuts).

Sometimes scrambled eggs.

On the weekends, we usually have a bread roll, boiled eggs, cheese, ham, marmalade, etc.

(I try to bake whole-wheat bread or bread rolls as often as possible and put them in the freezer. But I’m pretty o.k. with the ones from our bakery.)

What to do for lunch?

Often it is something like self-made hummus, a paste from feta with sundried tomatoes and pide or baguette and tomatoes.

A bread roll with cheese or ham.

Not very often we have a cookie (or cake).

Or finger food from a local bakery.

How healthy do I have to go?

I like to work. And I like good food. At some point, I understood I have to make compromises with food and decided on this way of planning meals ADHD-friendly.

I don’t have allergies or need to go completely dairy-free or gluten-free. I feel better about reducing carbs, and we try to balance it.

But we also want to treat us some indulgences from time to time.

We tried other things like a delivery service. But we prefer homemade meals. Before the pandemic, we had a lovely woman who cleaned our house and did some cooking.

But that was not “ours.”

So we found the best next solution for our situation right now. I think it is the same with other things like a fitness schedule. Or how to organize a company.

It needs to fit into your life and lifestyle and your preferences. If it causes overwhelm or stress, don’t do it.

Try something else.


Planning meals ADHD-friendly does not have to be hard, as long as we stick to the basics and don’t overcomplicate it:

  • Write down the three most essential criteria for you that will influence what meals to choose.
  • Look at your calendar. If you have six coaching calls in a row, you may want to keep things simple on that day.
  • Pick some ideas from your favorite meals you usually make and look, what is in your fridge, and you could make with little to no hustle.

O.k., now I am starving.



What could you do now? How about reading this …

How to explain ADHD to someone without ADHD

ADHD and motivation: The misconception about why we get stuck

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Andrea Lekies

Andrea Lekies

Andrea Lekies writes here and on her other website (which is German and exists like ... forever). Why now an English website about entrepreneurs who have ADHD? What else could one do in her free time ;)

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