Whether you’re a mom who works outside of the home or a stay at home mom, we’re all way too busy and all could use a little help saving time with dinner prep. Here are 9 time-saving and life changing dinner tips to make your meal prep go faster!
Many of these ideas are inspirations from my sister who is a full-time professional and has to be super organized at home to juggle everything. Here are our 9 best tips and tricks to get healthy food on the table as fast as possible and will give you more family and relax time at night.
1. Plan out monthly meals
Planning out your meals in advance is a huge time saver! I used to spend countless hours thumbing through cookbooks every week trying to figure out what to feed my family (although who doesn’t love looking at Ina Garten’s cookbooks? 😉 Planning out your meals for the MONTH is literally one of the best things you can do to save yourself time.
Here’s my families rough monthly meal format I’ll turn into a usable meal planning guide for you one of these days soon! Feel free to swap meal ideas based on your families dietary needs and food preferences! This just gives me a guideline to go off of, but I can still be flexible to choose something simple that doesn’t require a recipe or something more complex on a day I have extra time.
Monday– vegetarian, Tuesday– alternate tacos/fajitas with ground meat dinner, Wednesday-alternate between Asian and pasta, Thursday– roast and veggies, Friday– appetizer/leftovers or soup, Saturday– Seafood, Sunday– family favorites (for us it’s homemade pizza or hot Panini sandwiches)
2. Double dinners
Recipe by: Hairs Out of Place
When you make dinner, double it! It only takes slightly more time but saves you so much time on another night! I don’t do this every night, but definitely for meals like roasts, roasted vegetables, burger patties, soup and tacos.
- freeze the extra for another busy night (just pull out the night before to defrost in the fridge or reheat on low in the crock pot).
- you can use the extras for a healthy lunch
- double dinners a couple of nights per week so you can have a leftover night
Try my easy doubled recipes for
3. Double up on workhorse appliances
My sister relies heavily on crock pot meals during the week since she works full-time and has a commute. She preps 2-3 nights worth of meals on Sundays to make the beginning of her week easier. Having 2 crock pots and 2 ovens make her meal prep smoother. This is the crock pot I have and LOVE. It includes a spare mini pot for re-heating small portions, serving hot dips or using as a simmer pot.
4. Always have a few easy “go to” meals on hand
I always have the ingredients for a few simple meals in my freezer/pantry and add this items to the grocery list whether they’re in my meal plan for the week or not.
Who doesn’t have a night where the schedule changes, you’re too tired or don’t have time to cook and need something simple?
My family’s “go to” items for spontaneous quick meals are:
- chicken sausages with roasted freezer vegetables
- shrimp fajita (pre-cooked shrimp and frozen sliced peppers)
- beans and rice
5. Create dinner short-cuts with healthy prepackaged foods
I admit, I’m not a fan of packed foods and try to feed my family as healthy and pure as possible. There are a handful of ready-to-go items I keep on hand to create shortcuts with food prep. Usually whatever I don’t like to prep is what I end up purchasing all ready to go 😉 My favorites:
- organic packaged baby spinach, greens or lettuce (unless they’re from my garden of course 🙂
- frozen minced garlic– garlic, that’s it and not preserved in a solution. This tastes exactly like freshly minced garlic.
- frozen vegetables– I always have bags of frozen Brussels sprouts, asparagus and broccoli on hand. These are roast beautifully in the oven (cook from frozen!) and no one will ever know they were bagged! Seriously, try it!
- frozen pre-cooked rice, quinoa, or sweet potato fries. I use these in a pinch when I don’t have time to make a pot of rice or need a healthier starch with dinner and don’t have it.
Photo Source by no2pencilblog
I like to keep my main dish simple on Sundays (see above alternating homemade pizza and Panini sandwiches), this gives me extra time to get ready for our busy week.
On Sundays I like to cook some basics which become our lunches and fill in meal gaps or if some family members need more calories than others–as in I’m trying to cut back but my athlete teen son shouldn’t be.
Some of my favorite food prep items (I usually do a couple of these per week)– hard-boiled eggs (for a quick breakfast or sliced with a salad), a pot of crock pot beans, a weekly larger batch of grains (like brown rice or quinoa), overnight breakfast oats, and cutting up vegetables/fruits for lunches/quick snacks.
7. Have your kids or spouse make dinner once per week
My kids are usually in charge of our Sunday simple family style dinner of homemade pizzas or hot Panini sandwiches. I love the Trader Joe’s pizza crust that just needs to be rolled out and the kids add whatever toppings they like. Why should you have your kids be in charge of dinner?
- Learning how to cook is an important life skill for your kids! Teach them to love it when they’re young.
- This also keeps you out of the kitchen all day on Sundays if you also do food prep or batch cooking on this day 😉
- If you have multiple kids, it’s good for them to work together and lets your older child take on a leadership role.
8. Batch cooking
Recipe by Hairs Out of Place
This is one of my sister’s go-to tricks that saves her SO MUCH time! She’ll spend 4-5 hours on either a Saturday and Sunday and will end up with 30 dinners for the freezer! There’s tons of batch cooking recipes online and cookbooks too. This is also a great task to do with a friend or relative and swap some of the meals for variety. I don’t do this as much as I should, but LOVE pulling healthy ready to go food out of the freezer.
I hope this list helps you simplify your week! If you have additional tips you use, please post below to share with others 🙂