With summer coming to a close, you’ll soon be headed back to the daily grind of school, work, kids, and more. It can be a lot to juggle all at once. So we’ve rolled up our sleeves and got to work finding tips to help you keep your sanity and save some time in the kitchen.
First things first: meal planning. (No need to groan because with these tips, it doesn’t have to be a drag!) After interviewing some experts, our mantra behind meal prep comes back to the age-old adage: a minute in time saves nine.
Sally Kuzemchak, dietician, author of the Real Mom Nutrition blog, and mom of two boys, emphasizes that any sort of meal plan helps cut costs, save time, and eliminate stress. Start by making a list of meals for each week and the ingredients necessary before shopping each week.
(Image courtesy: @Realmomnutrition)
But, rather than just scouring Pinterest for whatever recipe catches your eye, she suggests choosing meal themes for each night. “Monday’s are Mexican, Tuesday’s are Italian, Wednesday’s are crockpot meals, etc.” This can help make planning a little less overwhelming. Also, don’t forget to plan in a day each week for leftovers, a YOYO day (“You’re on Your Own” where your family fends for itself), and a day for take out. With these days implemented, you really only have four days each week to plan for, Sally says.
Lisa Danielson (affectionately known as Veggie Lisa) is a fitness and nutrition specialist, blogger and (super)mom of four. She recommends doing “15 minutes [of prep] at a time.” You don’t have to spend an entire day planning meals. She says, “I know my kids love these Kodiak cakes so I will make 20 in a batch and throw them in the fridge or freezer… It takes maybe 15 minutes, but the next morning when I have a meeting at work, I don’t have to worry about getting out the Lucky Charms for my kids.” Also, Lisa suggests making and freezing rice in Ziploc bags to have it ready for meals in a hurry.
(Image courtesy: @veggie_lisa)
Make De-constructed Meals for Picky Eaters
(Think that unassembled bookcase you just bought at Ikea.) With four kids, ranging from teen to toddler, Lisa knows that feeding many different mouths (and palates) can be tricky. So, her family eats the same ingredients of a meal, but all in different ways. “I might make an edamame fried rice but not everyone wants their edamame on their fried rice. So, my kids can kind of pick and choose, more of like a simple buffet.” This way, there will always be something your kids will like on the table.
(Image courtesy: @Realmomnutrition)
Don’t Be a Short Order Cook
Sally echoed Lisa’s thoughts, emphasizing you shouldn’t be cooking multiple meals to satisfy everyone. Sally believes being a short order cook from the very start is one of the biggest mistakes new parents can make in the kitchen. “It sets up a really bad habit that is hard to break,” Sally said.
Starting to eat healthy might make you want to throw away all of your Cheeto Puffs and only buy greens ever again. Not so fast. Lisa emphasizes the importance of taking things slow. If you want to go on a vegetarian diet, “Start with a ‘Meatless Monday.’” Make a meal you think your family might enjoy each Monday then you’ll get more knowledgeable over time about what works best for your family.
Experiment with Lunch
Phoebe Lapine, chef, food personality, and author of The Wellness Project, recommends “making one healthy meal for the week and taking it to work.” Lunch is a great gateway to healthier choices and it is easier because you’re not a slave to your family’s tastes and needs she says. “Then, you can branch out to doing some of that advanced prep for your family as well.” Plus, she recommends taking comfort foods and making them slightly healthier to find the sweet spot: what Phoebe often refers to as ‘healthy hedonism.’ (That sounds like a win-win to us!)
(Image Courtesy: Phoebe)
And… Realize Experimenting Takes Time
In Phoebe’s Wellness Project, she decided to take on one healthy habit each month and then determine whether it was worth her time, money, and energy to continue that habit. In doing so, she realized, “You don’t have to do all of the above all at once in order to be healthy.” And, it wasn’t just one big healthy lifestyle switch. “A whole host of small baby steps can lead to a big change. It wasn’t a big black and white wake up one morning and I’m a whole new person thing—[healthy changes] really happened slowly over time.”
Your Freezer Is Your BFF
Sally is a huge fan of freezer meals. Even if it’s just one day a month, she suggests making a couple of meals and throwing them in the freezer so you can grab them and go when you are in a bind. Or, double batch a recipe and put one portion in the freezer.
Use Gadgets To Cut Time
(P.S. Try Phoebe’s go-to meal that involves little prep work.)
Try these tips today and comment some other tips that you’ve found helpful as well. We’d love to hear from you!