As I finished my post on a Mom's Witching hour I thought I should have included the topic of Meal Planning to help with the stress during that time a day, so I decided to share with you my five ideas for getting dinner on the table easier.
1. Meal Planning
The number one thing that helps me to ease the stress of making dinner is meal planning. My week goes so much smoother when I only have to go the store once and I know exactly what we are going to eat each night, but it does take some planning.
First, you really need to know your schedule. When are your busy nights, when is it best to use your crockpot (see number three), and what night do think you can prepare a recipe that may take a few hours? I also make sure that I plan something that is fairly easy to make (or even leftovers see number four) on my trigger night. You know, the night where you are most likely to be exhausted and want to trade dinner prep for a drive through.
So, where do you get your recipes? I am a huge user of pinterest and have a board dedicated for just main meals. As I see things that I think I will love I put them there, but I also have bloggers that I love getting recipes from, here are a couple:
Now, let’s talk about the fun part of Meal Planning - where to store your recipes. For years I had hug stacks of printed recipes, but for the past three years I have been meal planning through Google Calendar and it has been such a blessing.
You will need to setup a gmail account if you do not already have one - don’t worry they are free and pretty easy to setup. And they are even easier to link to your iPhone or iPad - which is my life saving step.
Here is a video on how to set up and use a menu on Google Calendar:
2. Meal Prep
Lately, a real stress saver has been to look at my recipes to see which part I could possibley do the morning (or even day) before. If you know that you have to have ground meat (beef) in a recipe, you can cook that in the morning, then all you have to do is add your other ingredients. This works with chicken, too. I found that recipes that require for me to have cooked chicken ready are the ones that will mostly likely get pushed aside for McDonald’s, so I try to have all that chicken cooked long before 5 pm.
I even had one friend tell me she bought bulk ground beef, cooked it (some with taco seasoning) then frozen them in pound sized servings. All she would have to do is grab it from the freezer and pop it into a recipe.
On my busiest day we are out of the house until dinner time, so I normally prefer a casserole on that day. I can set my oven to have a delayed started and with the cooking timer feature my oven will shut off and stop baking after the allotted time I set. Then, when we get home dinner is ready! It’s even more fun (ha! I don’t know why I get so excited about these things) when you can make the casserole like months in advance (say with leftover thanksgiving turkey) then freeze it - how easy would that make your day?
3. Love Your Crockpot
There is so much you can cook in a crock pot from chicken breasts to even hotdogs. If you are busy with after school activities and sports then I suggest you build a relationship with your crockpot. You may want to spend a little more money and get one with a timer if you feel like you are out of the house way longer than 8 hours a day. Also, buy the liners for your crockpot! Trust me you do not want to spend the rest of the night scrubbing the crust of the sides of your crockpot after you have been out cheering your football player most of the night.
4. Don’t Be Ashamed of Leftovers
Having a Leftovers Night is nothing to be ashamed of. I would start a warming up line to the microwave and then fill my counter with rubbermaid containers, hand the family some plates and say “serve yourself.” This usually happens in our house on Thursdays because the fridge is overflowing with containers and I am tired of being in the kitchen.
5. Plan an At-Home “Date Night”
Why not fix the kids something easy (like leftovers) one night and feed them early. Then, make something special (that your kids probably won’t eat) for you and your husband. Eat in the fancy dinning room, use the good plates and have yourself a little date. My children are not normally in bed too early, but why not make it fun for them and let them have a movie night in your room or in the playroom. As they get older you can involve them to be your waiters or waitresses.
Here is a great video that Meg at What’s Up Moms did on this topic:
I really hope these steps help you, so your meal planning doesn’t wind up looking like this: