There never seems to be enough time in the day for everything that we need to do. Getting the children up and ready for school, fixing meals, managing our homes and holding down a full time job can stress anyone out.
I have found that planning meals can take a big load off my schedule and free up time. After working a full time job, the last thing that I want to do is spend time figuring out what I’m going to fix for dinner when I get home. I have found that planning my meals out for the week has become a big time saver for me. Here’s a few tips that I use to save time during the week:
On Saturday’s I plan my meals for the week – I focus on casseroles and crockpot meals mostly. I find this is the easiest route for me because I can make the casserole the night before and refrigerate it or put my meals in the crockpot before I leave for work in the morning.
Make a list of ingredients and head to the grocery store – Running to the grocery store after work or during the week can take up a chunk of time. This can become stressful, especially when time is already lacking. Having ingredients accessible can relieve stress.
Include meals for the children while you’re planning – Having to come up with ideas and fix two different meals can be time consuming. I fix mac & cheese ahead of time when the grandchildren are visiting. They love spaghetti salad, so I will chop the vegetables the night before or early in the morning and toss them into a storage bag. I just boil the noodles in the evening. Meatloaf is another favorite. I make the meatloaf the night before and just place it in the refrigerator. I just pop it in the oven when I get home and prepare side dishes.
Wash dishes as you prepare your meals – I have learned to wash dishes or load the dishwasher as I’m preparing my meals. This cuts down on the number of dinner dishes that need to be washed and I always have a clean kitchen. Run your dishwasher through the cycle and unload it before you go to bed.
Use paper plates, cups and plastic utensils – If I’m really pressed for time, I resort to paper products. I can throw them in the trash, and that leaves clearing the table, putting away food and washing the main dishes.
During summer months fix light meals – Sandwiches and fresh fruit make their way to my table frequently during the summer. My family loves chicken and tuna salad. I can make garden and cob salads with fresh vegetables and that’s a meal while serving the grandchildren veggie pizza. An indoor grill is a good investment too.
Freeze meals – Preparing meals ahead and freezing them cuts down on time if you have the room. This idea is great for soups, spaghetti, chili, stew, and other cold weather meals.
Prepare snacks and desserts ahead of time – I’m not much of a dessert person, but my grandchildren like a snack before bed. During the week, I make pudding or jello with fruit ahead of time. Apple slices with peanut butter also works. If they want ice cream I have the individual ice cream cups available so I don’t dirty bowls after the dinner dishes have been washed.
Make a planner and place it in your kitchen – Seeing your planned meals helps you stay on track.
These are a few things that have worked for me. The biggest obstacle is figuring out what to fix for the week. Once you have your meals planned, decide if you can fix them ahead and freeze them or if you will preparing the night before. Once you get in the habit, it makes life so much easier.
Please let me know how you handle your meal preparation for the week or if you can add to my tips.