The biggest challenge most work at home/homeschooling moms face is finding the time to get everything done. Working, homeschooling, and keeping the house relatively clean (especially when your family lives in the house all day) all take a lot of time. Add time for cooking, running errands, and date nights with the husband, and most moms find there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
I’m always looking for ways to streamline my life, so I have more time to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Lately I’ve been working on a strategy to help make menu planning and cooking go more smoothly. As most of you know, I have diabetes, which makes it important for me to eat healthy meals each night. However, when I’m tired after a long day, the last thing I want to do is cook.
So how am I ensuring I have the time and energy to get three healthy meals on the table each day? A little bit of cheating and a little bit of prep work go a long way!
Menu Planning Cheats
Even before I had kids, meal planning was difficult for me. I just hate to do it. For years I beat myself up over the fact that I just couldn’t seem to get my menu planning together. Finally, I just admitted that menu planning takes a long time, I have limited time, and it’s a task I’d rather pay someone else to do. So that’s what I did.
I subscribe to the emeals.com (affiliate link*) low carb plan. The low carb plan ensures that I can eat what’s on the menu, and it’s healthy for the kids, too. If I feel the kids need a few more carbs in their day, it’s not that hard to add things like whole wheat bread or brown rice as additional side dishes.
Even more recently, I’ve subscribed to both the healthy breakfast and healthy lunch plans. I’m the most unoriginal meal planner there is, and I found we were getting into some major ruts with breakfast and lunch. When the kids started moaning, “Sandwiches again?” I knew it was time to shake things up.
Now through emeals I have five original breakfast and lunch ideas for the week. On the additional two days, we just have eggs for breakfast and leftovers for lunch.
Making Meal Prep Easy
This week I set aside one morning to prep my food for the week. I worked hard for three hours, measuring, mixing, and chopping.
I looked through my recipes to see what vegetables needed to be sliced or diced. I chopped everything, except for fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t do well if prepped in advance (dicing tomatoes, for instance). When I was finished, I bagged the measured chopped vegetables. labeled with the name of the meal they belonged to, and threw them in the vegetable door in the refrigerator.
Next I looked at what kind of sauces and marinades I needed to prepare. There were quite a few, so I measured, mixed, bagged, and labeled them all. The marinades I will be using in the next couple of days I bagged and labeled with the meat. I froze the sauces I wouldn’t be using until later in the week, so they would stay fresh.
Finally, I baked anything that needed baking. There wasn’t much, but I toasted almonds and sesame seeds, cooked some bacon in the oven, toasted some oatmeal, and made up some breakfast bars.
It was a long three hours, but I enjoyed looking at the fruits of my labor.
Even though the three hours I spent prepping up a storm weren’t a lot of fun, they are making mealtimes at our house much easier. Because of the emeals menus, I don’t have to wonder what is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Because most of my food is prepped, many of my meals this week only involve defrosting and cooking. At the end of a long day of work and homeschool, I don’t have to spend a lot of time on my feet in the kitchen. This is especially helpful on days when we’re on the run until right before dinner. Most evenings I can have dinner ready in a flash!
Finally, meal cleanup is a piece of cake every day! Since I’ve already done the prep work for my meals, there really aren’t a lot of dishes to clean up: just those needed for eating and a pan or two used for cooking.
I don’t know that I will have a three hour block of time to prep my meals every week, but I’m definitely going to try to continue this habit. Doing the work in one morning (which is my best time of day), is a lot easier than several late afternoons of doing work I don’t love.
How do you save time in the kitchen?