It is so very, very tempting to buy pre-made foods. Why? The answer is quite simple, time. As a busy working mom (granted all moms work) I find myself strapped for time to make the delicious, whole food meals that my kids have to come expect. So how am I managing this?
I keep a calendar, actually I use Google Calendar and a pocket one which I make sure have all the same, correct information on them. Then I print out a calendar to use for menu planning. This also writes my grocery list for me. My next life saving object is my slow cooker (crock pot). So meal planning looks a bit like this.
Calendar (kids events, my work schedule, daddy’s doctor’s appointments, etc.), coupons, menu calendar, school lunch calendar, blank paper, pantry list, freezer list, refrigerator list. The kids and I sit down and plan out the type of meal we need to prepare for each day. Weekends we need to typically plan for 3 meals plus snacks.
We plan dinners first based on where everyone needs to be and at what time. Then weekday lunches and breakfasts. Some days not even a crock pot will save me any time, couple that with an awesome sounding sale and some coupons and temptation is there baby. So to combat that overwhelming need to throw my hands up and give in, I have started making a few meals ahead of time or planning something like sandwiches or breakfast for dinner.
I find that if I can get an entire second meal out of an entree, I freeze it. Prep work done, ready to go. I do need to breakdown and get a microwave. I am also slowly replacing cheap plastic tupperware with good quality glass dishes (with lids). I am concentrating on small pieces that I can toss individual meals into so that if the need arises and we need to rush. I have created my own convenience foods.
Finding the time to make meals ahead of time, the easiest way I am finding is to make double what we need and freeze the rest. At least for entrees, side dishes are normally quick and easy anyway. It doesn’t take any extra time to make a double batch of chili, soup, stew, roast, etc. Once the entree is done cooking, I set aside half for another meal so that it can cool. When we are packing up leftovers, if there are any, we pack up the extra meal and freeze it.
I am also simplifying my menu. I am saving large multiple course meals for days off and special occasions. The rest of the time our meals are simple but follow a very basic plan: protein, starch and veggie. I try to make the veggie the largest portion of the meal. Proteins do not always have to be meats there are a variety of options for that as well.
Being organized, getting your family’s input and marrying your slow cooker will really help you manage your cooking time.
Light, Love and Peace
More detailed tips and information will be available in my upcoming book.