Does your day look something like this: Your breakfast, morning snack and lunch are healthy and sensible. Then you come home and eat everything you can get your hands on until bedtime?
All good intentions seem to fall apart at dinner time.
Late afternoon to evening is always a little more chaotic than the other times of the day. Maybe you are arriving home after a long day. Maybe you have a time crunch between homework and evening activities.
No matter what, there’s a good chance everyone (including mama) is tired, hungry and cranky.
So what can you do about this? The answer, according to some, seems to be to set aside a chunk of time on the weekend to prep your meals for the week.
But what if the mere words “meal planning” and “prep ahead” send you into a tizzy of guilt, dread, and feelings of inadequacy?
Meal Prep sounds time-consuming and possibly complicated. Not to mention another thing to add to your busy weekend to do list.
If weekend meal prep works for you, awesome!
If the idea makes you want to claw your eyes out, here are some ideas to make your weekly meals run smoothly.
1. Look at your calendar with realistic eyes. If one day you have trumpet lessons at 3:00, baseball at 5:30 and cub scouts at 6:30, there is no cooking happening on this day. Easy and quick is key on days like this. Other days may be a bit more relaxed and you have time to cook.
2. Plan dinner first then plan the rest of your food for the day around it. If you are tracking your food, decide what you’ll have for dinner before choosing anything else. This way you won’t get to the end of the day and have to scramble. You’ll be sure that you’re getting the nutrition that you need
3. Plan at least one sandwich or leftovers night. Don’t feel guilty about easy dinners for busy nights, it’s food, it’s healthy, it counts. Who says you can’t have the same thing two nights in a row? Make sure that if this is part of your plan so that you have what you need on hand. (“Yay! Sandwich night! Easy! Whoops, we’re out of bread.”)
4. Have an easy backup option in the freezer. Even the best, healthiest plans sometimes fall out of whack. No need to despair or even grab takeout. Have something you can thaw and cook quickly. Mine back up is turkey meatballs. I buy a huge bag from Costco. My kids love them so there’s no whining – at least not about the food!
5. Make a grocery list and prep what you can (if you want to). Write down everything you need to for your meals for the week and buy it. Resist the urge to impulse buy at the store! Decide if there’s anything you can prep ahead of time to save yourself time and energy later. Don’t feel the need to prep everything! If you know you’ll appreciate the time saver later on, go for it. If grocery shopping is stressful enough for one day – give yourself a break!
The bottom line is that you have to do whatever is going to work for your own busy life. That looks different for everyone. Remember that food can be nutritious and yummy without being complicated.
What is your favorite time-saving dinner strategy?