I’m breaking from the usual “Surviving Dinner” recipe this week in favor of a few mealtime management tips that make weeknight dinnertime infinitely easier.
First off, let me say that I enjoy cooking. A lot. But if I don’t manage it right during the week, it can certainly become a chore. And it can take a long time. And we can eat late. And everyone gets hungry and cranky. You get the picture. Those people that live in my house need to eat. Every day!
I cook (with rare exception) every night. We try to eat fairly fresh & healthy and limit the amount of processed food we eat. Still, I try to spend no more than 15 minutes cooking each night. Here are a few tips on making mealtime easy!
1. Plan. I’m sure you’ve heard this over & over. Write a menu plan, then build your grocery list off of the plan. Keep your menu plan so you know what you will be cooking each night. Knowing what you’re planning to make is half the battle.
2. Prep. Do as much prep work as possible over the weekend. It doesn’t take that long – this week it only took me about an hour on Saturday to prep my food. Chop all veggies, cut & marinate meat, and brown any ground beef or sausage as necessary. The small weekend time commitment is absolutely worth the effort it saves throughout the week!
3. Organize. Make sure you have plenty of small storage containers in your kitchen. Once you chop all those veggies, you need to have someplace to put them!
4. Review. Each evening, review what you’re planning to cook the next night or two. If you need to take something out of the freezer or do some brief prep work, do so!
Here’s a peek inside my fridge on a Sunday night, all ready for the start of a busy week:
- I have chopped onion, green pepper, celery, and trimmed green beans – so I will have no veggies to chop on weeknights!
- I’ve prepped slices of canteloupe/prepared fruit.
- We each take yogurt and berries for a snack each day, so they are all portioned out and ready to go. [Yes, those are baby food snack containers. But since our son hasn’t eaten baby food in a year and a half, they have been re-designated as yogurt containers in our house.]
- I have pre-cooked ground sausage to add to a recipe later in the week.
- Chicken pieces are marinating for a quick cook on the grill.
- Way in the back is a whole chicken defrosting…on Thursday it will find its way to the crock-pot. But not before I fully prep it on Wednesday night, because I don’t want to worry about cleaning, seasoning, and stuffing a chicken before work.
And the final tip. Keep it simple. You won’t find me whipping up a lasagna on a Tuesday. Still, weeknight meals don’t have to be boring or bland. A little planning and forethought can make nearly any recipe manageable!