Are your kids heading back to school? Is your 3-year-old about to start preschool? Are you a teacher heading back to work? Maybe you just want to streamline things a bit to make your evenings less stressful. Here are 5 quick tips to take some of the stress, and time, out of one of our most time-consuming tasks - meal planning and prep.
1. DESIGNATE A SHOPPING AND FOOD PREP DAY
Figure out day each week where you can plan out your meals, shop, and do some minimal food prep. It will make your week run smoothly and feel less busy if you aren’t running out the store throughout the week. You can make it a family affair! Have big kids help you write the list or wash vegetables and fruit when you get home.
2. PRE-CUT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
If your peppers and cucumbers are pre-sliced, you (and your kids!) are more likely to grab them to go for a snack. While you are at it, proportion other items like trail mix, pretzels, etc. so you are sure to keep portion sizes down.
3. BATCH COOK A FEW ITEMS
Think about your meals throughout the week. Are you doing a few dinners with brown rice or quinoa as a side dish? Batch cook it all at once and use it throughout the week. Another great option is roasting various vegetables for quick snacks or side dishes. Instead of cooking veggies every night, batch cook multiple night’s worth at once so all you need to do is reheat.
4. MAKE FREEZER FRIENDLY MEALS IN BULK
Making your favorite chili for dinner? Double it and freeze the other half! Or when making freezer meals, make double or triple so you have multiple of your favorite meals ready to go.
5. HAVE A WEEKLY OR NIGHTLY THEME
Having a theme night makes meal planning easy and it is a great way to get the kids involved. Also, you have room for flexibility to meet everyone’s needs. If Friday nights are always pizza night, you can add tons of veggies, use a cauliflower crust, or tortilla shell pizzas. If you always have the same theme, you can easily plan for it each week. Here is an example of a weekly theme menu:
Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Leftover Wednesday (leftovers or anything you feel like eating), Slow Cooker Thursday, and Pizza Friday