Meal preparation is such a great idea in theory, but I have found if you are not committed to making it a priority, it can be much more overwhelming that beneficial. Creating the habit of meal planning will save precious time for you to spend with your kiddos. With my working schedule, I see my kids for an hour or so before school and then a couple hours after work before bedtime. Both of which are hectic and have a lot to be completed.
I like to cook but having 30 minutes at most after pick-ups and getting unloaded adds a lot of stress for busy moms. Here are some tips I have found work for our family and others.
1. Set aside time to just think.
That is usually five to 10 minutes; think about dinner. I have found that either take 10 minutes or so to plan out the menu for the week or even just five minutes at the beginning of the day works well. What does not work well- right before work ends. Stick with the plan and enjoy a much less stressful dinner time with your family.
2. Keep track of meals that work.
Every family is unique and enjoy different arrangements of food. Keep track, even with a simple star on the name or recipe for what your family really likes. Put favorites on regular rotation so that you don’t have to plan all new meals each week.
3. Ask for help.
I have learned this the hard way and need constant reminders. It doesn’t help you or your stress level to insist on doing all of the heavy lifting! Ask your family what they want to eat. Maybe each child gets a day of the week (or twice a month if they always pick pizza). Don’t forget dad! Combined with one or two favorites that you’ve rotated into the week from the favorites list, you’re halfway there!
4. Themed Days.
Especially fun for younger kids to help pick the theme or meal for the evening. The more you can get the kids involved and to help, the less whining you are likely to receive. Plus, cooking and dinner time with your family should be fun and a time to spend together sharing stories about your day and enjoying a meal.
5. Leftovers are your friend.
Cook once and eat twice. Pasta, rice, quinoa, beans or potatoes are great things to make double what you need for the meal. Now you have some leftovers for another night or place them in the freezer for another week. These are things that are great to do on Sundays to get a head start on the week.
Whether you stay at home or are a working mom, life happens, and we are all busy. The more prep work that can be done, even mentally, the less stress we bear during dinner time for our family. A wise woman once told me, “your kids will remember the time they spent with you, not the clean house or the perfect meal”. Sometimes, we all need a good reminder that we are doing a great job and we got this!