We all know the importance of sitting down to eat dinner as a family every night. Nevertheless, working parents often struggle to get a healthy meal on the table at the end of the day. Between racing home from work, picking up the house and taking the kids to their extra-curriculars, preparing dinner can seem impossible.
It isn’t impossible, though! With a little planning, you can have healthy meals for dinner every night. Before you reach for your Domino’s coupons yet again, consider these meal prep tips that have helped working parents just like you finally solve the dinner-time dilemma.
1. Make It Memorable
One easy way to ensure planning dinner is less complicated is by having the same meal on corresponding days of the week, such as Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. Not only will the routine become a fun family tradition, but it will greatly simplify your shopping list.
Be as creative as you wish! For example, on Meatless Monday you could make a pasta primavera or veggie soup, and on Taco Tuesday, you could have traditional Tex-Mex or mix it up with fish tacos!
2. Always Keep The Basics On Hand
Go through your pantry and make sure that you have the basics that form the base of many meals. This could include: Chicken/veggie/beef broth, rice, quinoa, lentils, beans (dry or canned), olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, pasta (a few assorted shapes and sizes), cornmeal or cornstarch.
Also good to have on hand? Flavor! You’ll want salt, pepper and a variety of other fresh spices and herbs such as garlic powder, onion powder, bay leaves, cumin, and chili powder.
If you buy staples in bulk and always keep them stocked, organized and in easy reach, you will never have to face the conundrum of “Arrgggh, I want to make this recipe but I am missing half the ingredients!”
3. Use Sundays To Meal Prep
The hardest and most unpleasant part of cooking is often the prep (and cleaning up after the prep!). Get all the washing, peeling, chopping and sweeping done in one fell swoop on Sunday.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. There are numerous resources online, such as My Meal Prep Sunday, that provide step-by-step instructions on how to meal prep based on your family’s size and taste buds.
You can also look to this awesome guide from The Every Girl, which will give you 20 dinners you can meal prep .
While the idea of cooking and cleaning on Sunday might not sound appealing, you can turn it into a way to spend time together as a family. For example, put younger kids in charge of washing the produce or shucking corn, while older kids can help with peeling and cutting. Not only will this make meal prep an activity done together, but it will also help everyone to be more conscious of their food choices.
If you don’t want to meal prep an entire meal, you can always just prep part of the dinner, such as the veggie course. It’s easy to roast veggies ahead of time and keep them in the fridge or the freezer. When dinner time arrives, you just have to reheat them!
4. Have A “Uh-Oh” Strategy
Oops! You just realized that you forgot to defrost the chicken or that you are out of lemons. Whatever your kitchen quandary, always have an go-to strategy for dinner disasters. One possible strategy is to make and freeze a handful of your favorite dishes, such as lasagna, chili, veggie soup or freezer-friendly casseroles.
The Girl On Bloor offers 21 ideas for make-ahead meals that will easily stand up to the freezer, including this recipe for mini lasagna cups.
5. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
The best way to complete any big task is by breaking it up into smaller, more manageable jobs and then delegating as necessary. For example, you might agree that your partner will make the veggies every night, while you will be in charge of the main dish. Or maybe you will be in charge of the meal prep, but your partner can be in charge of the defrosting, plating and clean-up.
Older kids can get involved, too, such as by being in charge of washing and cutting fruit for dessert each night, or by setting the table. Don’t try to do it all yourself! Not only will this be draining — if not impossible! — but you will be robbing your kids of the ability to learn invaluable life skills.
Do you have other meal prep tips that make sure you have a homemade meal on the dinner table every night? Let us know in the comments!