Does your weekly schedule seem overloaded? Do you run around from morning till night and never seem to be able to get anything done on time? Is making dinner after you get home at night more like running a marathon or more like a sprint? If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, take a deep breath, release all the pent up stress that’s weighing you down and read this article on mastering meal preparation.
Tested and approved by families living crazy lives, today we suggest a few practical tricks that will make your meal planning REALLY SUPER SIMPLE!
1- Start planning the week before
Preparation should be anything but stressful. It’s supposed to relieve the stress that normally creeps up on you as suppertime approaches on week nights. In order for all the weight on your shoulders to finally dissipate, the best thing is to plan meals and even do a little cooking at the beginning of the week.
2- Make a list of meals from your recipe box
At least once a season, sit down as a couple or as a family and make a list of the dishes the whole family loves or just update your actual list. This bank of potential meals can be very useful for the weeks you don’t know what to cook. Find inspiration from our Recipe section and add delicious and super quick meals to your list.
3- Take stock of what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer
As a family, make a list of what you have left like meats, veggies, fruits, cereal, dairy products, etc. The food you already have will help you decide on which meals you should make for the week and not buy again in duplicate – bonus! Print this chart to keep track of all the prepared meals and the food you already have in your freezer.
4- Get ideas by leafing through flyers
Find the ingredients that are inexpensive and in season that week, then decide on which recipes to prepare at the lowest price. Supermarket flyers often give ideas of what to cook with the specials of the week. Stay informed!
5- Opt for meals that reheat well and taste great as leftovers
Making dishes that reheat easily is great because you can serve them the next day or the day after that. The flexibility of your meal can help you to save it for another time without your family knowing. For example, your vol-au-vent sauce from Monday night can easily be served on pasta for dinner on Wednesday – and the kids won’t know any better!
6- Favour all-in-one meals
Dishes like casseroles, lasagnas, paellas and fried rice are really practical because they don’t need veggies or starches as sides. Just reheat the dish on the night in question and voilà, supper is served!
7- Plan your weekly cooking schedule
Print copies of this chart and, at the end of the week, write down what you’ll be eating every night according to family activities (music lessons, sports practices, etc.), as well as the time it’ll take to prepare dinner. Also write down what you’ll have for lunch and don’t forget about leftovers for dinner. The most tech savvy person in your family will definitely like using a mobile app that will allow you to plan your shopping list, as well as the week’s menu.
8- Mix it up
Save the menu from the week before to avoid repeating certain recipes too often. Don’t be afraid to regularly try new dishes to expand your horizons and build up your recipe box.
9- Cook big batches
By anticipating a few more servings than necessary, you’ll not only have leftovers for lunches the next day or another supper, but you can also freeze a family-sized portion for a ready-made supper in the next few weeks without any extra effort. Buying a second freezer can also be practical for storing all your leftovers, especially if you have a big family. Print our checklist of what’s in your freezer and stick it to the fridge. You’ll see that it’s the best inventory out there.
10- Make cooking family fun
Create family cooking moments on the weekends! You’ll see – the kids will be a lot more interested in eating what they’ve created if they’ve prepared it themselves. Take advantage of family cooking to make several meals at a time that just need reheating when the time comes. Give tasks to the younger and older kids to do.Your youngest can also get involved pouring ingredients, stirring, tasting, etc., whereas your teens can cut veggies, take food out of the cupboards and the fridge and even set the oven temperature and timer. As well as giving them a potential passion for cooking, you can contribute to their culinary education by exposing them to new foods, showing them basic cooking techniques and providing tools that they will use for the rest of their lives.
11- Cut veggies in advance
If your veggies are already cut and organized into small containers in the fridge, it will be easier to integrate them into your suppers in the coming week, whether as raw veggies or veggie side dishes. You’ll save a lot of time and dirty fewer dishes, too. And why not slip a few crunchy veggies into your kids’ lunch boxes? If you don’t have time to chop, choose from one of our frozen mixes, whichever one best suits your recipe.
12- Try a night of leftovers or an on-the-fly supper
If you have a seemingly never-ending week and don’t really feel like making dinner Friday night, make an ELITF dinner. That’s short for Everything Left in the Fridge! Just reheat all your leftovers and throw them on the same plate. If not, improvise and choose something quick and easy with whatever you have left in the fridge, like a soup or omelette. The kids will be thrilled and you’ll be able to breathe a little!
13- It’s okay to resort to prepared meals
Some solutions help you to save time for a night when you come home late because of the traffic or when there is barely an hour before hockey practice starts. Store-bought prepared meals like salads, quiches or pastas can save the night. Frozen mixed veggies are also an efficient alternative as a side for a quick soup.
And now, relax!
The goal of these planning techniques is without a doubt to give you time to relax and spend more quality time with your family.
With these few strategies, even the most uncertain among us should already feel a little less overwhelmed. Obviously you don’t have to try all of them, but now you’re equipped with a ton of ideas that can help you organize your week!
And what about you? What are your amazing tips and tricks that help you better manage your family on the run? And which strategies will you try first?