Now that our homeschools and homes are in order, on this final day of preparing for the upcoming homeschool year, we’ll discuss meal planning, batch cooking, freezer meals and how to keep your sanity in the kitchen.
After a long day of work-homeschool-work the absolute worst question my family can ask me is: what’s for dinner? This little question drives me crazy. My anxiety level raises up by 400%, I get pregnancy like mood swings, and I want to hide under seven rocks. It’s gotten so bad, that my husband has told the kids to only direct this question to him. I love cooking for my family, I really do. I just hate thinking about it, and I don’t know why.
In order to keep my sanity, and hopefully help you keep yours, I’m sharing three things I do regularly to save precious time.
1. The Meal Plan
When we started meal planning last summer, I asked the kids to list their favorite dishes and we came up with a pretty solid list!
Having a meal plan helps us with our grocery bill, because we know what we need and how much, so we avoid multiple trips to the grocery store.
Consider these tips when making your own meal plan:
- Is there a day of the week when you usually eat out? For us, it’s usually Saturdays when we are at away games during basketball season.
- There’s nothing wrong with left overs. We have left-overs on Wednesdays, since we head out to Bible study in the evening, and I don’t have much time to make dinner in between getting off work and heading to church.
- Free for all days are always a hit. Lazy-day-Sunday is a long standing tradition in our home. No one does very much after church, and since our kids are older they enjoy making their own meals once a week.
2. The Batch Plan
Even with a meal plan in place, the thought of making 30 breakfasts, lunches and dinners plus snacks is overwhelming. This is when batch cooking comes in handy. There are certain dishes my kids absolutely love, like lasagna, enchiladas, beef stroganoff, meatballs, meatloaf and shepherds pie. When any of these come up on the meal plan I often make twice the amount. We eat half, and freeze the other half.
If I’m ever in a pinch and need a last minute meal, in the oven it goes, and it’s one less thing to worry about. By the time last Thanksgiving came around we had 17 pre-cooked meals in our freezer. December was a cooking free month, and it was wonderful.
3. The Freezer Prep Plan
By far, this is the best time and sanity saver in my book. I get a great deal of my meal prep done as soon as I get back from the grocery store. This is how I make it happen:
- Chop veggies and meat that can be frozen according to the recipes on your meal plan.
- Prepare sauces, marinades and seasonings for each dish you want to prep.
- Place your ingredients (meat, vegetables, sauce) on a freezer safe bag.
- Mix well and remove as much air as possible while closing the bag.
- Label the bag with the recipe name, any special cooking instructions, or list of missing ingredients, and add the date.
- Add a note on your calendar as a reminder this meal has been prepped.
- Lay the bag as flat as possible on the freezer. This will allow it to freeze and defrost faster when needed.
- Remember that the crockpot is your friend.
I have a crockpot and oven alarm set to go off every weekday as a reminder to get dinner going. With a plan in place, a printed and posted calendar (for my sake) up on the wall, pre-cooked/pre-prepped meals and a reminder on my phone, my days go much smoother.
I’ve heard people say they feel restricted by a meal plan. What if you don’t feel like eating Spaguetti on Tuesdays but you want it on Thursday instead? Change it. Please remember that a meal plan is just a plan, and it’s purpose is to help you and serve as a back up when you need it.
What are your favorite recipes for busy days?
For more on this series, click on the image below.