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Back to school. Those words can invoke a sigh of relief for parents everywhere. You don’t have to entertain them anymore. Your life goes back to something that resembles a routine again. But, the phrase back to school also brings with it an air of panic. Back to school isn’t just back to school. It also means back to late nights with sports practices, dance classes, parent teacher meetings and more. And if you’re the teacher, it means long nights grading papers and preparing for tomorrow’s classes. It means back to drive thru dinners because practice ran late and you didn’t plan ahead. Lucky for you, I’ve got your back!
Planning ahead a little for back to school dinners can really limit trips through the drive thru or calls for delivery. Click To Tweet
Here’s a few tips to help tame the mealtime madness at your house!
1. Plan Ahead!
One of the biggest problems with being busy is you’re starving by the time you get home. The thought of putting any energy into figuring out a meal, much less cooking it, is way beyond your means at that moment! That’s when delivery or take out happens. You’ll save a ton of money by just sitting down on Sunday morning with your coffee and picking out 7 meals you want to have that week. Then you can shop for just those meals instead of picking up a little of everything (this tactic will also help you tackle any clutter in your pantry!!).
Notice I didn’t say plan a meal for every day? While this works for some people, I’m the kinda gal that if I tell myself that I have to have a salad with chicken on Monday night, I’m gonna want a burger and fries 🙂 It’s just how I’m wired! So, by planning out just 7 meals for the week, I can pick what I want from that menu as the day comes. This gives you flexibility but also some structure. And who ever said that structure was bad?
2. Power Cook Your ProteinsProteins take the longest to prepare and cook. So cooking more than one meal's protein at once is a key time saver!Click To Tweet
I think everyone would agree that cubing & cooking chicken or cooking taco meat takes way longer than cooking potatoes or shredding lettuce. If you’re having 3 chicken dishes, cook all the chicken at once! Take a couple hours on Sunday night (or whatever night works best for your schedule) and pre-cook all your proteins for the week. Cooked food is good in the fridge for about 3 days. So Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s dinners are good in the fridge. Toss Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s meals in the freezer. The Double Burner Grill Pan is my go-to for grilling/pan cooking a bunch of meat. And I love the All-Purpose Pot for ground meats & boiled chicken which is great for salads. I hope you’re realizing the amount of dishes this idea saves you during the week, too. You’re welcome.
3. While You’re Cooking, Make Doubles!
If you’re already cooking, do yourself a favor and make a double batch of everything! Let’s say you’re making fajitas and rice (because Mexican food rules. Duh.) Instead of just making what you need for that one meal, cook enough peppers, onions and chicken/steak for a whole other meal. Then freeze the leftovers! You’ll appreciate that frozen dinner on a night you didn’t think ahead, or didn’t want to go shopping, or something came up, or you were sick, whatever ….dinner is all cooked and in the freezer. Bam. Done.
Pro Tip: Freeze the meat and peppers in one Ziplock bag/container, the cooked rice in another and put it in the freezer with the tortillas that you need, too! That way you’ll have the whole meal and won’t need to run to the store for anything. And while we’re talking about cooking efficiently, you’ll wanna check out this article on how to organize your cook station.
You’re already thinking I’m a genius. I don’t blame you. But we’re not done yet!
4. Latch On To This “One Pot Meal” Trend.Trends come and go, but I think this one needs to stay forever.Click To Tweet
So, what exactly is a one pot meal? You guessed it. Exactly what it sounds like. Every part of the meal is prepared using the same pot. There’s a couple benefits to this. 1) You have fewer dishes. YAY! 2) Cooking your foods all together like that allows the flavors to really meld together and enhance the taste of the dish. 3) Often times, they are “set it and forget it” types of recipes. Ya know, ones where you slap everything on a sheet pan in the oven, in a stock pot on the stove or in the slow cooker and let it do it’s thing. These recipes typically take simple ingredients and put them together in a masterful way. The flavors are enhanced and you come off looking like Picasso just made the meal for your family! I’m a fan of these one pot meals because you can prep them quickly and while they’re cooking, spend time with your family. Help the kids with their homework. Walk the dog. Take care of last night’s dishes. Have some pre-dinner ice cream. Ya know, all the things that need to get done in the small window of time that is your evening. A quick look through the Season’s Best Cookbook or my Pinterest account will hook you up with loads of ideas for these delicious and easy meals. This recipe is one of my all time favorite one pot meals. You’ve gotta try it and tell me what you think!
5. Build a Menu Binder.You just created all of these wonderful 7 day meal menus. Why throw that hard work away and recreate the wheel every time?Click To Tweet
You can search Pinterest and come up with a billion options for menu binders. The simplest solution I’ve got for you? Just snag a 1/2″ or 1″ binder and some loose leaf paper during these back to school sales. Write 1 week’s menu on a piece of paper. Then on another piece of paper write the grocery list for that menu. Put them into your binder together.
That’s it. Easy peasy and you’ve even got your grocery menu done for the next time you want that menu! If you have a recipe on that week that you don’t know by heart… what better place to store it than with the week’s menu that it’s featured on? Hole punch it and put it in your binder.
Guys, meal planning and organization is not that hard. It can all be super overwhelming if we let it. But don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t keep things in a “safe place” ‘cuz that’s how you lose shit. Trust me. I just lost my dad’s rhubarb pie recipe and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t follow my own damn advice! I left it out because I wanted to make notes on it if I needed to adjust anything. Well, I need lots of notes now because I got nothing to go on! Grr. Anyway, don’t be like me. Be better than me. lol