Being the mother of 6 children, I have to think about food A LOT! My kids can eat and eat and eat. Everyone has always been impressed with what good little eaters I have. Now that I have a teenage boy, I am shocked at what that can mean and how many times a person can go back for more food, sometimes long after the rest of the family was finished eating. If there’s food left in the pot, he’s asking if he can have it! Cooking isn’t one of the things I really enjoy doing, it’s just a task that has to be done in order to have a functional family, so I have been aiming to streamline my time spent in the kitchen and yet enjoy what we’re eating. Here are several ways that I have been able to accomplish this.
1. Pick Easy Meals - Think about what you generally cook when you’re in a time crunch. For me, it’s things like spaghetti, montereys, taco salad, chili, hamburgers, etc. Meal plan around these easy meals. If you don’t have a very long list, search for some quick and easy recipes that you can plan around. I have a list of some of our favorites here. You can always throw in your favorite harder meals, but spread them out, so they’re not on back to back days.
2. Use Your Slow Cooker – I decided I wanted to use my slow cooker almost every day as you can see if you clicked on my link in step 2. I just LOVE not having to think about making dinner at 5:00.
3. Decide What’s For Dinner the Night Before - The reason this is important is so that you make sure to get anything you need to out of the freezer. It is so frustrating to decide on making something with ground beef, to remember that the only ground beef you have is frozen in a big 10 pound block that doesn’t fit into the microwave to defrost. Which brings me to…..
4. Save Money by buying in bulk or buying off brands. Believe it or not, we normally shop for our groceries in a bigger city. We try to plan to go to the city around the time we need to stock back up. I like to coupon in the cities when I can, but haven’t become quite that organized to do it regularly yet, nor have I been able to take the time to clip coupons on a regular basis. We generally go to Aldi and Sams and at least check the other local stores for deals we can score while we’re there. We can save quite a bit on cheese, lunch meat, bread, canned goods, etc. At Walmart, I can buy a block of cheese for over $4 a pound. At Sams, I get it in a 5 pound block for $12. That’s getting 2 pounds free! I usually stock up on produce at Aldi. The in season fruit and vegetables are always much cheaper than our local stores. This week, I was able to get apples for $1.50 for 3 pounds. That probably doesn’t sound that great to you city folks, but those of us with little to no access to specials, it’s downright exciting!
5. Make Freezer meals - For me, that means, make extremely easy freezer meals. I decided to line up my recipes for a week and make a list of what I need to do in order to prep them. You can see how I did that here. As you can see, the prep work on my recipes isn’t very big…thankfully! I don’t have much time since my baby is only 3 months old and needs to eat constantly.
6. Involve the Children - There is nothing wrong with your children helping in the kitchen!! It is wonderful training for their future and sometimes, if the family wants to eat, it’s downright unavoidable! My 11 year old enjoys knowing that she was able to be a big part of getting everyone fed. If you don’t have kids that old, they can always be right next to you, helping to put ingredients in bowls or bags or even just “washing dishes” by playing in the dish water. My younger children always think it is a treat to help mommy!
7. Table Chores - This next tip is more for me than for you…because it is a place we still struggle. Clean up the dishes and the table right after each meal! It doesn’t take long and we’re always thankful when we do it.
8. Streamline Breakfast & Lunch – My kids know that there are certain things that they can choose from for breakfast and lunch. I’m not one who is willing to cook a hot breakfast every day. That’s usually a special occasion. I’m a zombie in the morning!! Their breakfast choices are generally cereal, toast, fruit, boiled eggs or oatmeal (made in the microwave). Lunches are generally cheese quesadillas, ham sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, bean & cheese burritos, mac & cheese, hot dogs, salads or leftovers. They’re all super easy to prepare and overall, I don’t care if they choose different things to eat…unless it involves making a pot of something (i.e. mac & cheese)…then I require more than 1 person has to want to eat it.
As you can see, I’m in a season in my life where saving as much time as possible is the best for us. I have typed this whole blog post while my baby is nursing and that is how I spend a lot of my “free time”.
How do you make your meal time flow?