This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.
Getting dinner on the table can be a tremendous task. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent, working, or stay at home parent, we all have plenty of responsibilities to keep up with. Prepping a healthy dinner can be overwhelming with after-school activities and the many commitments we discover ourselves being responsible for. And yet… people have to eat, and nightly take-out isn't a healthy or cost-effective option for most of us.
Striving for Healthy, Home-cooked Meals?
If you’re like me, healthy, home-cooked meals a priority for you despite all of the demands of life. If it's your goal to feed your family fresh food as often as possible while saving money and time, then read on for tips on how to plan, shop and prep to ensure that dinner's on the table almost every night.
Shopping Lists Save Time
Make the List Work for You
While you’re at it - make your list do even more for you. Instead of just writing down what you need, when you need it, create a template that includes the things you most commonly buy like eggs and milk. Then, print the list each week and just add any additional items you might need each week.
If you’re really organized, you might even create your list so that it matches up with the physical layout of the grocery store aisles. In fact, this is why I love Google Keep so much. I put things on it all week, then before I step foot in the store, I make sure it matches up with the layout of the store. Not only do I get through the store more quickly, but I also don’t often forget the things I need.
Plan Ahead for Efficiency
It may be hard to come up with dinner ideas on Sunday, but doing it on the fly is costing you time. Instead, plan ahead. Sit down and produce a schedule for the week (or at least a general idea of what you'll be making and serving for the 5-day work week). Match this planning up with your grocery schedule so that you can take advantage of weekly sales. So if you usually grocery-shop on Monday, you might say to yourself: "Pork is on sale. I can get a roast and cook it in the crockpot. The remains become tacos for Tuesday. Mid-week we can have a vegetarian meal. Thursday is potluck. Friday, we make homemade pizza."
Now write down the list of ingredients you’ll need to cook these dinners. You don’t need to plan down to the last detail. Veggies, sides, and those sorts of things can be flexible. If you do this regularly, you’ll spend less time running to the store for last minute ingredients. Dinner will also get on the table faster with everything planned in advance.
Save Time and Cut Out Daily Prep
Plan Some Quick Meals
Have one or two "heat and eat" options for a busy night. There are plenty of healthy options that aren’t “TV dinners.” Chicken nuggets thrown in the oven or toaster oven can be ready quickly. Frozen French fries can be baked in less than 20 minutes, with easy tray cleanup after.
Stock the Refrigerator
You might also consider putting some salads and raw veggies in the refrigerator for days you don’t want to turn on the oven. I know I like to keep this one in my arsenal for days that nothing goes as planned and we have to run out the door before we can even finish dinner.
Plan a Dedicated Day
Plan and shop for a cooking day. Plan for this to be a day when you have time to get it all done. You can make more complicated meals that would take several hours to complete from prep to finish. Once you have the more difficult meals cooked, portion them out and free them. I favor plastic and glass containers. For things like meat sauce, you can also use mason jars. If you use a canning-type method, it’ll keep without having to freeze it.
Keep It Clean
Another time-saving measure is to soak or wash your pans as soon as you are done cooking with them. By doing this, you’ll eliminate the need to scrub them because food won’t have a chance to stick. If you keep up with everything as you go, you’ll just have some dishes, silverware, and serving bowls to throw in the dishwasher. It can be as simple as that.
Now it’s your turn. Share your favorite shortcuts with us! We can all use as many as possible.
It’s a It's the Small Stuff is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by using advertising links.