January 22, 2014

I Don't Try to Do It All: Easy Meal Preparation

As a stay-at-home-mom, my days revolve around food.  Every morning, about 6:30 we have breakfast.  By nine o'clock Little Sister eats a snack.  Lunch is between 11 and 11:30.  When everyone is home from school at 3:30, we snack again.  We have dinner about five o'clock and a bedtime snack to end the night.  My habits and expectations keep meal preparations easier for me.

Simple Breakfast.  Cereal is my typical choice for the family. Oatmeal and eggs provide additional, though rare, options.

Simple Lunch. We eat sandwiches or eggs most days.  Sandwiches may be PB&J, turkey, or toasted cheese.  (Are you excited yet?)  Our sides are typically some fresh or canned fruit and yogurt or homemade applesauce.  Carrots are our favorite raw veggie.  Weekends we may have salad.  Some days my lunch is even less complicated, as you can see.
Semi-Homemade or Homemade Dinner
Our family meal, dinner, keeps me busy enough.  I often begin dinner preparations a few hours before our meal.  Dinner at our house is not always from scratch, but I'm trying more and more to use less processed foods.  Each week I try to have at least one easy evening meal planned.  Tacos, pancakes, and spaghetti all fit the easy evening meal.

Dinner Helpers
Meal Planning.  I meal plan evening meals one month at a time.  It works for me because I can be flexible, if needed, but I still know what we'll be eating each week.
Freezer.  I buy meat only on sale.  I often make a big meal and place at least one meal's worth in the freezer.  After cooking a turkey, chicken, or ham, I like to put leftovers in the freezer to make meal prep incredibly easy for meals like fettucine Alfredo or chicken pot pie.  Homemade waffles and pancakes freeze well to be served on another occasion.
Slow Cooker.  Many of our favorite recipes are made in the slow cooker.  If you worked full-time, I recommend a programmable one.  As I can typically plan to be home in the morning to prepare the meal, the standard slow cooker works for our family.
Leftovers.  Of course, there is another way I try to make dinner easy for myself.  We love leftovers.  Days when I do not need to cook a main course allows time for dessert preparations.
FFYN.  Sunday evenings (unless we have company) provide a special time at our home.  We call it Fend for Yourself Night, but the reality is I have small children who need attention in the form of nutrition.  They are not capable of getting their own meal, so I often make oatmeal with blueberries or bananas for dinner.  It's also a good night to finish any leftovers from the week.

We each run our homes in different ways.  Our meals will not look like yours.  I don't think they need to, but I do hope you find ways to make cooking easier on yourself.  One of my friends has a child with multiple severe food allergies.  She makes everything from scratch.  In the days of frozen, canned, and boxed meals, her choice is rare.  Yet, more and more people are making the push toward whole foods.  I do not serve only whole foods, though I am really trying to make more of an effort to incorporate more and more into our diets.

What do you do to make meal time easier?  Do you serve mostly homemade meals, mostly processed, or somewhere in between?  

7 comments:

  1. We do both. We are a blended family so sometimes we have 9+ people eating and sometimes we have 1-2. I plan my meals around how many we have. When all the kids are with their "other" parent, it is a Leftovers day. Like today (Wednesday), I have no kids, so I will eat some nachos and perhaps a soft pretzel and a bit of dark chocolate. That is all... no planning involved. Sunday nights we do a large family meal because we are all together those days. That means smoked meats, veggies, bread, dessert... the works. I find that planning for meals after sports is hard. Something fast and easy in the car seems to be my downfall, we usually just eat out to keep myself sane!

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  2. Easy yet healthy... two great combinations! Depending on what dinner is and how much I make we usually have leftovers as well. As for breakfast my kids love grilled cheese... every now and than I add some turkey or ham to go in it. Before bed we usually snuggle up on the couch with a big plate of mixed fresh fruit for a snack and watch some tv.

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  3. I just finished writing(editing) my review for tomorrow on a book about eating better. So, this post came at the perfect time! I often struggle with making sure we're eating healthy, but attempting to keep our days simple at the same time.

    Our breakfast is almost always eggs or pancakes of some kind of variation(most the time fruit is added). On mornings that are more rushed, we turn to granola bars. Lunches are usually leftovers or sandwiches. Like you, our suppers tend to be more involved. To be honest, I don't plan like I should, though! Recently, our oven blew out, so I'm relying on just our stove top until we get it fixed. I didn't realize just how much I depend on my oven to cook! ;)

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  4. Ever since my kids were old enough to make their own eggs they get them for breakfast a little more often.

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  5. Cooking is fun and I enjoy it but I love no-cook Friday nights!

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  6. Breakfasts around here are Jonathan's domain. He and the kids do cereal every morning. (On very, very special occassions I get going earlier and make pancakes or eggs.) Lunch is our big meal of the day. We get daddy for lunch every day so I usually make up something more elaborate then (because I also like eating a larger meal earlier in the day and not later). I always make enough for leftovers and dinner is usually sandwiches or left overs from the previous days' meals. Works for us! We also eat out once a week. (Our eating out budget is $12 a week and we make that work with coupons, etc.)

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  7. I love all of these! Thanks for sharing your ideas!!

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