It is mid August, and you know what that means….school will be starting back soon! The start of school means getting to bed and waking up earlier, getting backpacks ready, homework, planning for after school care, extracurricular activities, planning morning breakfasts and packing lunches. With all of this business, it is easy to forget to take time to meal plan for weekly dinners. Here are some expert tips that can help to get healthy meals on the table, without adding hours to your already busy day.
Plan meals based on family schedule
Take a good look at your week ahead and what activities are planned throughout the week. Determine which nights will be more hectic than others. Plan meals with minimal prep work on busy nights, and save more complex dinners for days you have some extra time. If there are nights where it is going to be easier to dine out, pick out a restaurant in advance that you know has healthy options for your family. Try to pick one day a week for meal planning and one big grocery store run. This can save time, money and stress during the week.
Prep ahead of time
On busy nights, plan dinners that require minimal cooking and resemble an assembly line. Chop up ingredients you need ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Here are some fun ideas:
- • Baked potato bar: potatoes, chives, bacon crumbles, diced peppers and tomatoes, lite sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt, lite shredded cheese, lean ground beef or cubed chicken.
- • Pasta bar: whole wheat pasta, zoodles, lean ground meat, marinara sauce, salad fixings.
- • Quesadilla bar: whole wheat flour tortillas, shredded cheese, black beans, avocado, shredded chicken or beef, chopped tomatoes, salsa, olives.
Get out the slow cooker
This is a real time saver. There are so many great recipes out there these days. Place ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and dinner is practically ready when you get home. You can also use the slow cooker for the main course of your meal and add the sides later. Cooking chicken breast only takes 3 hours and you can easily shred them to add to many different dishes. Toss the chicken in a stir-fry, tacos, or serve with veggies, whole grain pasta, or brown rice. For some great ideas, check out Blue Sky Pinterest Crockpot Recipes.
Utilize your freezer
- • Start of each week with taking an inventory of items in your freezer. Frozen veggies, fruits, meatballs, and ground meats can easily be incorporated into dinners for the week.
- • The freezer sections in grocery stores have many healthy dinner options and stores are always adding new products. It is nice to have some of these on hand for backups during a busy week.
- • On days you have extra time, prepare a one dish dinner and freeze for a later date. Here are some great meal prep and freezer meal ideas: Meal Prep Ideas.
With a little planning and prep work, getting a busy family around the table each night during the week is easily attainable. The extra time spent planning, is well worth having a nourishing meal and time to connect with your family.