Being a modern-day mom is tough. Trying to juggle working a job, keeping a clean household, and raising a family all at the same time is no easy feat. After a long day at work, having a healthy, home-cooked dinner on the table every night might seem almost impossible. But before you give in to yet another night of pizza delivery, check out these 7 genius meal hacks that will take all the stress out of dinner time.
1. Use the Rule of One
There are tons of recipes that allow you to use only one pot or pan. Don’t waste your precious time dirtying up a bunch of different cookware that will leave you with a messy space and tons of clean up. Instead, go for one of the thousands of one-pot pastas, rice dishes, curries, stews, and more.
Or, if you’re feeling like a sauce-less dinner, you can just line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, pop your meat, chicken, or fish onto it, line it with veggies and spices, and pop it in the oven. You’ve got yourself a full meal with minimal prep work and virtually no clean up involved.
2. Stock Up On Frozen Veggies
There is absolutely no shame in buying good quality frozen vegetables that are easily available and last for weeks at a time. Have a nice selection (around 3-5) of veggie options on-hand in your freezer. All you’ll need to do is warm them up, and you’ve got pre-cooked, peeled, ready to eat veggies for a side or part of your main dish (or even for a snack).
3. Write Down A Few Meal Options Each Week
When you barely have enough brain power left to remember your name, it’s virtually impossible to think up a healthy meal to prepare. At the beginning of each week, quickly jot down a few ideas for mains and sides (nothing too complicated, of course).
Even if you don’t end up using them, you know that you’ve got your notes to look at for inspiration and ideas when you’re hit a block. As you start to collect ideas, you’ll see just how many options are readily available for you, and you won’t have to waste your energy on trying to pull them out of your brain every night anew.
4. Keep It Simple, Stupid
As much as those “perfect” Instagram moms would love to have you believe, cooking gourmet meals every night for your family is not only unnecessary, but also a pretty big waste of your time. Sure, it’s fun to cook up something special and fancy every now and then, but your kids are not professional food critics.
They don’t need all the glamour of a 5-star Michelin restaurant. They need nice, healthy, yummy food that will fill them up and let them get on with their day. Keep your dinners nice and simple, with a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable. There is no real need for exotic flavors and exquisite presentation. Trust me.
5. Get Yourself a Crock Pot
If you take only one piece of advice from this post, let it be this: get a crockpot! Your life will be entirely transformed once you see how easy this piece of equipment will make mealtime. This magical machine let’s you literally dump all of the ingredients into one place (whole, raw chicken, veggies, sauces, pasta, you name it), press a button, and then forget about it for hours.
Because slow-cooker meals take upwards of 6-8 hours, you can do this before bedtime or in the morning before you leave to work. And trust me when I tell you that there is no feeling like coming home from a busy day at the office to the smell of your piping hot, ready-to-go, delicious dinner waiting for you. You will feel like you have your own personal chef.
6. Cook The Basics In Bulk
If you are making rice as a side for dinner on Monday, cook enough of it for a few nights. That way, you can eliminate the work of cooking another side, and you can instead serve the premade rice the next day.
The same goes for pastas and other grains. And don’t think that your family will get bored of eating the same side for multiple nights in a row, a simple addition of sauce or seasoning can entirely change the dish, without you having to cook it from scratch.
7. Do The Prep Work Ahead of Time
A lot of the time taken up during meal prep is the washing, peeling, and chopping of ingredients. If you do your weekly grocery shopping on the weekend, take a bit of extra time to pre-chop your herbs and veggies and put them into containers.
You will be shocked by how much time you save by doing this step ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be a designated day either. If you find you have an extra half an hour in the morning, use it to do the prep work.
It will be much easier to break up the work so you don’t have a full dinner project on your hands when the workday is over and everyone is tired and hungry.
It’s definitely not a walk in the park to have healthy, home cooked meals for your family every day (no matter how much you’d like to), but these hacks will definitely make it much easier on you.
And, by the way, a weekly pizza delivery or drive-through fast food dinner is not the end of the world. You’re doing your best, and your family loves you for it, never forget that.