When it comes to getting organized with meal planning and getting dinner on the table, what's your biggest struggle?
This is a question I recently asked you & members of my Facebook groups.
I'm a busy mom of three kids too. So I understand the challenge of getting dinner on the table with a busy schedule and varying amounts of prep time.
Many of you find it challenging just to sit down and make that plan. Where to find the recipes? Or time? Or mental energy to put into thinking about tomorrow instead of just getting through today?!
And for those of us who often DO get that plan done - awesome! But we still struggle to follow through with it.
Maybe because schedules change, and you no longer have time for what you've planned. Or because what you thought sounded good to eat Tuesday when you planned, no longer sounds good on Tuesday!
Or you're just too exhausted when dinnertime comes around. And that new recipe you planned to make sounds too daunting when the kids are getting hangry.
And your husband calls on the way home from work and asks if he can pick up pizza. Ummmm yes please! And there goes the plan - and wasted groceries :(
But if you had a meal plan and stuck to it, you know you'd save money and eat better, right?
So how can we get our planned dinner on the table? Here are a few ideas to make the follow-through easier:
If you are at home during the day, prep while baby naps or is at preschool. Chopping the veggies for the stir-fry ahead of time will make it so much quicker come dinner time.
Weekends are another pre-prep option if you work full time and have a plan for the week.
For example cook and chop all the chicken for 4 different recipes. Sunday you could bake a whole tray of chicken breasts or thighs and eat some for dinner that night. Monday you can add leftover chicken to a quesadilla, Tuesday to a salad and Wednesday to a fajita.
If you're like me, you get excited when you get a new recipe book and go gung-ho. Or you see all those mouth-watering recipes while searching Pinterest and pick out 7 new recipes to try for the week.
Sounds great at the time. But these are lofty goals! With all new ingredients and often longer prep times, the truth is that it's not likely going to happen every night.
So instead, try just one or two new recipes for the week. And the other nights choose a 10 minute simple dinner. These are your stand-bys, that you likely have ingredients for and you may not even need a recipe.
Want some ideas? Check out my 15 easy family dinner recipes for busy nights.
Before choosing your recipes and making a list, take a look at your upcoming schedule.
Maybe you have a soccer night or two, and have just 10 mins to prep dinner before getting out of the house early. Or will get home late at 6:30pm and everyone is starving. This is a bad night to try a new recipe!
Consider your energy levels too. Are you working that day? Or at home with the kids or volunteering in school? If you know it's coming, an extra exhausting day should plan for a freezer meal, leftovers or a quick 10 minute dinner.
Kids in upper elementary or older can cook (or at least help!). Give your child one night of the week to take charge of dinner. Cooking is a great life-long skill, right?!
Even if you have younger kids, getting them involved may not save time - but they can at least pick out a recipe. My preschooler has a few kid-friendly cookbooks he loves searching through! And as a bonus if you have a picky eater, your child will be more likely to taste a meal they had a hand in choosing or creating.
If dinnertime is a regular battle between you and your kids, check out my blog: Why is my child a picky eater, and what to do about it.
Hopefully these tips leads to more achievable meal plans that you will be more likely to follow through with! Have any ideas of your own that help you get dinner on the table? Comment below and share!
Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier