How often do we have “one of those days”? It seems to be a weekly occurrence for most. You know — late getting up, late leaving for work, crazy day at work, and suddenly you’re home with hungry kids and no dinner ready to eat, often with extracurricular activities looming large afterwards.
Everyone wants to be prepared for these situations, and often calling for delivery is the solution, but if you want to have some of your own kitchen tricks to save time at the end of “one of those days,” here are a few lifehacks to help you out:
Ask for Help!
Kids can assist in small ways, and while the training phase may make you want to pull your hair out, the more often kids help in the kitchen, the better they are at doing so, sometimes without being asked! Speaking of help, feeding a family is the responsibility of everyone who lives in the home – partners included – so if yours isn’t taking on their fair share, have a discussion and create a weekly calendar to take turns being in charge of meal planning and prep.
Make it a habit to wash and chop veggies and protein choices when they come home from the store. It’s much easier to quickly throw together simple dishes like a stir-fry or a slow-cooker soup if you simply have to open a container from the fridge and the ingredients are there ready and waiting.
Try to remember small pieces cook faster. When you’re cutting and cooking, keep pieces of vegetables and proteins small. They cook faster than a whole item and that makes fast meals less stressful.
When you’re prepping those vegetables and proteins, keep a waste container on the counter in front of you. It may only save a few minutes in total, but avoiding opening your cupboard and your waste bin every time you have to clear your cutting board can add up to enough time to enjoy a morning coffee or a glass of wine while you prep a meal.
Spend a little time planning meals each week to save a lot of time each day. It wastes precious moments deciding what you’re going to eat and checking if you have all the ingredients needed to make it. Planning seven days worth of meals and shopping in advance for the upcoming week ensures you’ve got it all under control.
Embrace the “Easy Meal” Plan
Breakfast-for-dinner never hurt anyone, and serving up pancakes and sausages for dinner one night will certainly up your cool quotient with your kids! Likewise for grilled cheese and other fast food options that aren’t as unhealthy as fast food outside the home.
While you’re planning, keep it simple for weekday or workday meals. Use recipes well-known to you and your family that are simple and quick to prepare. Save the experimental, elaborate cuisine for your days off work or fancy dinner parties.
A Slow Cooker is Your Friend
Make friends with your slow cooker or invest in an instant cooker. In theory, if you have a slow cooker, you should never have to come home to a dinner-less house. There are so many things that can be made via slow cooker that you could use it every day for a month without repeating a single meal! If leaving a countertop appliance plugged in all day while you’re gone doesn’t feel comfortable, instant pots are becoming very popular and can dramatically reduce previous cook times for your supper.