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Kitchen Hack: Meal-Planning for Busy Nights

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For those busy nights with a short window of time for dinner, here are three ways I get a healthy meal on the table.

As a busy Mom of five kiddos, I really do try to keep things simple. It’s the only way I survive most days. I recognize I can’t just live within the walls of my own home and still raise socially-competent children, though. Thus, we do extra-curriculars to fill in the gaps where home and school life cannot. However, if each of my children have just one activity outside of school, that’s FIVE activities for me to prepare for and drive them to. All-of-a-sudden life is more complicated, and my time is spread more thin.

This year, our busiest days after school are Tuesdays. The girls have dance, and the boys have soccer after school. When the school-year first started up, I made a few rookie-mistakes, thinking I would just make dinner once we got home for the night. That failed miserably as we were just sitting down to the table at 8:30 PM, when the kids should have been ready for bed. With a little planning, I have been able to avoid that mistake AND get a well-rounded meal on the table by 6:30. Here’s how I do it:

1. Check the calendar at the beginning of the week.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but I often make the mistake of forgetting to check my calendar before planning meals for the week. Then, I end up planning complicated meals for days that are too busy to execute the plan.

2. Always have at least one freezer meal on hand.

For example, when I make casseroles or enchiladas, I make double and freeze one. Then, on Tuesday morning before the craziness starts, I pull the dish out of the freezer so it can thaw by dinner time.

3. Prepare meals that can be made ahead of time.

I may not have a full hour to prep for dinner on busy days, but I do have pockets of 20 minutes between carpools or meetings when I can chop a few veggies or boil some pasta. Today, for example, I spent time between sending my afternoon kindergartner off to school and a lunch meeting to prep two salads and stick them in the fridge. At dinner time, we will pull them out, give them a quick stir, and eat them in the 30-minute window we have for dinner before heading to Cub Scouts Pack Meeting.

See how it works? Busy nights don’t always have to be fast food nights or super late dinners. That is totally OK if that is what works for your family, but if you are on a budget like us and trying to keep a consistent routine, planning for the busy nights is the way to make it happen.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the app I use to plan my meals and shop for groceries. It’s a game-changer!

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