If you ask me, all moms should come with three pairs of arms and hands. Because managing rush hours during schooldays with just two hands – it’s impossible! I’m packing three school lunches every day, and feeding a hubby, two big boys and a picky little girl every night. Let me share my tricks with you guys.
How to spend less time in the kitchen
Let me get this straight, I’m not going to tell you to order in or eat out every day. It is awfully expensive in Calgary, and not as good and healthy as your cooking. Let’s see the other ideas.
Let the freezer be your friend
Prepare and freeze extra portions of their favorite meals
I always cook or bake extra and put them in the freezer for crazy practice nights or for school lunches. Usually I just freeze the meat, and make the side dishes on the day we want to eat them, to save space. A few things that freeze very well and they will keep for several months:
- Oven baked chicken anything: wings, drumsticks, thighs, breaded or otherwise
- Oven baked pork or beef, i.e. ribs or brisket
- Pork chops or similar dishes
- Anything made with cooked ground meat, like meatloaf, pasta toppings like Bolognese sauce, taco fillings, etc.
- Soups without thickener (you know, sour cream, cornstarch, flour, stuff like that to make the liquid more thick)
- Muffins, breads, cookies
- Pizza dough
Freeze your raw meat cut up and ready to use
We buy meat in bulk to save some money. The portions I don’t use right away I cut/slice up and freeze them in freezer bags, flattened out. That way they thaw quicker and it will save me some time on food prep.
Have a cooking day and freeze a week’s worth of meals
I haven’t tried this method but it makes sense. For very helpful tips and recipes see Don’t panic – Dinner’s in the freezer book below.
Plan your meals on shopping day for a week
I know, it’s not for everybody, but I’m doing this since I have kids. On Fridays, I
- grab the list of our favorite meals,
- and/or google some new recipes to try,
- plan the menu for the week,
- write the names of the dishes in the calendar and
- write the shopping list as well.
It saves me the improvisation, which I’m very bad at, the extra trips to the grocery store, and helps me to organize my time… I will know ahead of time on which day I’ll make a quick something because I have errands to run, and which day I can make broth because I’ll stay home and clean anyway.
I found this recipe years ago in the Calgary family magazine… Marinade your drumsticks or chicken winds the day before, whenever you have a little time, and when it’s dinner time, just pour the whole thing on a baking sheet, pop them in the oven and that’s it. (If I have time, I put sliced potato under them, with some salt and bits of butter… yum!)
Leftovers, leftovers, I love you…
If I cook something my kids like, I make extra, and let them have it for their school lunch the next day. You should hear them calling dibs on their favorites! 🙂
Child labor, here I come!
Have the kids pack their lunchboxes
I’m sure lots of you are already doing this. If you have space, store the things they will need within their reach, and outside of your work triangle.
- Small containers and sandwich bags
- Water bottles
- Packaged snacks
- Peeler, apple cutter, cutting board
- Napkins, spoons, etc.
They will enjoy the independence, and be more likely to eat what they packed for themselves.
Ask your big kid to be on kitchen duty in the morning
Okay, I’m lucky, my sons are over ten already. My younger is on duty in the morning, and my older helps with dinner prep when I need it. Morning duty can include, depending on your kids’ age and the food you eat for breakfast:
- Unloading and loading the dishwasher
- Setting the table
- Preparing cereals, eggs, sausages or hot dogs
- Making tea
- Finishing sandwiches, washing veggies
- Putting the lunches in the stay-warm containers for everybody
- Putting away everything after breakfast
- Helping the younger ones
It is a great help, and I tell them every day how much I appreciate it. It saves me a lot of time!
My time-saver tips at a glance
- Freeze cooked food for later
- Plan your meals ahead
- Teach your kids to help in the kitchen
Well, that’s it, folks. I hope you’ve found something useful for your life and your family. Let me know if you have any tricks that I could try in the comments below! Take care!