Getting dinner on the table every night can be a challenge (let alone breakfast and lunch!) With kids’ activities, our own work schedules, and trying to maintain a social life, you have to find little pockets of time to prep ahead and save your sanity. Here’s what I do.
Most of the vegetables I buy get roasted as soon as I get home from the grocery store or market. If that’s not your best time to cook, that’s fine, just know that it’s going to be easier to forget about your food once you put it in the refrigerator.
I heat the oven to 450, chop everything and arrange it onto multiple cookie sheets, season everything with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Most things take 30 minutes to become delicious. Then, they all get transferred to glass containers and stored in the refrigerator until mealtime. Reheating is as simple as warming them up in the microwave or sautéing them on the stove. This takes less than 10 minutes at meal time, saving you hours throughout the week.
Salad dressings / sauces
I never buy salad dressing. There are too many weird ingredients to worry about. Instead, I keep all the ingredients on-hand that I would ever need to make any type of dressing or sauce. From there, the variations are endless. I typically whip up whatever dressing we’re using that night during the kids’ nap or before we leave for the gym in the evening. But any 5 minute pocket of time will work.
Another thing I make at the start of each week, rather than purchasing. Any combination of oats and nuts will work. Sometimes I add shredded coconut if I have it on-hand. A smashed banana mixed with coconut oil and vanilla extract serves as the sweetener and binder. The mixture gets baked in the oven on 300. I turn it every 15 minutes until toasty, then transfer to a plastic bag that I keep on the counter.
Either cook your grains on the stove (or instant pot) while the vegetables are roasting in the oven at the beginning of the week, or just cook a larger batch than needed when a recipe calls for them. That way, you have some leftovers on hand for lunches or other meals during the week. Cooking a larger quantity takes no more time, and you’re doing it anyway, so you might as well make extra.
Chicken, pork, roast, can all be cooked ahead of time in the crock pot or instant pot. Make more than you need for one recipe, and you’ll have some already made for another night that week, or to take with you for lunch.
Anything my kids might need help having access to, or anything that I will need to quickly grab before running out the door, gets divided into separate containers (usually baggies, although I’m trying to be better about using less plastic). Examples are pretzel sticks and raisins (these get separated into bags), and grapes that need to be cut for the youngest one not to choke (these get cut in advance and stored in a container in the refrigerator)