I’m by no means a super-mom: I often lose patience with my kids, I’m not on the PTA, I’m not the class mom and I don’t volunteer much at school. I work full-time and my husband works long hours but I cook dinner most, if not every night of the week.
It’s the one thing I’m proud to say I do as a mom.
Is it easy? No way.
When my kids are vying for something to eat and everyone is unwinding from the day, ordering a pizza, getting take-out or eating out always seems like an easier option.
There’s nothing wrong with eating out every once in awhile, but cooking real, fresh, homemade food is ideal.
Not only is the food usually healthier, but your kids aren’t likely to overindulge on large portion sizes.
Cooking dinner most nights of the week doesn’t require you to invest in pricey meal subscription boxes or hire a personal chef.
With some planning and prep work, you can cook a healthy, delicious dinner every night of the week.
Here’s how I pull it off and you can too.
I use the chopping board a lot.
I won’t lie: if you want to cook dinner almost every night, it requires time in the kitchen.
Time spent on meal prep: lots of washing, peeling, slicing, dicing and chopping.
I carve out time on the weekends and find pockets of time throughout the week such as before my kids wake up, after they go to sleep, or while dinner is cooking to chop fruits and vegetables.
I don’t always cook right away but I’ll store the food in glass containers which makes it a breeze to get dinner on the table throughout the week.
I make lists
Making a grocery shopping list is a necessity if you want to cook dinner almost every night.
A list helps me know which foods and ingredients I’ll need before I leave for the grocery store, it prevents me from forgetting anything while I’m there and ensures I don’t make impulse purchases—especially when the kids are with me.
I batch cook
Although I’d rather be watching HGTV, I use large blocks of time on the weekends to batch cook a few meals.
I also soak and cook large batches of beans that can be used to make a variety of meals, cook large batches of broccoli and asparagus and make a large vat of vegetarian lentil stew that I portion out throughout the week for lunches and dinner.
I’ll also make gluten-free bread, bean burgers and brown rice that can be used in a variety of ways for dinner throughout the week.
I don’t overthink dinner
Although I love to cook, I simply don’t have the time during the week to try new dinner recipes and make meals that take more than 30 minutes.
That doesn’t mean however, that I rely on packaged, processed meals, frozen meals or boxed macaroni and cheese.
Instead, I stick to the basics.
I keep a lot of simple ingredients on hand at all times like salad, sliced peppers, avocado, beans, canned salmon and tempeh.
I also make a lot of the same easy meals every week. Some examples:
- Roasted salmon and broccoli
- Vegetable frittata
- Roasted tempeh and salad
- Egg “fried” rice
- Salad with hard-boiled eggs and avocado
- Baked chicken fingers and asparagus
I also use my Pampered Chef pan to make easy, delicious sheet pan meals.
I repurpose leftovers
When there are small amounts of leftovers in the fridge, I’ll put everything out buffet-style and let me kids choose what they want.
Leftover roasted chicken or salmon can be added to salad greens, and leftover vegetables can be transformed into a stir-fry, for example.
I start dinner early
I work from home so if I can sneak away for 10 minutes here and there, I do some meal prep or get dinner started early before my kids get home.
If you work outside the home, ask your partner or the babysitter to pitch in and get dinner started, if possible.
On these nights, stick to easy meals or do some of the prep work beforehand so they only to have to assemble the ingredients.
Or if time allows, you can make dinner before you leave in the morning, which is something I also do.
I have a back-up plan
When work is hectic, we’re running home late from an appointment or an after-school activity and I don’t have time to cook, I scramble eggs, boil pasta, re-heat bean burgers or serve leftovers.
I use my appliances
The food processor, blender and hand mixer all help me to cook dinner fast.
The slow cooker is also an excellent kitchen appliance because you can make just about anything and it couldn’t be easier. Add chicken, vegetables and rice and dinner is done by the time you come home.
I make it a team effort
When my husband is home in time for dinner and I’m out with the kids, he’ll get dinner started.
Sure, he used to be a chef so whatever he makes is usually better than what I come up with, but he uses the same strategies I do to cook dinner almost every night.
The sheer fact that he prioritizes a healthy eating just as much as I do also helps to ensure we cook dinner.
Most of our spouses aren’t chefs and many aren’t even comfortable in the kitchen but feeding your family isn’t your job alone.
Talk to your spouse and come up with easy, go-to meals that can easily be pulled together. Anyone can make a salad, a sandwich and boil pasta.
Or make a meal ahead of time that can be cooked or reheated.