Feeding our families should be a joy and a privilege, but sometimes it seems like just one more thing on our to-do lists. Planning meals, shopping, cooking, and providing snacks for everyone in the family takes a lot of time and feels like a lot of work! And with the new school year beginning soon, the workload is only going to increase!
I can’t make all of that work go away, but I can suggest a strategy for making it a bit more manageable – take some time this weekend to organize meals and snacks for next week.
Trust me, you can make this work for you. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an authority on getting organized or preparing meals in advance! But I know from experience that I can do a few things over the weekend that will make my life calmer and saner next week. Here are 5 of my favorites:
- Organize your refrigerator or pantry. At this moment, my refrigerator looks like a small explosion went off inside it. I hate that! I want to be able to look in the refrigerator and see exactly what I have on hand to feed my family. It gives me a small feeling of calm. If you feel that way too, take a few minutes this weekend to organize your refrigerator, and maybe the pantry or freezer too. A small investment of about 15 minutes will take you into the new week feeling slightly more in control.
- Plan your menu. Okay, you probably already do this, but in case you don’t – let me strongly recommend it! I sit down on Friday evening or Saturday morning and plan our meals for the next week, taking into consideration work schedules and evening activities and meetings. Then I write out my grocery list, based on the menu. If I didn’t do this, I would be completely crazy on weeknights.
- Put your Crockpot to work for you. On Saturday morning, put a whole chicken (or several large chicken breasts) in the Crockpot with a little bit of water or broth. (Amazon affiliate link – I use this programmable Crockpot, which makes my life just a little bit easier.) Let it cook all day on low. In the early evening, take it out, let everything cool down a bit. Remove the meat from the chicken (or refrigerate it and do it later), then use it for a couple of meals next week – a chicken dinner, chicken tacos, chicken stir fry, or a casserole. Wipe out the Crockpot and put in a pork roast or London broil with a little bit of water or broth. Let it cook all night on low. On Sunday morning, remove it and let it cool a bit, then shred it for next week. You can mix it with barbecue sauce for sandwiches or with salsa for tacos or burritos, or just serve it with rice and a salad.
- Organize breakfasts and snacks for next week. Think about your family’s schedule for the coming week. Will you need grab-and-go breakfasts some days? Can you put together some smoothie packs so that you can whip up healthy smoothies in a hurry? Will you need healthy snacks that the kids can eat at home after school, or quick snacks that they can eat in the car? Get some things organized and ready to go, so you’re prepared before the weekday craziness begins. Make some homemade energy bars, healthy homemade granola, or muffins. Package nuts or trail mix in snack bags or small containers that the kids can grab on the way out the door.
- Do some prep work. It’s easier to wash fruits and vegetables and cut them up on Sunday afternoon than on Wednesday evening after school, work, choir and soccer practice – just sayin’! Take an hour to wash fruits and vegetables, cut up vegetables that will be needed for recipes and salads, grate cheese (it freezes well) – anything that will save you time and hassle on weeknights. For more weekend food prep ideas, check out 10 Ways to Prep Food on Sunday to Eat Healthier All Week.
What are your strategies for reducing the stress that sometimes comes with keeping your family fed and happy? Please share them in the Comments – I would love to hear about what works for you.