Though I’m a working mom, I try my best to keep the house together. On most days, it works. I’ve got a system, my husband helps a lot, and so far, my kids are healthy, decently clothed, and haven’t accidentally burned the house down.
But I’ll admit that there are days when I’m too tired, too swamped, too cranky to think about what to cook for dinner. So I order pizza, and everyone’s happy. But during hell weeks (like what I’ve just been through) even the kids start complaining that they’re sick of takeout.
In desperation, I asked fellow working moms on REALISTIC ways for busy moms to make and execute a meal plan. These are their tips.
Organize your kitchen
Cooking becomes easier if everything’s at your fingertips. Store frequently used tools near the oven or stove, so you’re not running around looking for a spatula or a can opener. Fix your spice rack so that the most frequently used spices are in the front row. Or, alternatively, organize the spices alphabetically. And, knowing your own cooking style and meal preferences, keep your favorite ingredients right on the kitchen counter. This includes salt, peppe (and for me) olive oil, garlic, onions, and fresh tomatoes. Throw out rarely used equipment and ingredients that are just cluttering up the shelves (I ended up giving my garlic press and egg slicer away—never saw the point of it).
It helps to have a supermarket routine. Once a month I do a HUGE shopping expedition where I stock up on cleaning products, pantry staples, and things like toilet paper and kitty litter. Then, every week, I get the fresh produce, meat, and milk products. But before I do that, I check the pantry to see what ingredients I have left. ‘Oh, I’ve got two cans of red beans. Hmm, that would be great for chili—get ground meat and nachos.’ If I don’t know what to do with an ingredient, I go to the web and do a recipe search based on it.
Have at least 10 Lazy Day recipes
These are really easy, fool-proof recipes that you can finish in 20 minutes with minimum effort and no worries. Two of mine are olive oil and garlic pasta, and minestrone. I’ve done these so many times I don’t even have to measure, and I always have these ingredients in stock. Also look at the recipes on the websites or labels of your favorite products. Many of these companies have amazing test kitchens, and have come up with creative ways to use a ready-made ingredient.
For more tips, read our article on the 10 commandments of meal planning
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