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Meal prep 101 for all the busy people.

Okay, so, anybody who has been following me for any amount of time knows that I’m not a natural cook.  Meaning I don’t get excited at the thought of making meals for anybody, this includes myself, and my kids.  I gave them life, do I also have to feed them???  I’m kidding!  I’m totally joking, of course I fed them.

And truth be told, I actually love, love, LOVE to cook for a crowd.  Christmas dinner?  My hat goes in the ring.  A big Sunday dinner invite anybody and everybody over to eat?  Hell yeah.

But day in day out meals.  Good Lord, kill me now.  No thank you.  Can’t we just order in, or go out???  No, we cannot, for so many reasons.  It was this reality that always made meals a bit of a drag for me, especially because as the person in charge of mealtimes you don’t want your family to hate coming to the dinner table.  Which meant, changing it up, keeping it interesting, while also keeping it healthy.

This was, and continues to be a struggle for me, although I must say that only having to cook for Yannick and myself now has certainly lessened the expectation of dazzling the troops at meal time.  We’re both watching our waistlines, so our meals are pretty boring, a protein, yes, we eat animal protein, sorry, truly am if that offends, that is always accompanied with two veggie sides.  We don’t do sticky carbs, cuz we eat out enough and allow ourselves to have those when we’re “in somebody else’s” home, so to speak.  So my cooking life is pretty simple now, but, what to do if you’re in the thick of busy school and extra curricular activities?  How do you ensure that your family is eating well balanced, healthy meals, while keeping your home budget in line?

Planning that’s how.

If you want to have successful mealtimes you’re going to need to be organized, and this starts with knowing what the family schedule is doing, and then working around that.  Once you are clear on who is going to be where, when, then you can make the dinner menu for the week.  And, if your week gets increasingly busy as the days go by, then the meals toward the end of your week should be freezer friendly meals, or low prep time meals.  Whichever one you know is going to be the most helpful to you on the day that you need to feed your family.  Only you know how much time you have to cook on your busiest days, so make sure when you plan for your week you take those busy days into account, so you can be successful, and not stressed out when those meal times come.  For me those busier nights were oven cooked choices.  I used to love doing one oven cooked meal each week, which meant once the prep was done, the meal went into the oven and the oven did the rest of the work, leaving me free to help with homework, or pick up one of the girls from an activity.  Another helpful meal for this is anything that can go into a slow cooker at the start of the day and be ready just in time for dinner.  These are also huge life, and time savers!

I was also a big fan of meals that could do double duty.  Like a roast chicken, anything leftover from that became the next night’s chicken and veggie pasta, or chicken salad for lunches.  When planning meals try to think of, or find recipes that can do two jobs:  they’re great at dinner, and will help with a lunch, or, they can become something else for the next evening’s dinner.

Maybe you want to know how to keep your family excited about dinnertime??

My recommendation for this is that you pick ten family favourite dinners and put them into rotation for two weeks worth of meals, and then switch them all around for one month.  You only need ten staples because, if you’re married, you’re having a date night every Saturday.  Right???  Well if not, you are now.  For us Saturday’s were always date night, meaning the girls were on their own, and that was the night we allowed them to order in.  And Sunday, well Sunday was always a family dinner night, where I allowed the girls to pick what they would like to see on the menu.  They would help with getting the ingredients at the grocery store, for not only that meal but the entire week, and they would help prepare Sunday dinner.  It was a great way to get them excited about “working” in the kitchen, while teaching them skills that they needed for their future, it also relieved some of the cooking load from my shoulders.  Plus, it was always lovely to have their energy, laughter and help in the kitchen, it definitely made it a whole lot more fun, and much less like a chore.

In closing, if like me, you’re not naturally motivated in the kitchen, and need some help to find your cooking mojo; take some time to follow some chefs you like online.  Steal recipe inspiration from them to help make your meal time prep a little less daunting, and a lot more exciting.  Time to get organized, get inspired, and get cooking friends!!

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