It’s 5:30 pm. You’ve had a long day, the kids are melting down, and everyone wants to know “what’s for dinner?” You’re staring at the fridge and there’s nothing to eat. And you think to yourself…cereal or take-out food? Didn’t we just do that last night?
I’ve been there, and so has every other mother I know. Nobody told me how difficult dinner would become once you have a busy family. In my search for answers, I asked another busy mom and holistic health coach Lisa Dahl of A Studio at 68, for her favorite tips and tricks that she shares with her clients.
Lisa’s answer? Start with an easy meal plan.
Make a Realistic Plan Based on Your Family’s Needs
You may be tempted to grab a generic meal plan off of the internet, but will it really fit your needs? Take a second over a cup of coffee and look at your week. What does it really look like? Think about the days you can spend cooking, and which days you will be on-the-go with no time to cook, and plan accordingly.
“Meal planning looks different for everyone,” says Lisa. “It’s about creating a plan that works for you and your family.”
Have a Sunday afternoon with some free time? Use that time to chop and prep. Cook some base ingredients ahead of time. Multi-tasking at its finest.
Is your spouse traveling for work? If so, you’ll have your hands full running the household by yourself. “Freeze some soups, chilis, or stews ahead of time”, advises Lisa, then reheat and supplement with a side dish and quick salad.
Do you have kids’ activities in the evenings? Make a few meals with extra portions to reheat later, or the ingredients to throw together a sandwich wrap or hearty salad in minutes.
Having a meal plan keeps things simpler and never leaves you off guard. Do you ever get to dinner time and realize that you forgot to defrost the chicken? Having a schedule and reminders of what meals are coming up keeps you on track.
Meal Planning App Saves The Day
Are you the type that writes up your grocery list on paper, crossing things off as you go? Or do you “wing it” at the supermarket and see what inspires you?
Using an electronic meal planner kills two birds with one stone: it generates your grocery list so you don’t have to write anything down, and it also saves your favorite recipes to cycle through “so you can rinse and repeat,” Lisa says.
Using the calendar function “gives structure to your meal planning and saves time,” she explains. What’s even better? Some apps have multiple logins, so your spouse and your kids can add to the shopping list themselves.
Cook Once, Use Twice
The first thing Lisa asks is “how can you re-purpose this?” Save time by cooking/preparing enough for one or more meals can save you lots of time and mix in some variety with the right ingredients.
For example, roasting a chicken with loads of carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes can not only be a complete meal, but the leftover chicken can be the protein base of several meals, such as chicken salad sandwiches or diced roasted chicken over orzo with vegetables. Lisa also recommends making large batches of low processed grains (such as quinoa and farrow) and roasted vegetables on a single day, to be used over several days.
Have a mix of veggie or meat leftovers? Mix them into a frittata for a quick and easy meal that cleans out the fridge.
Do Your Best, and then Let Go
Don’t get too wrapped up in eating perfectly. Just focus on providing nourishing meals as best you can, and let go of the rest. “The more real food you eat on a regular basis, the less you have to worry about the calories, fat, and sodium,” says Lisa.
Using an easy but structured plan to increase the amount of nourishing and balanced meals will free up your time to enjoy your family and your busy life.
Love Lisa’s Tips? You should check out her interactive meal planning workshops in Hudson, MA. I have personally attended Lisa’s workshop, and not only did I leave with several new tips and tricks, but she fed us a healthy delicious meal to boot! Lisa also offers one-on-one health coaching to be “happy, healthy, and confident at any size.” Look up Lisa at https://astudioat68.com.
Photos courtesy of Modern Brand Photography