2014 is only hours away! Have you made any resolutions? I stopped making those several years ago when I started having babies and now I do “goals” instead. These are things I’d like to do rather than things I will deny myself or make myself crazy in order to achieve. It feels like a kinder thing to do for myself. I’m usually looking to simplify things in my life. As a working mom, what takes up most of your evening besides bedtime? For me, it’s probably the dinner hour. Our family tries to always eat together. We can pull this off because I only work until 3pm and my husband is a teacher, so he’s able to get home before 5pm on most nights too. In addition to teaching, he’s also a professional musician, so there are also several nights he’s not home at all. The only thing that keeps me sane in the evenings is always knowing ahead of time what we’re going to be having for dinner. I’m sharing what works for us in case simplifying your evenings is something you’d like to try in 2014.
We always have a meal plan. We synch our digital calendars so we always know what’s for dinner that night and since we each have our meals we cook, we know who’s cooking. Calendar synching has become a huge help since we’ve had kids. I also usually write the meal plan on the white board on our fridge. My mom even got me a customized dry erase board for Christmas!
We have lots of easy go to recipes for meals we like. (I’ll provide some below to get you started!) I use Pinterest to store recipes if I want to try them and if they’re good, they make it on to a note card and into my physical recipe box. We tend to get in a funk and rotate the same 5-8 meals. But when I’m feeling particularly in the groove of life, I’ll mix it up by trying some new things. Meal planning saves me time other places during my week as well. Knowing what I’m going to eat all week means I’ll hopefully just need to go to the grocery store once during the week. If I have some time I can devote to cooking on Sundays, I’m able to reduce cooking time during those busy evenings. If I have food stored in the freezer I’ll save even more time!
Here are some tried and true recipes that have served us well.
-Not counting the baby, we all eat in the car.
• Green Smoothie: I prep the first part the night before – one or two bananas, two or three handfuls of spinach squished down, enough vanilla, unsweetened almond milk to cover banana and most of spinach. Then the next morning I add – a few handfuls of frozen fruit mix (the bag from Sam’s Club includes strawberries, peaches, pineapple, mango) and a cup or so of frozen blueberries. Blend until smooth and drink with a straw. I cut my daughter’s shake with whole milk to make it smoother for her to drink.
• Frozen waffles or pancakes: Can be store bought, or this is something that could be homemade on Sundays and eaten all week.
• Spinach Mini Muffins: I confess I’ve never made these, but one of my best friends makes and freezes them and I can vouch that they are delish and don’t taste like spinach. Kids will eat these!
• Hard boiled eggs: I hard boil a dozen eggs every Sunday. The secret to an easy to peel egg is to boil the eggs you bought the previously week (as long as the date is still good!).
• Mixed nuts: I buy big bags of almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, prunes and raisins and make my own trail mix. I make ten containers every Sunday so I just have to grab and go when packing lunches after the kids go to bed.
• Granola: This is my go-to recipe and it’s so simple. One batch lasts two weeks at least in our house.
– My husband and kids get the typical sandwich type lunch, but I like something different. I really like picking something to make on Sunday and eating it all week.
• Lunch Box Noodles: She says to keep the dressing on the side, but I don’t.
• Couscous: Mix together a box of couscous (prepared according to box), container of crumbled feta, can of diced tomatoes with green chilis (not drained), can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, can of drained and rinsed black eyed peas and some chopped green onions if you have them. This one is great cold or hot.
• The Lady’s Cheesy Mac: Perfect for making ahead of time and eating all week. You can also freeze before cooking, defrost and then bake. Or for the little ones, you could bake this in muffin tins and freeze small portions to defrost in the microwave. I also sometimes add cubed ham and frozen peas.
• Turkey Mini Meat Loaves: This recipe doesn’t make many and I usually quadruple and make a ton of these at once. They freeze very well and defrost easily for lunches or dinners. I’m not too particular about measuring ingredients exactly.
• Crock Pot Spinach Pesto Lasagna: I LOVE the crock pot. I’m wishing I would have asked for a crock pot with a timer for Christmas as this one can get a little dried out if overcooked. I don’t really measure out the ingredients but I do only use about 1/3 of the amount of pesto sauce and I mix it with the ricotta.
• Frozen Yogurt: Take whipped yogurt and put it into a zip lock bag. Cut the corner of the bag off and use bag to make “dots” of yogurt on cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Freeze and then serve as “dessert.”
We also eat a lot of pasta with red sauce and are big fans of breakfast for dinner! There’s nothing earth shattering about the meal planning plan I’ve written about above and the recipes are pretty run of the mill, but maybe one of them will speak to you and make at least one night this week a little easier for your family. I hope you’ll also consider posting a link in the comments to your favorite easy, week night recipe or something you make ahead of time to eat all week or to freeze.
Happy New Year – from my family to yours!