Here are 8 quick and easy meal prep ideas for busy moms! Don’t waste your money grabbing fast food for dinner that nobody even appreciates. These tips make meal preparation so easy, you will be able to make meals fast and with much less stress!
8 Quick And Easy Meal Prep Ideas For Busy Moms!
For several years I was a working mom, often putting in 60 hours a week. I never had money to go out to eat, even for fast food, so I had to make 3 meals a day for us.
I tried many different ways to do this, including the marathon cooking of freezer meals for a week or a month, which did not work for me. After a long exhausting week at work, spending most of my Saturday and Sunday cooking meals all day for a week or a month was just too much. Just going to the store to buy the groceries required for that amount of cooking was hair raising. So I came up with my own meal prep method that took less time and didn’t wear me out. It also left me time to spend with my family on the weekends.
My system required no more than 15 minutes each evening prepping for the next day and 15 minutes at meal time. It was so much easier and faster than scheduling a whole day or weekend at a time to cook.
Here are some of the things that worked for me:
Decide what you are going to have the night before and take it out of the freezer. This is the number one thing in meal prep for 3 reasons:
- A. You can take the meat or casserole out of the freezer and have it thawed by the next morning. In the morning, you can start cooking it or have it ready to cook later. This saves time and energy and also eliminates the need to frantically try thawing it 5 minutes before you need to cook it.
- B. Since the meal is already partly prepared, you are less tempted to just grab expensive fast food at the end of a long day. If you already have the meat thawed or cooking, you are more motivated to spend a few minutes finishing the meal so you don’t waste it.
- C. This third reason is more important than you realize: Preparing ahead will take a big weight off of your shoulders. We moms often tuck things into the backs of our minds that we need to do. These things stay there all day like a heavy burden, even though we often don’t realize it. Before I started this system, I would often ruminate throughout the work day, “I need to figure out what to have to have for dinner,” or, “What am I going to make for dinner?” These thoughts would bounce around my head all day, stealing my energy. When I prepared things ahead of time, I didn’t give dinner a second thought.
Keep it simple.
You don’t need to feed your family a 7 course gourmet meal. Spaghetti with sauce from a can is OK. Serve it with a tossed salad and it makes a perfect meal. You don’t need to spend all Saturday at the Farmer’s Market looking for the perfect peaches to bring home to peel and slice for dinner. Just open a can of peach halves, top with a little whipped topping or cinnamon and you’ll be good to go.
I give you permission to serve breakfast for dinner a couple of times a week, guilt free. It is ok to serve hot dogs, chips and some sliced cold veggies – with the hot dogs nuked in the microwave. Relax. You family would much rather have a simple meal and a happy mom than a mom who is stressed and full of guilt.
Keep a well stocked pantry, freezer and fridge.
Pick out five or ten of your family’s favorite meals and keep the ingredients for those meals on hand at all times. Make sure some of them are very easy and quick meals (like the ones mentioned under #2) and a few for when you have more time.
Here is a list of foods you always need in your pantry.
Prepare as much as you can the night before, or in the morning before you leave for work.
Set aside just 15 minutes each evening for meal prep for the next day. You will be amazed how much you can get done in that time, especially if you don’t answer your phone or waste time texting.
After dinner, the kids would do the dishes and clear the table and I would put away the leftovers. (This was also great “bonding” time.) I would prepare for tomorrow as we were cleaning up the kitchen. If we had leftover roast, I didn’t just dump it into a container and stick in the fridge. Instead, I would quickly shred half of it with my fingers (1 minute), grab the barbecue sauce and dump some on the roast. Then I would grab some hamburger buns out of the freezer. In just a couple minutes while cleaning up, I would have my main dish all ready for the next night.
Then I would slice the rest of the leftover roast (1-2 minutes) so it would be ready for sandwiches or I might cut it into chunks for beef and noodles. If I served a veggie relish dish at the same meal, I would quickly cut those leftovers and place them in a bowl, ready to add some lettuce or tomato the next day for a tossed salad. In just about 5 minutes more than most people spend putting away leftovers, I had half of my meals for the next day or two prepared and I didn’t have to worry about leftovers getting buried and never used.
Keep the kitchen clean.
No one wants to cook at all if you have to come home to a dirty kitchen that must be cleaned before you can even begin to make dinner. If you didn’t do it the night before, just spending 15 minutes in the morning before work cleaning the kitchen can change your whole world.
Keep basics prepared in the fridge to use for different meals.
I tried to keep the veggies that I used most often clean and prepared in the fridge. I would always keep things like carrots, celery and green pepper sticks cleaned and sliced. (These can easily be used for a relish dish, chopped for salad, for stir fry, in a stew or soup, as seasonings for other dishes, to make potato salad, and so on.)
I would always have hard boiled eggs on hand. (Useful for egg salad, chef salad, tuna salad, potato salad, whole for a lunch item or deviled eggs.)
I also made sure I always had grated cheese and chopped lettuce for a couple of days meals on hand.
When preparing meat for a meal, prepare enough of it for two or more meals.
Here’s another way to flex your freezer to make meals easier. When I need to cook 1 lb. of hamburger, I usually cook 2 lbs. and freeze the portion I am not using today in small packets for another meal. For other meats, I might cook extra chicken or an extra roast. Some people like to make one extra casserole when they’re already making one. It is much easier to make a second when you already have the ingredients out. Keeping extra packets of cooked hamburger or other meat in the freezer can save a lot of time on those really hectic days. This takes a lot less time and effort than marathon cooking, but it still gives you something quick and easy for those crazy days we all have.
Here are some other ways you can prep the night before or in the morning before you leave for work:
- Make Jello
- Cut up most of a tossed salad
- Mix all the dry ingredients for muffins so you only need to add the wet ingredients and bake. Better yet, bake them the night before during your 15 minute prep time.
- Clean veggies you are going to use.
- Put the meat in the pan or crockpot, ready to go, so all you have to do is stick it in the oven to slow cook before you leave for work.
- Slice French bread, butter it and wrap it in foil, ready to heat up.
- Set out things like the pans and dishes you will be using, so they are ready to use.
- If you are going to be baking something like biscuits or French fries, have the pan covered in foil and ready to go.
- If you are going to be cooking pasta, place the water in the pan before you leave so when you walk in the door, you can turn it on right away and start the water to boil.
- Make sure you take everything you will need out of the freezer, like whipped topping, meat, hamburger buns, French bread or rolls and make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand.
Click here to get the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, with tasty recipes and great tips to make your life easier and save you money!