When I worked in the corporate world, I ate out at fast food places and restaurants more than I care to admit. It was fast, easy, and other people could clean up and do the dishes for me. Score!
Of course, I wasn’t living my healthiest life back then either. I gained 10 pounds in just a few years, was totally stressed out, and spent almost every complaining about how much I hated my job and wondered if I’d ever get out of the crazy stressful pull-my-hair-out-and-start-screaming lifestyle I found myself in – only in my early 20’s.
Given the fact that meal time can be one of the most chaotic times of day, it’s tempting to want to hop out to restaurants or drive thru’s just to get a break from the kitchen. Between prepping, cooking, eating, and cleaning – some days, I swear I spend more time in the kitchen than anywhere else in the house.
But even now, I’m a lot happier about my eating habits than I ever was in my previous life as a corporate employee.
Because I can say that I take full responsibility for the food that’s hitting the table for myself and my family. I know what ingredients go into the meals I make – and I know the quality of those ingredients, because I select them each and every week. I don’t visit restaurants and fast food joints nearly as often as I used to – sure, they’re a simple way to get food to the table, but I don’t feel nearly as healthy, energized or good in my body when I eat there.
Even though meal times have the potential to be crazier than others during the day, over the past few years, I’ve been working on a few ways to simplify them overall. I do this so I can have less time in the kitchen and more time with my family, my husband, and better yet – taking care of myself.
Now, here are the three ways that I make my life easier to get healthy meals to the table – even on the busiest of days (and you can too!):
1. Create a meal plan
One of the biggest time-wasters when cooking while I worked in the corporate world was trying to figure out what to eat for dinner each night. I’d come home, stare into the fridge, eventually either throw something haphazardly together (“spaghetti again??“) or make my way to the grocery store for more ingredients. Not too efficient then – and certainly not sustainable for a soon-to-be at-home mama now.
Each week, I sit down for 15 minutes to set intentions for my meals. I take a look at my upcoming week, check out what activities I have coming up that might take me away from prepping or cooking a full meal and plan around them. Some weeks that means I need a lot of 20-minute meals or rollover ingredients (ingredients that I cook for one meal but use leftovers for something else). While other weeks are completely free and clear to cook and eat leisurely all week long.
Check out my popular “How To Menu Plan For Your Week In 15 Minutes” post to see how my process comes to life.
2. Get ahead with prep sessions during the week
Prep sessions can be a huge way to simplify meal times. Instead of spending an hour cooking dinner in the middle of the week, taking the time on the weekend or one evening to prep a few major ingredients can free up your busy weeknight evenings.
You can prep as much or as little as you like – from getting all ingredients for the week’s meals chopped and organized then back in the fridge to just prepping a few healthy snacks and dressings for salads to save a few minutes during meal times later.
Some of my favorite things to prep ahead are: big batches of whole grains (brown rice or quinoa usually), snack dips (hummus, guacamole, homemade salsa) or salad dressings, crock pot meal ingredients, salad greens, and batches of soup for lunches.
3. Make use of your slow cooker
Slow cooking (aka using your crock pot) is a huge time saver, because you can spend 15 minutes in the morning prepping ingredients and have a healthy and tasty meal at-the-ready in the evening. This type of cooking doesn’t require much thinking ahead either – unless of course, you want to prep or chop ingredients ahead and have them available for you in the freezer. You can easily find great crock-pot recipes on Pinterest or doing a quick Google search.
You don’t need to head out in order to catch a break from the insanity of the kitchen. Just by putting a few systems in place, you can use your time like a pro, get healthy meals to the table, and still have time left over in the evening for spending time with your family.
Now it’s your turn – leave a comment and share which one of these strategies you’ll try to simplify your meal times. Or, if you already implement these – share which one you think has made the biggest difference in your schedule.