If you’re making dinner at breakfast, when do you make breakfast?
We discussed that dilemma this fall when I shared a reader problem about balancing real food cooking with working outside the home. The problem with using a slow cooker meal for dinner is that you have to prepare it at breakfast, so how is breakfast going to fit in?
The KS community chimed in with tons of ideas for this busy mom to help her with breakfast, and since all these children seem to need to eat multiple times per day, it was only natural that advice flowed about dinner, too – so much so that it deserved a separate post!
I’ve touched on the subject of busy dinner planning before:
- Working Moms 13 Tips for Sane and Quick Meals
- Freezer to Slow Cooker Dinners (so you don’t have to prep them at breakfast!)
- What to Eat When You’re Too Busy to Think
- Convenience Foods that Aren’t a Compromise (love to see more additions to this list; I’m sure it’s out of date)
I tend to use Plan to Eat off and on for meal planning, and I wish I used it 100% regularly, because if I did – I could just grab an old meal plan of my own, made exactly the way I like it including planning what needs to be prepped, and repeat it.
Now for the good part – the wisdom of women from all over the world, coming together in one place to help other stressed-out mommas who want to prioritize real food for their families! The major categories are freezer cooking, batching tasks, utilizing the weekend, predictable meal patterns, and great planning. Lots of lots of smart moms out there!
- When I cook dinners I make double or triple. (Like tons of grilled chicken) I slice or dice it & freeze it so I can throw it on pasta or salads when needed. It definitely takes time & planning, but I make it a priority since I know it’s important for our health & my sanity!!
- We have been doing batch cooking on Sundays for the week. Getting lunches premade and cooking several meals on Sunday to eat during the week.
- Key is to make multiple meals on the weekends. I do this around game schedules on Saturday AND Sunday (who schedules games on Sunday?!). You can too, just have your grocery list ready!
- I also prep and cook a lot on the weekend or days off so I can make dinner in 30 minutes or less during the week.
- After dinner each night, I make tomorrow’s dinner either in full or load the crock pot to go on in the morning. This summer I have been cheating and we have had a protein (like a whole chicken or roast in the crock pot) and lots of fresh garden veggies cut up on the side.
- Ready made frozen pizzas, then I add more toppings like greens etc. I find, even if on a weekend, all I manage to do is precook a few things and freeze them – putting it all together is easier during the week.
- Freezer cooking. Seriously, that’s the only way I get decent food on the table regularly. Especially for breakfast. And prep ahead on the weekends – hard boil a few dozen eggs, bake a few batches of muffins, slice cheese, chop veggies, and make hummus for lunches, etc.
- Spend a day stocking the freezer. I stay home but it’s still hard it was almost impossible working without batch cooking. Even just spending a few hours cutting up all the vegetables for the week make it much easier to dump in the crock pot, steamer, soup or roasting tray. I also always try to stick an extra squash or chicken every time I run the oven so the nights we get tied up there is food cooked even if it’s not the best meal in the world.
- I used a lot of crockpot recipes and on the weekends I would double up recipes to keep extras in the freezer. I would also try to get something in the oven while getting the kids ready for bed so it would have time to cool before I had to go to bed.
- I’m a work at home mom and preparing good meals can be a challenge. We do our shopping and then I prep food all afternoon for the week. Veggies and fruit are cleaned and cut if needed, onions are pre-chopped and eggs are boiled, salads are prepped. This speeds things up tremendously.
- I have 2 crock-pots. One is often used for dinner and the other is for overnight oatmeal. I also take advantage of “free” time to make freezer meals, both for dinners and breakfasts (sandwiches, burritos). It is a great activity to do with kids as it is a bonding time, a teaching time, and it gets something done that needs to be done.
- Ok and for night, we have tacos or nachos once a week, “salad bar” once a week. In that order, you can have your veg cut for tacos, and all leftovers can be used in salads the next night. I keep all toppings separated on a platter so everyone can customize, there’s hard boiled eggs or roasted chicken or taco meat for protein, and croutons for fun. Everyone loves it here. In cold months, we have soup once a week, often from the crock pot. And I love to roast a whole chicken and carrots and have green beans (frozen, then steamed) once a week too. You could cook the chicken at night and reheat the next day. We are a little 1950’s around here: taco Tuesday! Salad bar Wednesday! It’s pretty predictable, but that makes shopping easier, too.
- For dinners, I cook a couple of dishes on Sunday or Monday and then we eat on those all week; I don’t always get home in time to cook each evening.
- I like to cook up several pounds of cooked meats to put in the freezer. And or cook double or triple batches of meals. Sloppy joes, enchilada casserole, soups, etc all freeze quite well. Hang in there, Mama. It is so tough.
- One of my favorite things to do is make a huuuge pot of soup when I have time, freeze half of it, and use the rest in different ways. First, soup/salad/grain/optional protein. Then pour it over quinoa, noodles, or potatoes and you have casserole. Put it in ramekins, top with cheese or nutritional yeast and bake. Under mashed potatoes for shepherds pie. If you have leftovers still, put some different veggies and a strong spice like curry or chili in and nobody will know that they are still eating the soup from last Sunday. Good luck; you can do it!
- Always cook twice as much meat as you need for any recipe, put the extra meat in the freezer. DON’T use it the same week. You can use your crock pot at night to cook breakfast meal for morning, then use it again for cooking meals for supper that night. Make clean up easy with either cooking bags or line you crock pot with foil. Spend some time doing meal prep, even a little prep time can go along ways. When doing pancakes or waffles, make extra and freeze them. When making soups or sauce, make more and either freeze it or can it. Date it and be sure to use it within the next few weeks. If you get into a habit of making a little more, then each month you will see that you are lets stressed on what to fix, you will just have to decide what to fix from the items you already have made and frozen.
- While the kids were at the table eating breakfast, I would prep for dinner and put it in the fridge to slide in the oven when I got home. Make breakfast simple.
- I either use the crockpot or do something really fast like grill burgers or chicken and serve with raw veggies and/or fruit. Tacos and pasta with meat sauce are also really quick (especially if you have pre-cooked meat in the freezer) and serve with a basic salad. Utilize your days off to prepare as much as possible for the days you work.
- I always plan it the night before and make sure I have everything I need so I can just come home from work and put it straight on. I cook most things from scratch as I don’t like processed and find a spaghetti bolognese or home made fajitas with salad gets done quicker than say pizza and chips
- Also, cooking in BULK once a week. Like making a whole bunch of (organic grass fed) ground beef lightly seasoned. Some with Italian spices some as taco meat. Roasting a whole chicken (or 2) and then butchering it up to throw on salad or with steamed veggies. I think when you focus on actual meals first (not recreating all the processed junk food goodies) you can make the time. I would love to bake all day haha but actual cooking comes first.
- I know that my both working full time friends spend a chunk of time on the weekend prepping food- freezer to slow cooker meals, cutting veg for lunches, etc…
- Finally – you must let yourself off the hook if you think you need to make fancy recipes. Your family is leading a life that calls for simplicity. A protein, a vegetable, a grain (hold on gluten-free gang…no grains if you don’t eat them) and you’re done.
- I used to put my crock pot dinner together the night before, after the kids went to bed and stick it in the fridge until morning. Simple, easy, and I wouldn’t forget an ingredient in the morning rush.
- I know one friend (w/4 under 4) has a rule she makes “1 thing – 1 or 2 from freezer.” Whatever she makes she makes fresh 1 for that night and 3 to freeze. Takes out 1 or 2 from the freezer so they have variety.
I’m terrible at truly bulk cooking, but I love making big batches and freezing half. You gotta do whatever works best for your personality, but there ARE ways to make real food work even when you’re crazy busy!
This post is part of a mini meal planning series, including so far:
- How to Get out of a Meal Planning Rut
- The Ultimate Meal Planning Guide to Eat Real Food Every Night
- The Busy Mom’s Guide to Getting Real Food on the Breakfast Table
- How to Survive Dinner Time When Your Meal Plan Falls Apart
- and more to come!
Disclosure: Plan to Eat is a sponsor of KS receiving their complimentary mention in a post.