Awhile back, Trixie asked me for some tips on meal preparation for those who work outside the home. I don’t feel in any way qualified to answer, because a good many nights, I'm still muddling along.
However, here are some things I’ve learned over the last year that I’ve been working full time (and if I’d fully utilize them, I’d do much better at this meal prep thing!):
*Make a menu plan that has easily prepared dinners on it
*Make enough at dinner for lunch the next day
*Go shopping only once a week
*Buy healthy "easy" items: prepared vegetables (frozen or fresh, but not from the deli--too expensive!), pre-washed salad (note to self: serve the salad!), and easy to prepare veggies/fruits.
*Resist the urge to “grab” something instead of making dinner
*Utilize your crock pot
*Get the dishes done early in the evening
I try to keep my meals simple. Indeed, if I put something on my menu that takes a lot of time in the kitchen, chances are, I’ll look at the menu, look in the refrigerator and decide to make something else. After I’ve been gone all day long, I really don’t feel like being a gourmet chef!
I typically do my shopping on Saturday. I make sure to get everything I’ll need for the coming week. It really kills dinner time if I have to go out to the store first, and then make dinner!
I do not use my crock pot often enough. There are so many good crock pot meals out there! One cookbook that I highly recommend is Fix it and Forget it. It’s a wonderful cookbook full of delicious meals! One thing that I do from time to time is prepare the crock pot meal the night before. I put everything in the crock pot, and put it in the refrigerator. When I get up in the morning, all I have to do is put the pot in the heater, and make sure to turn it on. The turning on part is very important! Yes, I’ve gone to all the work of making a meal, and then walked out of the house without turning it on. Needless to say, it’s very disappointing to come home to a cold crock pot.
Another way I use my crock pot (and again, not often enough!) is to cook parts of my meal in it. If I need cooked chicken for a recipe, it is so very nice to come home and have the chicken cooked and ready to go! It's amazing how quickly you can get the meal on the table if you have even a few ingredients ready to go. I’ve baked potatoes in the crock pot too-—very handy.
And then, if the dishes don’t get done (guilty here) it takes way longer to fix dinner the next day.
Now, for something that I would love to do: freezer meals. I’ve done some freezer meals in the past, and I’m telling you, it’s so awesome to have meals in the freezer. It takes extra effort, but it’s worth it when you pull out a meal to defrost and all you have to do for dinner is heat it, make a salad/vegetable.
I think these are tips that anyone, working or not, can utilize! Happy cooking!