*This post is sponsored by Clorox. All opinions are my own. The amazing ideas, however, have mostly been contributed by the moms in the DudeMom Facebook community. They seriously rock.*
Cooking at home and creating weeknight meals for my family is one of my biggest challenges as a mother.
The endless cycle of busy work schedules, long commutes, evening activities, weekend commitments, part-time jobs, and owning a business all add to my nightly “what’s for dinner” frustration.
And I’m tired. So. So. Tired.
When 2019 started, I knew that I wanted to really work on tackling this issue for my family this year, especially when it comes to cooking at home and weeknight meals.
I’ve written about my challenges with cooking at home several times, and I’ve failed at it even more, so I wanted this year to be different.
Instead of just jumping into 2019 by saying I WILL BE BETTER AT COOKING AT HOME, I spent some time figuring out the things that make creating weeknight meals consistently feel basically impossible, and I decided to tackle them before really dedicating myself to the task.
Time is one that I have little control over. We have certain days where we are out of the house collectively from 7am until 8 or even 9pm and that’s just not about to change.
That said, I truly believe others, like meal preferences, meal creativity, kitchen prep, organization, shopping, and kitchen cleanliness to name a few, can be modified in a way that will make cooking at home an easier reality.
With all of this in mind, I feel like I’m ready to tackle this monster once and for all!
Step One: Set a specific and realistic goal. For me, that’s creating three at home meals per week, because that’s what I can commit to based on our current family schedule.
Step Two: Create a game plan.
Naturally, I turned to Facebook, from where all great ideas come, and asked the DudeMom community to help me get on track.
They shared how they make cooking at home work for their families while dealing with various challenges from food allergies to busy weeknight schedules and here’s what works.
Cook More at Home: Real Parents Share How They Make Weeknight Meals Work
Kondo your kitchen.
Cluttered countertops don’t give me an ounce of joy so I’ve gotten rid of (or packed away) all of the small appliances I rarely use. I have my air fryer and my blender on my counters and that’s it. It means I have an open space to work in when I’m ready to work. –DudeMom
And keep it clean.
I’m super strapped for time, but on nights that I do cook, starting with a clean and organized spaces helps me save time. I love prepping food on my beautiful, oversized kitchen island—it’s roomy enough for me to really go to work—but, the threat of foodborne illnesses is real if you’re not diligent about keeping these spaces clean. Clorox makes that easy. After a night in the kitchen, I am diligent about spraying down my surfaces with Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach. It kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses found in the home, including many of those found in the kitchen.
And, it’s simple enough to use that my family can easily pitch in. Then, when it’s time to prep lunch or cook dinner the next night, I know everything, from my countertops, to stove, and sink are ready to go.”
I used to omit bleach from clean up in my kitchen because I was afraid it would contaminate our food, but I’ve discovered that both Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach and Clorox® Regular Bleach2 are great additions to my cleaning regimen in every room, including the kitchen. They only require a rinse off to be safe for use in areas where I prepare food, and they leave all of my surfaces cleaner and healthier for my family. –DudeMom
Involve the whole family to help with creativity.
“After all these years of cooking for my family, I have lost all creativity in meal planning. So every Saturday morning, I ask each member of my family to choose a dinner that they want this week. Then I shop for all necessary ingredients. Since I work full time, my husband is the one who starts dinner most week days. Since he’s been part of the meal planning, he knows what our options are and can start dinner without me!” –Kim H.
“Everyone in my family picks one dinner choice (5 of us) and I plot out my grocery list based on that… The other two days are usually leftovers/going out … Menu is written up on the chalkboard in the kitchen.” –Elisa LK
Prep your staples in advance so you always have something on hand.
“When I find a sale on something like London broil I buy a few packages and prep it different ways. Slice some for pepper steak make one into cubes. season one traditionally and freeze them. Then at night I will take out a package for the following day.” –Alexis M.
Use a meal planning site or app to manage your menu and take the guess work out of what to cook.
“I struggle a lot. I’m a single parent so dinner prep (and meals in general) all fall on me. It’s a lot! And, like you, I have very limited time and prefer to spend it with my kids. I do get them involved when I can. I also try to batch cook. So on a Sunday afternoon, we’ll make four or five different things to reheat during the week. That way I’ve only got one day to clean the kitchen and do all those dishes… I also love Amiyrah Martin’s Meal Plan Rock Star course. It tells you everything you need to know to get started: https://4hatsandfrugal.com/mealplanrockstar” –Lynn W
“I use MyFitnessPal. It holds me accountable for having pretracked recipes and meals.” –BK K.
Utilize prepared food to save time and allow for variety and nutrition.
“Costco. That’s it. They have everything already made! You just heat it up. Our favorites- rotisserie chicken, premade mashed potatoes, package of pork bbq (we heat and add sauce), lasagna, fettuccine w/chicken.” –Kris S.
Enroll in a meal plan delivery service to save time and effort while adding variety to your weeknight meals.
“We meal plan on Saturday, and my husband goes shopping Sunday morning. We do take advantage of Hello Fresh and Plated. It started as a way to get us out of our rut, but we’ve been doing it for 1 1/2 years now and I don’t see us stopping. Some weeks we completely skip the delivery, but we have some favorite recipes that we make.” –Kristen B.
Buy an instant pot.
“I just keep lots of meat on hand. Ground beef, roasts, steaks, chicken breasts. And I invested in an instant pot and I use the crockpot A LOT. I pop meat in before I leave for my off the farm job in the morning and we eat whenever sports practices are over. Or if I forget to put meat in the crockpot before work then I put it in the instant pot, set it, and can walk away and get farm chores done. We usually don’t eat until 7:30 on a good night but we make it work.” –Shoshannah R.
Keep staples on hand.
“Sometimes when I meal plan, it creates too much pressure. But if have staples (onion, garlic, cilantro, green onion, rice, pasta), assorted canned beans, frozen veggies, and cheese, it makes it easy to throw something together within half an hour. Extra points if I have simple salad ingredients in the fridge. Sauces help take simple ingredients into an even more appealing situation.” –Shokufeh R.
Prep many meals ahead.
“One thing I like to do is make a big meal 2-3 times a week that will leave leftovers for the next night. I’m also a HUGE fan of freezer cooking. So on really busy weeks, I have something I can just throw in the slow cooker or instant pot.” –Rebeca H.
Order groceries for pickup.
“I’m not great about prepping but I’ve found what really helps me plan and make sure I’m cooking dinner at least 4-5 nights a week. I make a list of meals and do grocery pickup for everything. That may seem silly but I’ve found it significantly easier to plan meals when I can put things in my cart as I know what I need, and not forget anything, not spend time walking around the grocery store, etc..” -Shelby D.
“Stop feeling guilty about repeat meals. I have a list of about a dozen meals on heavy rotation. One night a week is pizza night so that’s easy. I try to do one “different” meal a week. That’s it. Everything else is rotated. Do at least one crockpot meal. You’re still cooking but it doesn’t feel like it. Breakfast for dinner is a thing. Add it to the rotation.” –Andrea U. (Be sure to check out Andrea’s blog for some great weeknight meals too!)
Want more tips to help you get your weeknight meals in order? Check out the Facebook page to see more tips from parents: DudeMom
Need some weeknight meal ideas for your family? Click on the pics below to see a few that are a hit with my dudes: