You’re a busy mom with kids, and you’ve read it all: use the crockpot, eat frozen pizza, cook in bulk. But, today, I’m sharing some tips and tricks that you may have never thought of that will save you HOURS of kitchen work and get you cooking healthy, at-home meals! Whether you stay home, work, have one child or five, you will LOVE these unique, time-saving ideas that will get healthy meals on the table and keep you sane in the process!
1. Get dinner ready at breakfast (or lunch)
This tip is a game-changer once you get into the habit of it! The trick is to prep dinner while your children are eating breakfast and are semi-entertained. For some of you moms, this may be as simple as pulling chicken out of the freezer, chopping veggies for the salad, and setting out the box of mashed potatoes. For others, this may be dumping all your ingredients into a crockpot and getting it set before work. Maybe you can’t actually cook at this tme, but something as simple as deciding what dinner will be will save you that headache and stress in the evening. With toddlers at home, I prep my dinner while they are eating lunch and actually get the dinner cooking at the same time. It may be cooked by 3pm, but warming it up is WAY easier than trying to cook at 5pm with babies hanging on my legs screaming for food. You’ve been there, right?!
2. Freeze unexpected things
We all know that cooking large portions of stews and casseroles and freezing the leftovers is a timesaver, but did you know you can freeze OTHER meals, too? I freeze muffins, pancakes, and waffles that are our go-to breakfast and snack foods. I even whip up a big batch of smoothies and freeze individual portions. I can pull one out at a time, warm up quickly in the microwave, and have a healthy breakfast in under a minute! There are SO many great freezer-meal websites, but I LOVE Once a Month Mom for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas.
3. Keep a snack tray in the fridge/pantry
This is especially helpful for those with the always-hungry-toddlers. I will spend 20 minutes one day cutting up fruits and veggies, portioning serving sizes of cooked chicken, or organizing other cold snacks all on one tray that goes in the fridge. I will do the same for a basket in the pantry of non-perishables like nuts, dried fruit, chips, crackers, etc. When the kids are hungry, they have a healthy snack choice ready to grab, and you don’t have to stop everything you are doing to cut up a pineapple. This is also a great way to streamline lunches for the week: pre-make sandwiches and lunch options and have everything ready to go and all in one place.
4. Make breakfast at night
When the kids are tucked in bed and you’re ready to crash, the last thing you want to do is get in the kitchen and work. But, I promise, this one is SO HELPFUL! Take 20-30 minutes right before you turn on that DVR to whip up a batch of muffins or pancakes. Once everything is cooked and cooled, just store in the fridge until the morning. When the kids wake up starving, you can zap in the microwave for 30 seconds and give them a warm start to their day (while you focus on making coffee!)
5. Have a LOW drawer or cabinet just for kid dishes
This tip goes more under the “organization” category and will save you time in the long run. We all want our kids to be helpers and contribute to household chores, so having their dishes on a LOW shelf that they can reach and access is a great way to start this. Even my 16 month old knows how to go to her shelf and bring mommy a bowl (after she plays with it a bit!) As kids get a little older, they can help unload their dishes from the dishwasher, set kid places at the table, and even get their own cups/spoons/etc. instead of ALWAYS asking you. They are proud to do the job on their own, and you have one less thing to do!
6. Go to bed with an empty sink
Toys may be everywhere and laundry may be piled high, but waking up to a clean, dish-free sink in the morning will get your day off to a smooth start! If the first chore I have to do in the morning is wash last night’s pan so I can scramble this morning’s eggs, I promise I will not be a happy momma! Starting the day with dishes clean and the kitchen ready to go not only gets you cooking breakfast and (hopefully) prepping dinner faster but also gets you in the right mood. So, take the extra 5 minutes and go to bed with an empty sink!
7. Order groceries and toiletries online
I’m obsessed with Amazon, specifically Amazon Mom Subscribe & Save! We have brown, happy boxes at our doorstep a few times a week. WHY? Because I hate going to a store if I can buy it online– faster and a lot of times for less. I buy canned goods, snacks, toilet paper, paper towels, baking items, diapers, and wipes all from Amazon and have them shipped to my doorstep. If I time everything correctly, there is never a day we don’t have applesauce and diapers in the house. And I can spend less time in the grocery store going up and down every aisle. This saves me TONS of time in the long run, and I don’t know how our mothers lived without it. 🙂
8. Grocery shop at night
When you do have to grocery shop, I prefer late evening (after bedtime late!) The store is practically empty, so I can go as fast or slow as I please. I’m alone, so I don’t have toddlers screaming at me and making me forget 10 things on my list. And the lines are really short. I love going at night, especially if I’m buying a lot at once for some bulk cooking. You can hang out in the meat department and search for the best deals without having to be rushed. I’ve noticed that Monday and Tuesday night are the best for good sale prices.
9. Have meal tricks up your sleeve
This tip may require a little searching on Pinterest, but it is so smart to have some quick meals ready to go. You may be a whiz at bringing home a rotisserie chicken and turning it into something fabulous. You may always have those stand-by pantry items that turn into something amazing when combined. (We love this Easy Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Pasta!) Whatever it is, do a little research and aim to always have those ingredients on hand. This will save you from spending extra on take-out one night, not to mention raising you to Mom of the Year standards when you save the day at dinner!
What are your time-saving tips for the kitchen?
And we’ve been pinning away on Pinterest to share some easy recipes and more time-saving kitchen tips from around the web! Check it out!