And We Have To Feed All These People, Too?
Dinner time is a busy time in any family home. It's a time to come together after the day to reconnect and share the adventures and challenges from the hours gone by. I know far too well the various dilemmas that real moms face to get dinner on the table every. single. night. Plus for seasons when your family is involved in sports, extra lessons, and outside ministry commitments, those peaceful moments at the family dinner table can be few and far between some weeks.
That's why I wanted to share from my years of experience feeding my growing family of nine. Hopefully these 7 Sanity Saving Hacks for Busy Moms to Get Dinner on the Table will be helpful for you. Be sure to share your best tips for meal times for busy moms in the comments below!
Have a Meal Plan in Place
I created this free family meal planner collection for moms who need to meal plan weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. It also includes free recipe cards and bonus grocery shopping lists. Moms, we have to have a solid plan in place so we're not stuck ordering pizza or wildly throwing everyone a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. I like to plan out all of my family meals for the entire month (you can read more tips here in Large Family Meal Planning). This way I can base my once-a-month grocery shopping trip on the upcoming meal plan to include 90 meals plus 60 snacks. You can plan for the month, even if you grocery shop weekly. Additionally we all have to start somewhere, and planning weekly is a perfect place to start! A fun tip is, once you have several meal plans created, you can reuse your meal plans for upcoming weeks. You can do this!
Plan for Easy
You can make tuna cakes for the family or large family style stir-fry fried rice. Both take a bit of prep time and extra time on your feet that might not be best for nights when you have to quickly run out the door. You can plan a few easy nights as a gift to yourself each week. Use your Slow Cooker for simple meals such as Pulled Chicken BBQ in the Slow Cooker or Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie. Or plan in simple One-Dish Meals such as this Easy Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Oven Bake Recipe or a Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Bake.
Plan for the Crazy
And while you're planning for easy, go ahead and plan for crazy. Now, just how do you plan for the crazy, you ask? I plan for crazy (because we all know crazy happens!) by cooking ahead for the freezer.
Even with a baby, who was only a few months old at the time, I pulled all the kids together for a family style sanity freezer cooking day. We worked up 75 PBJs, 60 Bean Burritos, and 84 Muffins. I hear some of you already, Jamerrill that ain't healthy! I'll tell you one thing momma, crazy doesn't care about healthy. Crazy leads to driving a herd of children through Mcdonalds out of desperation to feed them because of fill-in-the-blank-here that meant running out the door haphazardly. $60 later I say it would have been nice to have a frozen stack of PBJs that someone could have quickly thrown in a book bag, along with grabbing a bag of apples and some water bottles. A quick PBJ from home would have been healthier than fast food in a pinch, for sure.
I like to take 1-2 afternoons a month and precook much of our meat, make a ton of muffins, precook french toast, pancakes, and more for crunch times in the coming days. I've lived this life long enough to know that I need to be prepared in advance as much as possible. Real life happens!
So do yourself a favor. Take an afternoon and do a few hours of freezer cooking, even if it's just once-a-month. Make yourself a few meals that will help your family in a crazy pinch, because those happen to us all!
Don't forget the Weekends
Don't tightly plan your meals for the week and forget to plan for the two days on the weekend as well. All those same sweet people are going to be staring at you Saturday afternoon wondering what's for lunch. We usually have some family activity on Saturday. Sunday brings with it morning church service, plus teen youth group in the evening. Because of busy weekends I usually plan a large weekend meal that we can have fresh Saturday like this simple Beans, Rice, and Cornbread recipe, which easily reheats for after church leftovers the following day.
Utilize those Leftovers
If you find yourself having some leftovers consistently, and I know that can change with needs and growth of children, go ahead and plan in a leftover night once-a-week. Reheat what you have available, throw those leftovers on the table, and call it something like Family Pot Luck Night!
Weekend Baked Spaghetti
Start Dinner in the Morning
Yes. Do it. In the morning, right around the time you get your coffee going or start pulling breakfast together, check your meal plan for the evening. Do you have ingredients for a healthy cabbage soup that need chopped up? Are you making a slow cooker meat loaf that needs to be pulled from the freezer? Whatever meal prep you can do in the morning will only set your day on course for a smoother family dinner time.
Employ the Troops
Don't do it all yourself, momma. If you have children old enough to call you "mom," then you have children who are old enough to have dinner time responsibilities. Have children help you set the table, and have children old enough pour and serve dinner time beverages. After dinner have the kiddos work as a team to clean up by clearing the table, loading the dishwasher (what's really helpful is if the dishwasher can be unloaded before dinner time so it's ready for dishes after dinner), wiping the table, and sweeping under the table. They just had a healthy and hardy meal that momma planned and cared for well in advance, so there's no reason why the family keep can't help with the clean up!
Ladies, if we can get ahead of the needs of our family by having doable meals thought out in advance, it can bring peace to others chaotic meal times. These are just some of my sanity saving hacks from seasons of having no clue what to feed these people. Be sure to share your best tips to ease meal time stress below!