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Do you dread the witching hour of around 5:00 when everyone young and old stares (or screams #truth) at you for food? Take the pain out of weeknight dinner planning by setting aside one hour every weekend to meal prep. Keep reading to learn how one hour can change your whole weeknight dinner experience.
Prioritize Your Time
While one hour a week is less than 1% of your waking hours, carving out even this small sliver of time can be difficult. Put it on the calendar and plan for it. Be consistent each week and make sure your family is aware that you are making your hour a priority. Treat this as work time and make sure your kids are either asleep or someone else’s responsibility. Within that one hour, create a game plan of what you want to cook when.
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How to Prep For Your Hour Of Dinner Planning
In order to make dinner planning a priority, strategize your grocery shopping in alignment with your hour. Determine what you want to accomplish during your hour of dinner planning and create a grocery list that will help achieve your cooking goals. To further save time, use your favorite grocery delivery service to bring you exactly what you need.
A few other tips for maximizing your dinner planning time:
- Marinate any meat you want to cook ahead of time.
- Preheat the oven and if you plan to cook meat on an outdoor grill, get the grill going.
- Set out all of the ingredients you will need to cook. Make sure to include the oils and spices!
- Have all pots and pans required set out and those used for the stovetop on the burner heating up.
- Line any pans going in the oven with foil to cut down on the mess.
- Set out enough food storage containers to fit at least 10-12 different foods.
What One Hour Looks Like For Dinner Planning
Once your time starts, it’s off to the races. An added bonus: you may burn enough calories by the end of the hour to qualify as a workout. Find your favorite play list or podcast, hit play, and start cooking.
In order to prepare enough meal components to make five nights worth of dinners, the following is an example of how you could maximize your 60 minutes:
- 0 to 15 minutes: Cut up sweet potatoes and toss in olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Place on one of the foil lined baking sheets and into the oven preheated to 450 for around 40 minutes tossing halfway through.
- 15 to 25 minutes: Place your marinated meat in the oven or on the grill. Ideas for meats include chicken breast, steak, and pork loin. Additionally put ground turkey or ground beef on the stovetop to cook.
- 25 to 40 minutes: Place enough rice for two meals in a rice cooker/instapot/on the stove. Boil water for noodles or quinoa. Flip the sweet potatoes in the oven. Drain the ground meat and put into food storage. Check on your meat.
- 40 to 60 minutes: Take out your sweet potatoes and drain your noodles. It is now time to slice and dice. Get that kitchen knife and hone your cutting skills by chopping up as many vegetables as your family will eat. Some well-loved suggestions: carrots, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Maybe throw in a jalapeño at the end for the grown ups. Just make sure to wash your hands, knife, and cutting board really well after chopping this spicy topping for your dinner planning.
Read More: Back To School: Meal Planning 101
If You Have A Second Hour
If you are blessed with a second hour of time, you might focus on meal prepping for breakfasts and snacks. Some ideas include:
- Steel cut oats. One half gallon of milk or almond milk brought to a boil + two cups of oats simmering for 27 minutes makes eight servings of oatmeal. Enough for two people to eat breakfast for nearly the entire week.
- Breakfast sandwiches. Scramble a dozen eggs and then pour into a greased muffin tin to bake. Throw between an egg muffin with some ham and cheese and your have an easy grab and go breakfast or snack.
- Frozen grapes. Wash a whole carton of grapes and pick off the vine. Portion out grapes into baggies and throw in the freezer for a sweet and tasty treat.
- Smoothie prep. If your family likes fruit smoothies, portion out the fruit into bags and put in the freezer. This will allow you to grab, throw in a blender with a liquid and maybe protein or peanut butter power, and go.
- Protein balls. Great way for the kids to get something sweet and bonus protein.
Example Menu From Dinner Planning
Once you are finished dinner planning, the rest is smooth sailing. Make a dinner planning board for the family to see so everyone knows what you are eating each night of the week. With everything you made during your hour of cooking, you have the ingredients on hand to create a number of meals.
10 dinner ideas possible with everything you prepared:
- Fajitas with chicken or steak and bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions.
- Tacos with ground meat and vegetables.
- Chicken fried rice with rice, chicken, and veggies.
- Stir fry with meat, vegetables, and rice.
- Lo mein with noodles, meat, and vegetables.
- Rice Bowls with meat, veggies, sweet potatoes, and your favorite sauce or salsa.
- Spaghetti with meat sauce using the ground meat.
- Omelets or a frittata with vegetables and meat.
- Flatbread pizza with meat and vegetables.
- Meat, potatoes, and vegetables for an All-American meal.
While weeknight dinners can be stressful, setting aside an hour of your week for dinner planning will not only open up your evenings but take a weight off your shoulders. Give yourself peace of mind and your family healthy meal options with a little prep work. Dinner planning really can be painless!
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