Struggling with how to set up a meal plan and get dinner on the table quickly? These seven tools to simplify your meal prep will make weeknight meals so much easier.
Hands on her hips, my daughter pouted. “Don’t ever do that again, Mommy.”
My heart sank as the mommy guilt rose up.
This time, we completely missed her swim class. Despite our best efforts to finish homework, eat dinner, and get our bathing suits on, we were late. Again.
Why does dinner have to be so complicated?
My biggest mistake (of many) that night was trying to make an unfamiliar recipe. I made a meal from Hello Fresh, which I normally love, but it involved a lot of meal prep that I just didn’t have the time to do.
It involved things like grating carrots, mincing garlic, and chopping vegetables.
None of those things are ideal on a night when you’re trying to make a quick, easy meal, and without the right tools, it’s practically impossible.
Even though I followed my meal plan, I still set myself up for failure!
If you’re struggling to make quick, easy meals and looking for ideas to simplify your meal prep, I hear you! Meal planning and meal prep should be simple! Even on busy nights, your family can still eat a healthy dinner without stressing that you’re going to be late.
I’ve since learned a few tricks (and snagged a few tools) to make meal prep easier. Best of all, these help get dinner on the table faster (without having to grate carrots).
Knives (especially sharp ones) scare me, but they’re a necessary tool in every kitchen.
I’ve been loving this set from Cuisinart. They’re really high quality (especially considering the low price). They also have individual covers, so I can toss them in my “utensil drawer” without worrying that I’m going to dull the blade or stab myself.
Keep a special set of scissors in the kitchen just for food prep (if you already have a set in your junk drawer, consider getting another set to use only on food).
Use kitchen scissors to cut the tops off vegetables, quickly chop herbs and spices (this is where I went wrong when I was trying to “quickly” make dinner before running our million evening errands), and even cut meat, in addition to cutting the tops of bags and boxes.
You may find that scissors speed up your chopping process, especially if you’re not skilled with a knife or if you have dull knives.
You can wash most scissors in the dishwasher, but you may want to read the instructions first. Dry them well after washing and keep the scissors away from metal (like knives) in your drawer so that you don’t dull the blades.
I mainly use my Instant Pot to batch cook meat so that it’s ready when I need it (perfect for those days when I forget to thaw dinner until I’m ready to start cooking). However, I’m quickly learning that the Instant Pot is an amazing kitchen tool.
If you’re scared to try your new Instant Pot (I left mine in the box for months before finally trying boiled eggs, and even then I didn’t make anything else for months), try taking an introductory course to learn exactly when to use the different settings, and even how to clean and care for your Instant Pot.
A great Instant Pot cookbook (or even a ready-made meal plan, like MyFreezEasy, which has customizable meal plans) that tells you exactly which settings to use is helpful, too.
No kitchen is complete without a slow cooker. You can get fancy and find programable slow cookers or double/triple crocks, but a large, basic Crock Pot is a great starting point.
Invest in a six to eight quart Crock Pot to make sure that it fits larger dinners, like roasts and even small turkeys. I often cook my vegetables and potatoes with the meat to save dishes, and the flavor is delicious.
You can put most crocks (not the lid, though) in the oven and even in the dishwasher, but read the instructions first!
A stand mixer is another appliance that seems like it might just take up space on your counter but actually has a million different uses.
I bought mine for the sole purpose of speeding up my process for baking cookies (it takes a lot less time to mix baked goods than a hand mixer), but I use it for so much more. I mix meatloaf, shred meat, and make mashed potatoes. You can also get attachments to spiralize vegetables and make pasta.
Since planning my meals, it’s much easier to get dinner on the table quickly. If we have a lot of activities scheduled at night, like the night of my epic Hello Fresh fail, I know to schedule a fast recipe or something that I can make ahead in the Crock Pot.
I’ve tried both weekly and monthly meal plans, and both work well during different seasons.
For example, during busy seasons, like when my son has baseball practice two nights a week and I need to make food to take to our farm, monthly meal plans work best. I highlight the nights when I need to make a large number of easy to eat sandwiches to take the farm, and I also mark the nights when we need to eat quickly, like when we have baseball practice. I then plan our meals around our busy schedule.
During more flexible seasons, like during the summer when we don’t have a set schedule, I find that weekly meal plans work best. Every Sunday night, I plan our meals for the upcoming week based on our schedule. (Sign up below to get a free copy of my weekly meal plan templates in the resource library. The monthly meal plans are also available in the Organized Motherhood Shop.)
Meal planning service
I’m always on the lookout for quick, easy recipes and ways to simplify my meal prep time, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by using a ready-made meal plan and then batch cooking.
My favorite ready-made meal plan is MyFreezEasy. The recipes are simple and delicious and you can choose your recipes and your food prep style, like choosing an Instant Pot plan or all chicken recipes. You can also create a customized meal plan based on your favorite recipes.
In addition to the recipes, you’ll get a shopping list so you can do all your shopping for the month at once. There’s also a shopping list for each individual recipe if you’d rather shop weekly.
Don’t let one meal planning failure stop you from simplifying your dinner plans. With these tools, you can have dinner on the table quickly and easily, even when you choose to make more complicated recipes!
By planning ahead and using the right tools, meal prep can be simple!