Meal Chains Save Time! Mom of 9 Shares Her Secrets

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No matter how long my “to-do” list is each day, the biggest time investment is no doubt in keeping my troupe fed! Seriously, do you know how often these people want to eat?

When I was a new (and much younger) mom my goal was to home-cook everything. Only the healthiest and most economical for my growing family. I bought a grain mill to grind fresh wheat, learned how to can produce and how to make my own yogurt. Then…. Then there came a point in time where I said, “Bring on the hot dogs and chicken nuggets!” Instead of the big pot of rolled oats with a sprinkle of cinnamon and some honey, I stocked up on the little individually packaged fruit oatmeal. It only took a hot minute to teach my children to identify the 1/3 cup measure in the drawer, point at the instant hot spigot located at the sink and say, “Go for it!”.

The reality is that life gets busy. Everyone still needs to eat but we are not healthfully sustained on the quicky-packaged meals. To strike up a balance of healthy and quick, I have a little system as I look at our meals for the week. It doesn’t always go as planned but, it always goes BETTER when I have some sort of strategy.

Ideally, we have a big Sunday lunch to start off the week. If it doesn’t work for that to happen, I pick another day that I know I can invest in cooking. The big meal of the week is my anchor. When I have a large, basic anchor meal, the rest of the week seems to fall into place like a chain. One link at a time. The investment on “day one” pays off!

Here are a few of my weekly meal chains:

Roast chicken or turkey. Followed by making broth, chicken noodle (or rice) soup, enchiladas, Chicken quesadillas, BBQ (shredded) chicken sandwiches or chicken pot pie.

Roast beef. Followed by sandwiches, stroganoff, hash or stir fry.

Taco meat. Followed by taco salad, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, taco pizza or taco soup.

Spaghetti with meat sauce. Followed by lasagne (using leftover sauce) If we have spaghetti and meatballs, the next day it’s meatball sandwiches.

Homemade chili con carne. Followed by a baked potato bar (add a salad bar too! They use many of the same toppings). My kids like to make a box of Mac and cheese to mix with their chili. If we have hot dogs, chili dogs are fun but nothing beats a bowl of simple left-over chili.

Ham and scalloped potatoes. Often the leftovers of this meal are just reheated. Ham and potatoes pass as a breakfast, wouldn’t you say? Dice up leftover meat. Add the diced ham to eggs or even a pasta skillet meal.

Grilled or smoked meat. When the weather is warm we grill up lots of chicken or smoke a turkey simply to have the leftovers. They are great on salads, in sandwiches or on pasta.

The beauty in this plan is the simplicity and efficiency of using up left overs. Motherhood leads us to transform meal planning into a strange new sport! We formulate just the right balance to make our budget, time and tastebuds hit a homerun.

Luke 12:42-43 ESV “And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”

A Few More Random Tips:

When preparing onions, celery, peppers and carrots, toss the scraps into a freezer bag. The next time you roast chicken, toss the scraps into the pot with the carcass to flavor the broth. Onion skins give it a nice color too!

When dicing onions, do the whole thing, not half. Any unused pieces freeze well in ziplock bags. This will save you time on a busy day!

Sometimes you may want to “prepare double, eat half”. If you are putting together a casserole, make 2. Freeze the second or take it to someone who could use some encouragement.

Keep a “snack drawer” in the fridge with things that you want the children to grab when they are hungry. Fill it with things like hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese sticks and cut veggies

Teach your children to cook along side you. They will love the time spent! I have also found that when they make it themselves they are much more excited to eat it!

Starting your week off with a good anchor meal will help maintain healthy eating habits. I am much more successful sticking to the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) lifestyle, and feeding my family well when I plan ahead!

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