It’s 5:30 pm, everyone in the house is grumpy, and you’re facing the eternal decision: pasta with sauce from a jar, or pasta with cheese? For many parents (us included!) prepping dinner is a daily challenge, especially with little ones underfoot. So determined to win at dinner this year, we asked the most functional foodie parents we know for their tips to make dinners a snap.
plan ahead and cook for the future
The parents we asked agreed: Regular grocery planning is part of a winning strategy. For most parents, the weekends are the easiest time to meal plan. So look through the fridge and cupboards to see what you have or need to use up, and then open up the cookbooks or head to your favorite recipe site if you need more ideas. To help with inspiration, we’ve pulled together some easy dinner ideas on our Pinterest boards. And if you find planning daunting, keep it simple – many parents pointed out that since plans change, they only plan for three or four meals a week.
pick no-fuss food
Casserole dishes and slow cookers are a parent’s best dinner companion for a reason: They let you prep during naps or the night before, and they cook themselves without needing much attention. For the same reason, hearty soups were a big hit. The night-before prep tip especially caught our eye – sure, it’s not our favorite way to spend an evening, but it definitely takes the hassle out of coming home from work and trying to cook through the witching hour.
there’s an app for that
One tech-savvy parent made a great case for using an app like Paprika to manage meals. Paprika grabs recipes from any cooking website, blog, or similar site, and stores them, along with the source URL. What’s more, you can also move your handwritten recipes or other favorites from books into Paprika, so you can use its scaling, menu planning and grocery list generating features. Sold! Other parents we spoke with made pitches for Pinterest or Epicurious as ways to keep recipes and lists at your fingertips.
cook with them
If having little ones underfoot is keeping you from getting anything done in the kitchen, try turning their energy to your advantage and cook with them. Little hands can peel garlic, manage a whisk, add vegetables and spices to pots, and older kids are terrific at peeling, grating, and even measuring ingredients.
cook without them
If your sous-chef is a little too sous for you, consider making him a treasure basket: a box filled with toddler-friendly objects he only gets to rummage on special occasions (hey, dinner is a special occasion!). Our house has two, and we keep them in rotation for maximal toddler distraction at dinner prep time.
We’d love to hear from you about your favorite quick recipes, or your tricks and tips for juggling kids and dinner prep, so please add your ideas to our comments. Happy cooking, and bon appetit!
Yo mama! Always looking for more ways to get ahead when it comes to meals? Then be sure to savour the following: