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Growing up in a traditional Italian family, my mother cooked all of our meals. Since cooking is something I find relaxing and enjoyable, this old-fashioned approach is something I would like to continue in my home as well. The only problem is that I work full-time and sometimes it can be difficult to get a nutritious, well-balanced meal on the table every evening. With that said, I can only rely on me, myself and I to make sure dinner is ready, healthy, and delicious! Here’s how I make it happen!

Check the weekly ads. I usually begin the meal planning process on the Wednesday prior to the week I am planning for. The reason? This is the day my favorite local grocer puts out their weekly ad debuting sale items! Based on what is on sale, I make a grocery list and have it ready to go when my weekend shopping trip shopping rolls around.

grocery shopping list

Check Skinny Mom’s website and/or health food blogs for recipes using purchased ingredients. During my lunch hour at work Wednesday through Friday, I like checking for tasty-looking recipes that incorporate the foods on sale at my local grocer. I also add any other necessary ingredients from the recipe onto my shopping list. Lastly, I save the recipes on my phone to reference when I begin preparing my meals of choice.

Prep as much as possible on the weekend. After grocery shopping on Saturday morning to purchase everything on my list, I take an hour or so during my son’s nap time to prepare ingredients for the saved recipes. This includes chopping vegetables, whisking sauces, baking potatoes and, if time permits, actually cooking the meals (or just side dishes) that can be made in advance. My husband sometimes helps in the process while we play some classical music in the background… It almost feels like a date! (Sad, I know — Hello, parenthood!)

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Finish off meals (prior to workday if possible). Meals made ahead in their entirety are set for reheating during the week — score! As for meals that require a little more preparation, I typically try to wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning so I have a few extra minutes to finish the evening’s meal. If this isn’t possible, I finish making dinner upon getting home from work. Although not my preferred option, the fact that the meal is planned and halfway finished makes life so much easier!

I think it goes without saying that pre-made meals would probably be best for busier nights while, on nights I get out of work earlier than typical or on non-school/work nights, I can spend extra time on the more involved, unfinished recipes.

I hope my meal planning schedule appeals to some of you and can help make life a lot easier. Of course, such a regimented schedule may not work for everyone but I am sure at least some of the tricks above can be used to help out in some way. Happy, healthy eating!

What meal preparation tips do you have for the cook of a busy family? Share in the comments below!