Editor’s note: The following article is written by a Skinny Mom Resident Mom. The Resident Mom program gives a voice to our readers, allowing moms across the world to contribute content to Skinny Mom. If you’re interested in becoming a Resident Mom, click here to apply.

resident mom header

A car without fuel eventually stalls. A body without fuel stalls in its own way also. We must eat; that fact is undeniable, but what we choose to eat has endless options. Take those options and roll them with a 40-hour work week, soccer, dance, carpool and PTA meetings and you have a recipe not for healthy meals, but drive-thru runs.

fast food

Maybe the pioneers had it right. Work and meals – usually work for meals – was the sum of their daily chore lists. Today, it doesn’t matter the profession or size of today’s family, very few are blessed to limit themselves to a daily routine of work and meals. Whether we are filling our lives with hobbies, children’s activities, or extra jobs, the fact is that with dozens of forces pulling us in opposing directions, we often put the important things (like nutrition) on the back burner. We don’t observe a set meal time and have no idea what is going on the table tonight. When facing your work week, follow these five steps to take you from your hectic day to a healthy meal.

1. Take back dinner time. Choose a reasonably consistent time for dinner and try to stick to it. This might mean saying no to some things and getting creative with meal prep. In the end, taking command of this part of your day will provide you with healthy choices, leftovers for healthy lunches and peaceful time to eat and enjoy with your family. One quick stop at the store with a crabby, hungry toddler who is past his dinner time will tell you this is a good idea.

2. Take inventory. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already own. This helps ensure that you don’t end up with duplicates of items you already have. In the long run, it will help you with planning and save you money.

clean eating fridge

3. Plan. Review your family’s weekly calendar and judge how much time you have to realistically prepare a meal on any given night. For example, I know this week I have three nights I won’t be home until right before our typical dinner time. So I chose slow cooker recipes for those three nights that I can pair with my rice cooker which is on a delayed cooking timer. When I walk in the door, all I have to do is serve dinner. You can even have the table set before you leave in the morning to make things run extra smoothly when you are exhausted in the evening.

4. Prep. Pick a day to prep what you can for the week. That can mean roasting vegetables or simply chopping and storing them for upcoming meals. It can also mean prepping an entire slow cooker meal and putting it in a slow cooker bag, then all you have to do is put the slow cooker bag in the Crockpot® in the morning, set it and go.

skinny slow cooker chicken pot pie

>> Recipe: Skinny Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie

Use the information on your family’s calendar, how much time you have to cook each night and the items you have on hand to help you choose the recipes that will work best for you that week. Start with basic recipes that feature simple ingredients and allow the main dish to be the star of the show. Take into account the cooking times of those main dishes and assign them to days of the week, pairing shorter recipes with days you have less time and longer recipes with days that are more relaxed.

Once you have your schedule, your recipes, and your prep plan you are ready to make your shopping list. I like to spend my Sundays working on this project. I start by sitting down with my husband in the morning, making our plan, choosing recipes and shopping the ads including the coupons. Then we do the shopping and I spend the afternoon doing the prep for the week. It’s a great feeling to know exactly what’s going on my table heading into a long work week.