Monday, 1 September 2014

Time saving meal prep ideas and a delicious dinner recipe

Preparing meals and feeding a large family is a never ending task.  As we are extremely busy with everything involved in raising a large, homeschooling family with multiple special needs we need to use as many time saving ideas as possible.

Our time saving starts with a menu plan.  Menu plans are a common practice of "thrifty or frugal" people. Meal planning has become more popular with people struggling financially but is also beneficial as the basis of a time saving plan.  Having a menu plan can also be a stress reliever as there is no more last minute panic of "what's for dinner?" and when you are feeding 15-20+ people not knowing can be stressful.  When we are preparing our menu plan we start by considering what the weeks activities look like.  Are there any "special meals" for the week?  ie birthdays, outings, etc.  We then consider the amount of time available for preparing meals each day which determines the type of meal.  If we have a day with multiple appointments then dinner is either cooked in the crockpot or something re-heated.  Next step of planning is considering what food you have on hand.....then plan away

Multi tasking is a necessity when trying to save time while preparing meals.  When it comes time to prepare dinner I am always considering what can be done today to make tomorrow easier.  Instead of sitting idle while waiting for a pot to boil or something to cook, I prep the next meal (I know what it is because I have a menu plan) and/or clean up.  If today's meal and tomorrow have some of the same steps I do them both at the same time.  If the meal doubles easily I do so as this makes lunches for the week or can be frozen for another day.  Today when making dinner I doubled our "Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad" so we have some lunches for the week and I prepped tomorrow's "Crockpot Beef Stew".  I also always have a sink of hot soapy water so I can wash dishes as I go.

Another thing that made a huge difference for me was the realization that dinner can be prepped at anytime and most days needs to be prepped at the first available time.  Some days the meal is prepped the day before, other times it's first thing in the morning, when the kids are napping or just before dinner.....whatever works that day.

When it comes to clean up after dinner I put the leftovers away in "lunch" sized portions.  By doing this at clean up time the leftovers only need to be handled once and this saves time.

Having an emergency meal or 3 or 4 also tends to be a lifesaver.  Having something in the freezer that can be warmed up quickly can be my saving grace on those days that nothing goes as expected.  These meals may be a meal we previously doubled or frozen pizza.

Here is today's dinner Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad which has been a favorite this summer and as an added bonus it is fairly inexpensive to make.


1 package spaghetti
1 grated carrot
1 large red pepper, sliced thin
1 lb sugar snap peas
1 lb broccoli florets
2 tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red peeper flakes
2 tsp ground ginger


Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook according to directions on package.  Drain and set aside, run the noodles under cold water to cool faster if you don't have time to refrigerate before eating.

In another pot, bring water to boil, add sugar snap peas and broccoli florets, return to boil cooking for 3-5 minutes, and cook until crisp tender.  When cooked drain and cool in cold water.

Put all dressing ingredients in blender and blend thoroughly.

Pour dressing over cooked noodles and toss until well coated.  Add vegetables and sesame seeds tossing gently.

Refrigerate, serve cold.

Optional:  also tastes great topped with cooked chicken.


  1. How can one pound of pasta make enough for the entire family?

  2. 1 package here is 900g which is almost 2 pounds and for my family we doubled the recipe above.