You get home from a long day of teaching and open the refrigerator door. Cooking is the last thing you feel like doing. You would much rather spend time with your family or finish up some school work than spend an hour making dinner. Use these quick and easy meal planning tips for teachers, and you’ll never have to worry about cooking on a school night again.
10 Quick and Easy Meal Planning Tips for Teachers
When I first started teaching, I lived at home, and my mom made all of my meals. It was perfect! I could come home from school and spend my night planning and grading. As a first year teacher, I needed as much time as I could get to keep from drowning.
Then, I got married and suddenly, I was responsible for making dinner. I actually love to cook, but after a long day at school, it’s the last thing I feel like doing. My husband and I ended up going out to eat at least two or three time a week.
That was fine until we had children. When my son was born, it was a pain dragging everything he needed to a restaurant. Instead, we stopped at the drive-thru or got take-out on the way home. This was expensive and not very healthy.
I knew something had to change, and that’s when I started meal planning. It has completely changed the way I cook and the way I spend my evenings after school.
Here are my 10 best meal planning tips for teachers.
#1 – Choose a time for meal planning.
Building a time for meal planning into your weekly schedule is so important. If you don’t make it a priority, it won’t happen.
I set aside an hour every Thursday night to find recipes and make my grocery list. Then, I get up early on Saturday morning to go to the grocery store and spend the next 2 hours preparing all of our dinners for the week. By noon, all of my cooking for the week is finished, and I can enjoy the rest of my weekend.
#2 – Set out all of your ingredients.
One of the ways I always waste the most time is looking for ingredients. I know I bought it, but I can’t find it when I need it. That’s why I set out all of my ingredients before I even start cooking.
Before I go to the grocery store, I go through my pantry to see what I already have. I put those items on the kitchen counter. When I get home from the grocery store, I unpack the bags and leave anything I need out on the counter.
That way, all I have to do is grab the ingredients I need for the recipe I’m making.
#3 – Start by cooking your proteins.
You probably need some cooked chicken or beef for some of your meals. Start by baking your chicken in the oven and browning your ground beef. Once your proteins are cooked, it’s really easy to put the rest of the meals together.
While the proteins are cooking, you can boil the water for pasta and assemble any meals that don’t require a cooked protein.
#4 – Multitask and work on more than one meal at a time.
If you make one meal at a time, it’s probably going to take longer than 2 hours. It’s a good idea to look at all of your recipes and plan out what you’ll do first, second, and so on.
While the pasta for one meal is cooking, you can cut the veggies for another meal. You want to use your time wisely so your meals are finished as quickly as possible.
#5 – Don’t forget about breakfast and lunch.
You should think about breakfast and lunch when you’re meal planning, too. Each week, I make a breakfast that will last my family the whole week. That way, I don’t have to think about what we’re eating on those busy mornings before school.
I always make extra of the dinners so I don’t have to worry about lunch. My husband and I take leftovers each day. That way, I only have to worry about making sandwiches for the kids when they’re not buying the school lunches.
Dessert is also part of my weekly meal planning. I like to have something sweet to take for a snack at school. Of course my kids love dessert, too!
#6 – Label the meals with the cooking instructions.
When you’re finished making a meal, cover it with aluminum foil. Then, use a Sharpie to write the cooking instructions.
When I first started meal planning, I didn’t do this, and each night, I had to look up the directions for the oven temperature and cooking time. Now, I just pull a meal out of the refrigerator when I get home from work and look at the top to see how to cook it.
#7 – Write your meals on your calendar.
This is another tip I learned the hard way. I would just make all my meals and put them in the refrigerator without thinking about when we would eat each one.
One week, Friday rolled around, and the only meal left in the refrigerator was a chicken pot pie that had to cook for an hour. We had to be at my son’s school for an event at 6:00, so there was no way it would cook in time.
Since then, I write my meals on my calendar, so I can see what’s going on each night of the week. I know I need a quick-cooking meal on the nights my son has soccer practice.
#8 – Prepare some freezer meals for weeks you don’t have time to meal plan.
It’s inevitable that there will be weekends when you can’t meal plan. You have things planned for both Saturday and Sunday, and there won’t be two hours to set aside to prepare food.
I avoid this problem by making some freezer meals. There are 2 ways to do this. You could take a day to prepare a bunch of freezer meals all at once. I do this before school starts and over long breaks, like Christmas.
If you don’t want to spend a day making freezer meals, you can simply double a recipe during your meal preparation each week and freeze it. That way, freezer meals will build up for those weeks when you can’t meal plan.
Check out some of my favorite freezer meals.
#9 – Don’t worry about the weekends.
I don’t make meals for the weekends. We usually go out to eat one night and have leftovers the other night. The only way I cook dinner is if we’re having guests at our house.
#10 – Let me help you with your meal planning.
If you don’t have a lot of go-to recipes, meal planning can take a while. Start by downloading a week-long meal plan for free.
- A menu for the week
- A grocery list
- 5 dinner recipes, 1 breakfast recipe, and 1 dessert recipe
- A 2-hour gameplan with step-by-step directions to make your meals.
Click here, and start meal planning today!
The Teacher Self-Care Community
Looking for a community of teachers who are all working toward their self-care goals? The Teacher Self-Care Community will be a place where teachers can find support and guidance on their self-care journeys.
The Teacher Self-Care Community will officially open on May 27, 2023, and we’ll be doing a healthy eating challenge in June. Join the wait list by clicking this link and requesting to join.
See you there!
What Do You Think?
How do you get dinner on the table during the busy school week?
Let me know in the comments below.
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