8 Family Food Prep Hacks for Busy Parents

Juggling mealtimes with the other demands of daily family life can be thirsty work! But with these family food prep hacks for busy parents, you can be on your way to rustling up nutrient-dense, delicious meals that everyone can enjoy.

  1. Prep by Planning

Planning your meals can be an amazing way to save time midweek for busy parents. Whilst it’s not always easy to decide what you want to eat a week in advance, this is where being flexible can really come in handy. Rather than planning for specific days, why not consider planning five meals you’d all like to eat at some point during the following week? This way, everyone can decide what they want closer to the time, and this accommodates for any days ‘off-plan’ such as meals out or your child being at a friend’s house.

  1. Batch Cooking

Batch cooking is another hack that can save you hours in the kitchen! Depending on what works for you and your family, you can even batch cook for the whole month ahead. If you’re concerned about getting bored or your meals becoming repetitive, you can try batch cooking part of a recipe and cooking the rest fresh that day. For example, bolognese can be used as a jacket potato filling, in a chilli con carne or mixed in with spaghetti, which all can make for great meals in their own right.

  1. Label and Date

When batch cooking or putting leftovers in the fridge or freezer, using date labels can be a really helpful tool for keeping track of when something was cooked. After a busy day, it can be highly frustrating having to throw out what could be a perfectly good dinner because you can’t remember when it was made.

Meals generally tend to last a lot longer in the freezer than they do in the fridge but be sure to always use your own judgement here, by looking for signs of spoilage and smelling your food. You can find a guide to leftover food chart here.

  1. Wash, Chop, and Store Your Veg

Washing and chopping veg can often be one of the most consuming parts of making a meal. But ensuring the family still gets their five-a-day can become less of a weeknight chore by doing it beforehand.

There are plenty of vegetables that can be peeled and chopped two or three days in advance, such as bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, and cabbage. You can even try freezing chopped onion and minced garlic to use in cooking at a later date.

  1. Stay Stocked up on the Staples

Despite every good intention, not every week of meal planning might, well, … go to plan! The dynamics of family life, changing appetites of children, and everything else parenting brings can sometimes mean having to make up the occasional meal as you go. If you’re lacking inspiration, though, it can be useful to have a few staples such as pasta, pre-cooked rice, canned foods, and frozen veggies stocked up for your ‘go-to’ meals.

  1. Invest in a Rice Cooker

Rice is an ingredient many consider to be an essential, but it can be tricky to always get right. The cooking process can be slightly complicated, which can result in opting for convenient, pre-cooked bags instead. While the nutritional profile of pre-cooked rice is essentially very similar to traditionally cooked rice*, it can be a lot more expensive. However, by making use of a rice cooker, you are able to cook a variety of rice grains, potentially enjoy perfectly cooked rice, and save yourself some money in the long run, too.

  1. Slow Cooker Meals

Slow cookers can make a range of flavoursome meals that are ready as soon as everyone is back from school or work. Casseroles, curries, and stews are some popular slow cooker dishes, but this kitchen staple can be a lot more versatile than often assumed. Slow cookers can also generally be left on for hours at a time but be sure to follow the instructions on your specific model.

  1. Overnight Breakfasts

If breakfast is a busy time in your household, it could be good to prep by making this the night before. Overnight oats or chia puddings have become very popular in recent times and can make for tasty, on-the-go meals. If you or your child doesn’t enjoy oats, though, there are plenty of other breakfast options you can make ahead. For example, breakfast muffins, egg bakes, and flapjacks can all be brilliant for school day mornings as an alternative to cereal.

With these hacks on board, we hope you’re feeling inspired to find a way to tackle the midweek meal rush in a way that best suits you!

* The Scoop on Precooked Rice: Is It Safe to Eat? - The Proper Kitchen