Working full-time and running a household can get a little crazy.
Meal-planning should score a high priority on your to-do list, and there’s a simple household trick to keep the workload fair, easy, and diverse when preparing your dinners for the week.
Both my husband and I work full-time jobs.
On top of that, we have my blogs to work on, social outings to attend, and extra-curricular activities to keep us busy throughout the entire week.
Before I picked up my ‘9 to 5’, it was easy to have dinner ready by the time my hubby arrived home from work.
But now, with an even busier schedule, we had to think of a specific meal plan in order to even out our household chores. Before tying down our weekly schedule, we were playing it by ear and doing last-minute grocery runs, eating the same meals too often, and ordering take-out (which forcibly lead us to opt for less-than-healthy and less-than-stellar dishes).
On top of that, our cleanliness was becoming questionable.
Dirty dishes and cooking products would end up piling up well into the week. Before being a “working wife,” I always loved the philosophy of “cleaning as you go” – picking up smaller messes is always less time consuming and makes one’s home consistently more guest-ready.
We knew we had to put a stop to our disorganized eating behaviors, so we sat down and looked at the most realistic approach for our dinner preparations.
4 Ways to Make Meal Planning Work, When You Both Work Full-Time
We worked it out so that every other day would be our ‘cooking day.’ In our case, Mondays and Wednesdays are his designated nights and in turn, I cook on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
What’s special about this arrangement is that the weekends are left for the fun stuff: we leave Fridays for take-out, restaurant outings, or hosting dinner parties. During the weekend, we take the time to actually cook together, which is a wonderful bonding experience all in itself.
Obviously, not everyone can cater to a traditional Monday to Friday schedule. Taking a look at your weekly workflow will help you pinpoint a routine that works best for you and your partner.
Before my husband and I strategized in taking turns, we were both feeling a little furious because on some weeks, one would find themselves cooking more often than the other. Now that we’ve evened out the cooking duty, it gives us alternative “leisure-nights” to focus on our personal projects (and so naturally, I find myself blogging mainly on Mondays and Wednesdays).
We made it so that whoever would be cooking for the night would also be the one to decide on what dinner would be.
This allows for some fun, culinary experiments and eliminates the burden of final meal decisions being constantly on one person. I love my husband’s ideas because he thinks of meals that I would never dream of putting together (and vice-versa).
As soon as I picked up my day job, I was feeling a little discouraged because I felt like I was constantly preparing the same meals (even a perfected, creamy butternut squash soup can get a little tiring). Being a stay-at-home wife enabled me to come up with new recipes and offer a wide range of meals. With my job, it took a little while to adjust to a new schedule. I was feeling rushed and often pressured myself to have something ready ASAP.
As much as I love being in the kitchen, my husband wanted to alleviate the pressure so that cooking and food remained a passion and not so much a chore (especially being a food blogger, where the work can be enough pressure in itself).
Now that our cooking duties have been divided evenly, I am back to being me, scouring books and Internet resources for delicious and fun recipes which our family has yet to try.
Lists are your best friend
In order to prepare for the week, we buy our groceries every Sunday. Before our trip to the supermarket, we discuss what we’ll be cooking on our designated nights and sort out the ingredients that we’ll need for the days to come.
But wait – our list compilation doesn’t stop there: we keep a pad in our kitchen so that every time we’re cooking or cleaning, we jot down an item the moment we notice it’s running low on stock (and sponges seem to always make the cut). This way, we stay high in essential household products and we never have to make that hassling trip to the store (it’s the worst to have to brave a storm in order to pick up that one, single item).
Hint: This was a really fun excuse to find an ultra-cute magnetic notepad for our refrigerator.
Whoever doesn’t cook is the one that cleans
During dinner preparations, it’s inevitable that dishes will pile up and other last-minute tidying will need to get done. In order to keep the chores really even, we decided that when you cook, you’re free of all cleaning duties. Of course, this philosophy could certainly be played around with (i.e., you could decide that a daily duty will entail cooking and cleaning).
We’ve found this arrangement to work extremely well in our household. It keeps things fresh and avoids either of us burning out in both of our careers and home life.
Are you and your partner both full-time workers?
How do you sort out your daily duties? Let us know if you’ve already placed some of these “meal-prep rules.” If you don’t have a plan, why not try some of the points mentioned above and see what works best for your family?
Is there any one that you like best?
Lisa Favre is the food blogger behind Marble Crumbs – a food blog catered to telling stories about meals, snacks, drinks, and everything in between. Lover of brownies, french fries, and all things delicious, Lisa believes that sharing bites from her plate is just as important as sharing the tale that goes behind them.