It's back to school season! September 10, 2015 08:53

It feels like the beginning of the school year is a logical time to introduce some much-needed order into my otherwise chaotic world. We've got five kids (three are mine, two are my husbands') and it seems like there's always something going on. There's piano, soccer, scouts, you name it. And it all happens between 3-9 PM; in other words, during rush hour when kids (and moms) are tired/hungry/stressed out, when homework needs to get done, and all of a sudden you realize you don't have anything for dinner.

I used to love to cook but then life got in the way. I hate saying "guess what kids? It's fend-for-yourself-night again"! Figuring out what to make is a challenge since my 16-year-old is vegetarian. I am perfectly happy to eat less meat, but I do still want some (as do the rest of the kids).

I'm always on the lookout for strategies, apps, etc that can help me stay on top of things. Have I mentioned I'm disorganized? It's true; just ask my husband, kids, accountant, friends. Anyway, I stumbled on a service called Cook Smarts. Basically, it's a menu/recipe service but there are a few things about it that are helpful. It's a paid service, but the cost is relatively reasonable (around $7 per month) and worth it, if it saves my family the mental trauma of a stressed out parent. They send you four recipes a week but each one can be modified for the number of servings or to be vegetarian, gluten-free or paleo. That means I can tweak it so that the whole family is having basically the same thing but with a few modifications for my vegetarian. For example, tonight's dinner is Latin Spice Rubbed Pork Chops. I got enough pork for most of us but then followed the vegetarian version and got some tempeh for Josh. If there's something on the menu you don't like,  you can access their recipe archives and sub in a different dish. Once you've picked out your meals for the week you can generate a shopping list (which also gives you the opportunity to mark the things you already have). They'll tell you which things can be prepped in advance so if you have time on Sunday night you can get ahead. Next week's menu includes the following recipes: salmon with orange ginger sauce, slow cooker chicken tagine, panko crusted pork chops, and pasta frittata with zucchini and red peppers. Yum!

If you have any suggestions or strategies for managing a hectic life please pass it on in the comments.

cooksmarts.com