12 ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hour

by Katrina - The Organised Housewife

This post is sponsored by Burnaid® Gel

Witching hour can be horrific in any home, with toddlers screaming or throwing tantrums for your attention, it’s usually all happening whilst it’s time to cook dinner.  Actually, I am finding myself ‘witch like’ lately, come dinner time I’m tired too.  There are ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hour, to make this hour (or two) of madness a little less hectic, because we know when we are a little stressed in the kitchen this is when accidents can happen, burning or cutting yourself.

12 ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hour

Ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hour

I hope these tips below help you, these can be adapted for all family types really, not just those with tired kiddies. For those that work full-time hours or have busy afternoons at sports training through the week, or if you’re like me and just tired at the end of the day, adapt these to suit you.

Think about dinner early

Just after you finish pottering in the kitchen in the evening think about tomorrow nights dinner.  Do you need to defrost some meat? Do you have all the ingredients?  How long will the meal take to cook?  Thinking about it the night before will give you the time to defrost meats and make a plan for the meal.  ie. if it takes 1 hour to cook you know what time you need to start dinner.

Shop with a plan

Create a meal plan and write your grocery list based on the meals you are wanting to cook that week.  Going to the grocery store and purchasing all the ingredients you need for dinner will save you time not having to travel back to the grocery store each day and that you have everything you need on hand.

Make quick dinners

One of my favourite dinners is sausages, mashed potato and vegetables and when I really don’t feel like cooking we have eggs on toast so easy! Your meals don’t need to be gourmet, sometimes the simplest meals are the best.

12 ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hour

Be kind to yourself

Whilst it’s fantastic to make meals from scratch ie. spaghetti bolognese, you may not have the desire nor the time to do so.  It’s perfectly OK to use shortcuts, such as a bottle of premade pasta sauce, I like the Dolmio Tomato, Onion and Roast Garlic) or Maggi recipe bases.

Keep your fridge clean and tidy

Regularly clean your fridge.  I do this just before I do my weekly grocery shop, it helps me to work out what items I am running out of and need to add to the grocery list, then I can make room for the new groceries. Having your fridge tidy will help you easily locate items during the busy dinner time rush.

Precut your vegetables

I precut all my fruit and vegetables after I get home from the grocery store. I do this for a number of reasons:

  • it’s convenient for when we are looking for a snack. If some vegetables and fruit are already chopped up, I can easily have a bowl of diced watermelon or vegetable sticks, instead of reaching for something less healthy.
  • saves time when I am rushing to cook dinner, I can grab handfuls of vegetables and cook them within minutes, no having to get out the chopping board and chop up the vegetables, making more mess.
  • i find it also stops the food from spoiling, it stays fresher longer

12 ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hourKeep stock of your essentials

What are your favourite quick and easy meals to cook? Write a list of the ingredients for these meals and ensure to keep your pantry stocked with these items for those days where you don’t have time to go to the grocery store.

I keep the following in the pantry:

  • spiral pasta, tuna for tuna mornay – the rest of the ingredients I always have on hand as normal weekly essentials, frozen corn, onion, flour, milk etc.
  • scone mix for crustless quiche – I always keep bacon in the freezer and have regular stock of cream, eggs, butter and cheese along with a spare onions.

Prevent burns and be prepared

I shared a post last year on how to prevent kitchen burns, from the list that many people didn’t realise was that you shouldn’t use a damp towel to hold a hot pot as the heat of the pot will quickly come through the towel.

During witching hour it is hard to stay focused and this is when burns can happen in the kitchen. To treat a minor burn place the area under cold running water for 20 minutes then apply Burnaid® to keep the burn cool and help ease the pain, then you can continue the rest of your dinner prep.  Always remember if your burn is more serious, call 000 or seek medical attention.

12 ways to simplify dinner prep before witching hour

Make a double batch

Make a double batch of dinner, ie. if your making mince potato pie, double the recipe and you can use the left over mince in a pasta bake or lasagna the following night or freeze the left overs to use next week.  I recently made meatballs with salad for the family, I doubled the batch and had meatballs on a long roll the following night.

Wasabi Chicken Meatballs

Get the family to help

If they are too little to be helping in the kitchen with chopping vegetables get them to set the table for you.  You will be surprised that to the littlies this is not a chore and they really enjoy helping and being a part of what you are doing. Now my children are older they really enjoy spending time with me in the kitchen and often ask if they can make dinner themselves… yes please!!!

And remember… your days are just as busy as your partners so get them to help as well, don’t feel you need to take on all the responsibility yourself.

Think about the dishes you are using

I’m a very messy cook, but I do try to make sure that I use dishes that can be put in the dishwasher, one less dish to wash up! Or better still try one post dishes where you make everything in the one casserole dish or saucepan. This roast chicken and vegetables in one of my favourites.

One Dish Easy Roast Chicken and Vegetables Dinner

Use a slow cooker

Slow cookers are brilliant for prepping dinner early in the morning, then leaving it all day.  Most of the recipes I cook just require a side of mashed potato or steamed rice, which are easy to prepare at ‘witching hour’.

What is your best tip for preparing dinner during witching hour?

For more details about Burnaid® visit their website www.burnaid.com.au. Mundipharma Pty Limited, Sydney. Burnaid® gel is for the first aid treatment of minor burns. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. ® Burnaid is a registered trade mark. CH-0084 10/16

This post was coordinated by The Remarkables Group and run in accordance with my disclosure policy

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Melanie February 29, 2016 - 7:58 AM

The Tuna Mornay link is shepherds pie 😉

Katrina - The Organised Housewife February 29, 2016 - 11:24 AM

Thank you for letting me know I have just fixed it, here’s the link: https://theorganisedhousewife.com.au/recipes/tuna-mornay/

Cait February 29, 2016 - 8:56 AM

I love the idea of cutting up the veggies, what kind of containers do you use? How long do they last?

Katrina - The Organised Housewife February 29, 2016 - 11:23 AM

I have been cutting up our vegetables for many many years now, firstly I used the tupperware fridge smart containers, then Howards Storage World Vac Seals, as I really liked the square containers, however I have a new frige and prefer the size of the tupperware containers in this new fridge, so I have just started using them again.

Justine March 4, 2016 - 1:38 PM

Cath , do you have a deep freezer ? ( chest freezer ) I’m finding my freezer is not fitting all of my prepared meals. I’ve just had weight loss surgery and I have 100s of tiny containers to freeze too. Thank you for your tips and advice.

Aly February 29, 2016 - 8:59 AM

Menu planning I find is a life saver that way I can have everything on hand and I only have to think about what to cook once a week and not everyday, when I’m feeling tired and uninspired. With one little one at school and three even littler ones at home our witching hour is pretty crazy. I try and have all my prep done (meat and veggies cut) before the school run. On afternoons when we have activities on (3days a week) I try and make things where most of the cooking can be done earlier in the day too, a curry, spag bol, tacos, then I only need to cook rice or pasta. Often one night a week we will eat left overs from the fridge (if they haven’t all bee taken for lunches) or something from the freezer, the kids often like that night cause they can have a bit of choice and they don’t have to have their sisters favourite again. If there are not left overs omelette are my “slack tea” go to, once again I find my girls like to choose what they get to in theirs. My aim this year is to learn to use my slow cooker more.

Katrina - The Organised Housewife February 29, 2016 - 11:21 AM

Yes meal planning saves the crazy moment of opening up the fridge at 5pm and wondering what to cook for dinner, love your ideas of meals to cook earlier in the day, makes it easier on you. And yes, I love my slowcooker, we use it during winter more, but it’s great for the evenings when sport is on.

Jennie March 4, 2016 - 2:12 PM

I love the slow cooker in summer too because it means I can be outside with the kids in the late afternoon when its finally cool enough to play outside and know that dinner is cooking itself. Especially when we come in and discover its 6:30pm! (Oops!) To avoid heating the house up I will sometimes move the slow cooker into the bathroom and shut the door.

Katrina - The Organised Housewife March 8, 2016 - 7:42 AM

Clever idea moving the slow cooker to another room, but what I love most about the slow cooker is that it fills the house with a delicious smell all afternoon.

Lucy February 29, 2016 - 12:49 PM

Dear Kat,
First congrats on the move!
Secondly apologies for this non related contact, our twins are 17!
It’s regarding the BILL ORGANISER.
When do you think you will have a 2016 & 2017 version available please?
Love your site. You are an inspiration. Keep up the great work.
Kindest regards,
Lucy (Brisbane)

Katrina - The Organised Housewife March 2, 2016 - 7:27 AM

Hi Lucy, ooh that time has passed too quickly that I need to make a new one, I will try and make this just after Easter 🙂

Anne February 29, 2016 - 1:53 PM

I’ve tried to wash and precut my veggies but I find that they spoiled more quickly, any tips? Thanks!

Katrina - The Organised Housewife March 2, 2016 - 7:26 AM

I wash them in the sink and dry them with a clean tea towel. That’s strange they are spoiling, are you drying them completely, this way they wont sit in any of the moisture from washing them.

Lauren March 4, 2016 - 12:07 PM

I’ve used the Tupperware ones for years, also cutting them up when I get them home, broccoli especially, but I wash them as I use them then they last much longer and it really doesn’t take much time to rinse them before you cook then

Susan August 31, 2016 - 1:57 PM

My mum always puts some paper towel in the container or wraps it around celery and her stuff lasts quite a while.

Katrina - The Organised Housewife August 31, 2016 - 7:35 PM

that is a really clever trick Susan 😉

Shannon March 4, 2016 - 4:15 PM

We find preplanning dinner a lifesaver!

But sometimes my kids cannot wait even that long, my boys are just born hungry. I dump a fist full of defrosted peas and corn on the high chair for one boy, and often hand him some chopsticks to eat it with. He has to concentrate so hard on making anything into his mouth it stops the grumbles.

I keep cut up carrot, capsicum, sweet peas/ beans and in the fridge. I keep cherry toms in a bowl on the counter. Somebody always takes that to the table around 4.30, and we all munch as I cook. Not only does it calm the witching hour. I have knocked at least half the daily veg on the head! To be honest some days those are the only veg they get.

Katrina - The Organised Housewife March 8, 2016 - 7:39 AM

Great idea Shannon, having the veggies at easy reach is a really healthy snack option.

Kylie March 8, 2016 - 12:21 PM

I appreciate that pre-chopping fruit and vegetables is convenient but they begin losing nutritional value as soon as they are chopped.

Chris Ann March 8, 2016 - 2:13 PM

I love my slow cooker too, and my rice cooker! A simple meal that takes little preparation time, especially if your vegies are already cut up:
Take sheets of pre-rolled frozen puff pasty, defrost and cut to size depending on ages/appetites. One whole sheet for large appetites, half a sheet for normal etc. [although you can just do whole sheets and cut them up to serve]. Anyway, take your cut up vegies and microwave lightly, or use up leftover vegies in the fridge or even frozen veg. Same with protein – chopped cooked chicken, ham, sausage, spag bol, casserole – anything you have handy. Have some grated cheese handy. Put enough veg/meat/cheese on each sheet so that you can comfortably fold it in half lengthwise or cross-wise or bring edges together at the top or whatever, season with salt, pepper and/or herbs and seal all edges using a little milk or water or egg. Glaze top if you wish. Put on oven trays and bake in a moderate oven until pastry is golden and heated through.

Katrina - The Organised Housewife March 10, 2016 - 6:14 AM

Yum Chris this is a fantastic way to use up left overs, thanks for sharing. I have done this a few times, with bolognese too, I spread flat on a sheet of pastry and roll up like a scroll, so good!

Trisha August 2, 2016 - 7:22 AM

I read what you use for burns – burn aid. I just wanted to mention I had quite a serious oil burn from hot oil in a fryer in a takeaway shop- you can imagine how hot that oil is ! The burn was down the inside of my forearm on the soft part of the skin and it was quite bad and blistered up to brown blisters. My husband also had a very serious steam and extremely hot water burn from work at the sugar mill – so you could imagine how hot that was.! I did the run under cold water for.both if us for 20 minutes and then I used a cream called ‘ solosite’ from the chemist on both of us. Yes we blistered up. But by applying this gel like substance up to 3 times a day ( that leaves a coating over the top ) it healed very quickly and we have no scaring or any signs of the burn ever being there. A friend also used this on her son when he very badly burnt himself on the exhaust pipe of his motor bike. Brilliant stuff. I would highly recommend this.
I love your tips and hints for all the stuff you do its great. But highly recommend ‘solosite gel’ give it a go if you like

Katrina - The Organised Housewife August 2, 2016 - 7:33 AM

that’s wonderful to hear Trisha, great to hear when things work well and so pleased you don’t have any scarring!

Bridget August 10, 2016 - 5:18 PM

I’ve read a few times about how you pre cut all your vegetables after your shop.
Are there any vegetables/fruits you suggest to leave whole or do you cut up everything?


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