We’ve all been there—you arrive home later than planned. You’ve got hungry kids and time is ticking before you have to leave for the hockey rink or soccer field. In these moments of last-minute meal decisions, you might feel guilty, wishing you had something healthy and fast to throw together. You’re not alone.

Between work, homework and after-school activities, most families face a regular crunch time around dinner. The good news is that a little preparation goes a long way.

If you’ve been wondering how to meal prep for family easily, we’ve got you covered with a few time-finding ideas:

1. Plan Meals Ahead

When it comes to meal prep for a family, planning ahead is very important. If you’re not someone who makes a meal plan for the week, give it a try for a month or two. Knowing that you’ll have tacos on Monday, pasta on Tuesday and salmon with rice on Wednesday, will help you to shop accordingly. If you are able, try to use your plan to shop only once a week. This will not only save time but will also help you get used to a weekly planning and shopping routine.

2. Shop with Purpose

With your meal plan broken into ingredients, you’ll have your shopping list for the week. If you know the layout of your grocery store, you may even find it useful to visually plan out your shopping items. List all of your bread products together, for example, all of your vegetables together, and so on, just as you find them grouped in the grocery store. Don’t forget to add staples such as milk, cheese and lunch supplies, as well as your favourite add-on ingredients or snacks.

3. Make Meal Prep Part of Your Shopping

If you’re like most people, the minute you get your groceries away, you move on to other tasks. In order to step up your meal planning, think about changing your routine. Once you get your groceries into your kitchen, keep your momentum going by washing, drying and chopping your vegetables before putting them away.

4. Micro-Prep in Quantity

Whether you decide to prepare food as soon as you are home from the store or later in your day, consider the value of micro-prepping for your week. Using this system, you can set your week up with fresh vegetables and fruit, with less on-the-spot preparation. Choose one item at a time for more efficient preparation and work in bulk. If, for example, you know you will use chopped carrots as a snack, in a stir fry and as a side dish, peel and chop enough quantity to last the entire week.

5. Cook in Bulk

Of course, the classic way to prepare meals for your week is to cook them in bulk and store them in smaller portions. Spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chili and stew are great make-ahead items that freeze well. Don’t forget about other make-ahead items like hard boiled eggs, which can be used as a snack, a salad add-on or a side dish.

If you make a large salad to last throughout the week, remember to make sure the lettuce leaves and other ingredients are dry and dressing-free.

6. Try a Meal Prep Service

If the idea of spaghetti or lasagna starts to sound old by the second week of meal planning, think about trying a meal preparation service, which will deliver fresh meal kits to your home. With the advantage of fresh ingredients, customized meals and flexible delivery options, meal kits delivered to your home can be just the solution you need.

If you decide to try a prepared meal delivery service, be sure to look for a company known for fresh ingredients, a wide menu selection and reliable delivery options.

7. Delegate Meals

If preparing meals in advance isn’t feasible and you’re outside the delivery area for a meal prep service, you may need to get more creative regarding family meals. If your children are old enough to use the stove when you’re not home, ask them to start stove-top preparations or preheat the oven. They can also throw together a salad or simply set the table. When you’ve got a night on the run ahead of you, every bit helps.

8. Order Extra

If you find yourself ordering in on your busiest nights, think about ordering extra food in order to have leftovers the next night. While this is an expensive solution, it can tie you over in a given week. If, for example, you order Indian food on a Wednesday night and order slightly more than you need, you can make your own rice and salad the next night to extend the protein portion of your meal.

If you’ve been wondering how to meal prep for family easily, you are not alone. The key to any busy night is to have as much organized ahead of time as possible. From thoughtful shopping to basic meal prep, you can make a big difference in the amount of time you need to spend in the kitchen on your busiest nights. If you’re lucky enough to have a meal prep service in your area, think about trying their meals on a schedule that meets your needs and budget.