Do you feel like each day goes by too quickly? When you pick up the kids from school, you get home from work, and soccer practice is over, what is the first thing on everyone’s mind? “What’s for dinner?” Maybe we can skip dinner just this one time! You walk to the kitchen, open the pantry or refrigerator and look. What is there? What can I throw together now? And how can I make it healthy for my family?
We all face these issues. The pace of life is fast and does not always provide the time and space we need to make fabulous, healthy meals. Who has time to pour over cookbooks and follow complicated recipes? What is the alternative? Drive-thru fast food? Drive thru cuisine may be okay occasionally, but not every night. There has to be an easier way. Right?
Below are some time saving, helpful tips to making healthy meals for your family:
- Sit down and make a list of the top 10-15 meals your family loves. You can cycle through these meals every couple of weeks. You are not reinventing the wheel every time you sit down to meal plan and grocery shop. Keep this list close by – on your phone or tablet, or in a notebook.
- From your list of favorite meals, make a list of ingredients each meal will need. Again, you will not have to reinvent the grocery list each time you meal plan. The ingredient list will already be ready to go. Even if your list looks like: 1 package of chicken breast, 1 jar teriyaki sauce, 1 package rice, 1 bundle broccoli. When you see “Teriyaki Chicken and Rice” on your list of meals, you don’t have to think again and again about each ingredient. Go to the list and copy and paste it to your grocery list.
- Schedule a time to meal plan for the upcoming week. Put it on your calendar! Consider what times works best for you. If you meal plan after the kids go to bed on Friday night, you can grocery shop on the weekend and have all you need for the next week’s meals. Maybe Sunday afternoon works best for you, while the kids take a nap or watch a football game on TV, you can grab some time to map out the meals for the upcoming week. Having a plan is key!
- Look for ways to work healthy foods into your family’s favorite meals. For example, my family loves spaghetti and meat sauce. I can purchase pre-cut butternut squash to add to the marinara sauce – as it cooks it will soften and mash into the sauce and kids are none the wiser. Or you can introduce your family to a healthier choice of a ground turkey/ground chicken meatball instead of beef. With marinara and pasta, the taste is similar and is a healthy alternative to ground beef. Recipe here
- Have you ever considered spending an hour or two preparing meals ahead of time? Pre-chopped vegetables can be sauteed or roasted later in the week. Pre-cook a batch of meatballs to use in a spaghetti meal, as well as in a pot of soup. Grill a couple of packages of chicken breasts to serve alongside rice and vegetables. Each meal comes together much faster if some food items are already cooked.
- Check out the shelves of your grocery store, or search online for products to help you spend less time in the kitchen: pre-cut, pre-bagged vegetables and fruit, heat and serve mashed potatoes, or microwavable rice. Meal preparation goes much quicker when you do not have to spend a lot of time chopping and dicing!
We all need to reduce stress in our lives and slow down a little. Mealtime can be such an important time in the life of our families. Creating a plan each week for evening meals will go a long way to provide healthy dinners in a less stressful or time consuming way.