It’s easy to cook on lazy summer nights when you have more time, but come the school year and it seems there’s just no time for great dinners. If you’re like most parents, your kids have dozens of activities to keep them busy until all hours of the night! So, how do you manage to get good, nutritious food on the table without running into time issues? Here are a few tips to help you out.
Planning ahead is a lifesaver for most parents. It makes things so much easier when you know precisely what you are going to make each night! Unfortunately, meal planning can be a little confusing sometimes, so you have two options.
One, you can meal plan yourself. This requires sitting down on a weekly basis (move to monthly once you are more experienced) and deciding what should be for dinner. The key here is to keep things simple. Don’t get carried away and decide to make complicated recipes every night of the week! In fact, you should stick to recipes that you are familiar with and which can be whipped up within 15-30 min. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed and will not stick to the plan.
Secondly, you can arrange for a menu planning service. These allow you to specify family likes and dislikes and you’ll be given not only a plan that fits your family, but a shopping list that you can take to the store with you. This is usually a very economical service and is worth it if you have troubles staying on track when planning yourself.
When you do cook, why not double the recipe? Most recipes can easily be doubled or even tripled with minimal extra work. Either store the remainder in the fridge for the next day or freeze it. In fact, you can plan all your meals to be freezer meals and save yourself a lot of time.
Choose meals that freeze well or which can be used in a variety of ways. For example, if you make hamburgers, go ahead and make twice as many and freeze the raw patties between sheets of waxed paper so you can simply pull them out, thaw them in the microwave and cook them for a couple of minutes on the grill or stove.
There is nothing wrong with not cooking from scratch. Using biscuit mix, for example, is completely acceptable. However, if you want the convenience of mixes without the extra chemicals and ingredients, you can make your own mixes. Just mix the dry ingredients from any recipe ahead of time, measure the amount made for one recipe, then multiply it. Store in an airtight container and simply scoop out the right amount each time and add any other required ingredients.
Just because you are short on time doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality of food. Your kids can still eat well even if you only have a few minutes to whip up something. And don’t forget, hitting a fast food place once in a while isn’t a cardinal sin!