You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of getting home-cooked meals on the table when you are in the thick of life’s busy schedule. But with prior planning, preparation and a freezer full of batch-cooked wholesome meals, you can remove the stress from dinnertime and quickly sit down to delicious, nourishing family dinners daily.
- Plan your menus ahead of time and cook on weekends. This means fewer trips to the grocery store and less food waste. Prep ahead to have on hand recipe ingredients that can be easily assembled to eat during the week, when there are frequently evening activities and time is short. Bake extra chicken breasts to use later in the week in another dish, chop enough vegetables for tomorrow’s salad and make sure to have cooked brown rice in the refrigerator, or freezer, to easily reheat.
- Speaking of the freezer, the easiest way to get a quick, nourishing meal on the table is to cook in bulk and freeze meal-sized portions for later. Place frozen items in the refrigerator the night before you intend to eat them so they thaw properly before cooking. In the evening, when your family – including you – is tired and famished, all you need to do is reheat and serve. Meats, soups, stews and slow cooker meals work particularly well for this purpose. One easy recipe to try is our Slow Cooker Beef with Vegetables. You can make this on the weekend and freeze it. It will be ready to pull out and serve for dinner and use the leftovers in tacos or in pita sandwiches for lunch the next day. Or try this month’s featured recipe Chicken with Italian Sauce.
- Eat a nutritious breakfast. This is the single best thing you can do to ensure you have sustained energy throughout the day. Coffee and donuts are not the answer! Try our Mini Parmesan Kale Quiche that you can make in advance for an easy grab and go option. This is a great for days when you need to leave the house in a hurry. And make sure your children do this, too. They will learn better and be more focused in school.
- For busy days, bring nourishing lunches and snack foods or figure out ahead of time which food choices will help keep your energy high and your mind alert. Focus on a combination of lean protein, healthy fat and slow carbohydrates.
- If you have young children, review their school lunch menu and have them help you prepare brown bag lunches for days when they don’t care for the menu offerings. That way, they will learn what components should be included in a nutritious lunch.
- Have hand fruit, veggies and dip or low-sugar yogurt available for afternoon snacks when kids are looking for an after-school boost to carry them till dinner. Children choose foods that are easy to grab, so feature the good stuff, rather than the fast carbs and bad fats found in most chips and cookies.
Regardless of the season, smart planning and preparing ahead can ensure you have easy, nutritious meals available, minimize your mealtime stress and allow you and your family to feel and perform your best.