One of the best things you can do for yourself and your family is to make the majority of your meals at home. Doing so assures you total control over the ingredients, cooking method, and portions.
I know that cooking can seem like a big chore, especially for the busy majority of us who are running around like crazy. I feel your pain. Here are just a few tips I’ve learned to make sure I have fresh, healthy food for myself and my family ready at meal time.
Leftovers are a Lifesaver
Cook just once, eat several times. Pick one night when you have time to prepare a recipe that you can double, save the leftovers, freeze, and just reheat on a busy night. Batching in this manner saves the setup time AND dishes. You can do this several times a week if you want, cutting your cooking time in half. Healthy leftovers > take out.
Make It a Family Affair
Kids love to help with “grown-up” tasks, and especially the older ones can be quite helpful when it comes to meal preparation. I’ve had my kids helping with everything from boiling pasta (my teenager) to peeling veggies to cutting bananas to setting the table. My husband and I have a deal that I cook and he cleans. Team work makes everything much easier.
Preparation is Key
Once a week when you have time, go to the grocery store with a list of everything you need for the week. Then the minute you get back, before you put anything away, prepare everything that you possibly can so it is ready to cook for dinner, throw in a sandwich for lunch, or heat for breakfast.
Hard boil a dozen eggs, chop veggies for dinner, freeze fruit for smoothies, pre-cook grains, marinate meats. Store your prepped food in high-quality glass or plastic (BPA-free) containers, then when it’s time to eat, you’re halfway there. Think of this prep time as an investment with a high rate of return on your time during the week.
Have Theme Nights
In our house, every Friday is “campfire” night – everyone cooks their own food over our backyard fire pit. Saturday is burgers on the grill, Sunday is make-your-own pizza (all of these are healthy, homemade versions).
These three meals require little to no prep and are super simple to make and clean up. Another idea might be breakfast for dinner night. You don’t have to cater an elaborate, detailed meal every time.
Slow Cookers are Your New Best Friend
Invest in a good slow cooker that has a timer. Throw ingredients in, set the timer, forget it until dinner, and serve. You’d be amazed what slow cooker recipes you can find, from roasting whole chickens, to pastas, to baked potatoes, to chili. Do a search on Pinterest or Google for “healthy slow cooker recipes”.
Invest In Time Saving Tools
A good food processor has made my cooking life so much easier. With a shredding and slicing blade, food prep is fast and simple. A good quality, sharp chef’s knife will also save time and hassle.
Save Your Money
I’ve discovered that for us, cooking at home translates to a more than 50% savings from take-out. For my family of 6, in one month we can save around $500 by eating dinners at home.
This adds up to a pretty nice vacation each year. Let this motivate you to start a vacation or “fun” fund with the money you would’ve spent on less-than-healthy takeout or expensive restaurant dining.
Do you cook at home? Do you have any tips to share?