Why do people choose fast food over preparing meals at home? I think it’s because many people are short on time. It’s certainly understandable, but with the right foods on hand, feeding your family healthier meals becomes less of a chore.
Meal Prep Tips for Busy Families
According to a report from the University of Washington, those who cook more at home have a diet that’s lower in calories, sugar, and fat. It’s also more economical than dining out. Here are my favourite ways to move toward more homemade meals, even for busy families on the go:
Create a routine.
It doesn’t have to be “Taco Tuesday” and “Pasta Wednesday” every week, but sometimes guidelines can help cut down on decision paralysis. Designate a day or two for how you’ll eat, not necessarily what you’ll eat—like Meatless Mondays or having breakfast for dinner once a week.
Compile a recipe stash.
Use a system that works for you, whether it’s ripping recipes from a magazine and putting them in a binder, or bookmarking them on your computer or smartphone, so you can retrieve them easily.
Make a list, then shop once a week.
Pick a shopping day. Get input on your list from the family. Check to see if you’re low on your staples in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry so that you don’t waste time chasing them down during the rest of the week, and so that you can throw together a quick soup, curry or pasta dish at a moment’s notice. When you get to the store, take a few minutes to read food labels to help you choose healthy foods that fit your family’s tastes and budget.
Maybe your spouse is great with a knife—he or she would be perfect on chopping duty. Little kids can mix and help measure. And some folks are best suited for clean-up duty. Give everyone a part they can do with little or no complaints.
Think fast and easy.
How many times did you buy a whole spaghetti squash with the best of intentions, only to watch it rot slowly over time in the back of the bottom fridge drawer? Reach for shortcuts such as frozen veggies, pre-washed greens and pre-cooked or pre-seasoned meat to help cut down on cooking and prep time.
Prep once, cook twice.
If you know you’re going to use chopped onions, garlic and vegetables in more than one meal during the week, cut up everything at one time and store what you’re not using immediately in the fridge so you’ll have it on hand. Make extra rice or quinoa and store whatever’s left for a future meal and freeze it. And cook extra protein for two meals – the extra fish you grill tonight can be used for tomorrow’s fish tacos.
Master some one-dish wonders.
Cultivate meals that balance your proteins, vegetables, and starches all in one dish. Consider chili, soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles. Shifting such a critical part of your life might not happen overnight, especially if it’s tough to get other family members on board, but if you start small and easy, you’ll build a foundation for your family that will only get better over time.