Long days at the office, crazy commutes, shuttling the kids back and forth to sports practices, trying to get yourself to the gym after work… If you’re feeling strapped for time, you’re not alone. All the rushing around can make it seem almost impossible to get a healthy meal on the table. But put down that take-out menu! We have some tips to help you make and serve nutritious meals with minimal hassle.
Maximize Efficiency with Meal Planning
Planning the week’s meals ahead of time is a shortcut that can help you save money and time in the grocery store. The key to successful meal planning is identifying items that can be made once and used in a few different ways.
For example, baking fish on Sunday will give you a main course dinner to serve the family. However, if you make a bit more than you might otherwise, you’ll also have leftovers for fish tacos or perhaps a seafood chowder two days later. It just takes some advance planning and careful shopping. Once you get the hang of planning your meals ahead of time, you’ll love the benefits: fewer last minute grocery store trips, less time spent thinking about what’s for dinner and reduced food waste.
Cook in Batches
Taking the time to make several batches of food at once is an excellent way to prepare for a busy week ahead. You can make everything at once and stow it in your fridge, or freeze some for the future. Either way, you’ll be thrilled when you get home and have a healthy dinner all ready to be re-heated and served. For a nutritious and budget-friendly meal, try making a hearty batch of stew. You can always double, triple or even quadruple the recipe if necessary. Find more easy-to-freeze recipes here.
Start Prep Ahead of Time
Another time saver is washing and cutting up your vegetables all at once so they are ready to go when you are cooking. Onions, peppers and carrots are all candidates to be prepared ahead. They can keep for several days, which saves you time during weeknight meal prep. That way you have the items you use most often ready to cook with—or, paired with some hummus or your favorite dip, a quick snack.
Try Slow Cooker Meals
A slow cooker (or crockpot) is a busy person’s secret weapon in the kitchen. Designed to cook your food at low temperature over six to eight hours, a slow cooker means you can do all your prep in the morning and come home to a ready-made meal. While slow cookers are most commonly thought of to make soups, stews and chili (which they are great at), you can also use them for large batches of make-ahead oatmeal, seafood chowders, sides like potatoes au gratin—even brownies for a well-deserved treat after a busy week!
The best choices for dinner combine lean protein with lots of vegetables and some rice, pasta or whole grains. Some of our favorite easy slow cooker recipes are seafood chowder, shrimp scampi or salmon fillets with Asian veggies. If you’re new to crockpots, check out these tips to get started. And since you’re making everything in one pot, cleanup is a breeze.
Serving healthy meals on-the-go can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Think positive, plan ahead and you’ll find you have plenty of quick, delicious meals that you can have on the table in short order.
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