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A Home-Cooked Meal Every Night is Possible!

posted Sep 9, 2016, 8:08 AM by   [ updated Sep 9, 2016, 8:15 AM ]
It’s week 2 of National Family Meals month, so we’re getting right down to discussing how to integrate more family meals into your busy routine. Last week, we reviewed the importance of family meals…but if you don’t have the time or desire to cook, then you won’t reap the benefits.

Weekly Meal Prep
There are several different ways to approach making family meals a priority. One is taking several hours to prep meals and snacks for a whole week. You may have seen this “weekly meal prep” concept on your fitness-crazed friend’s social media accounts, but you can use this strategy just to prep a balanced and nourishing dinner every night of the week. This approach requires strategic planning and a larger chunk of time, but once it’s done, it’s done! You’ll prepare your family’s favorite recipes all at once so that all you’ll have to do is reheat and enjoy. This is ideal for families with very busy weeknights, however cooking for the whole week at once and then reheating the meals a few days later can you leave you feeling like you are constantly eating leftovers. To ease yourself into the meal prep world and to make you feel less like you’re always eating leftovers, try prepping just a few “meal starters” such as shredded chicken, cleaning and chopping vegetables, or preparing larger portions of grains such as rice or quinoa so that fresh meals can be made from these pre-prepared ingredients.

Freezer Meals 
Another approach to this batch cooking concept is freezer meals. This method still requires a larger chunk of time and more planning than preparing a new dish each day, but meals can be stored in the freezer for several months and then cooked “fresh” on the busy night you want to eat it. So, instead of preparing a large batch of freezer meals once per week, you could do this once per month and then supplement with fresher meals on the evenings that are not quite as hectic. There are numerous freezer meal recipes complete with shopping lists and money-saving tips all over the internet as well as useful cookbooks. Most blogs about freezer meals are fairly reliable, but it is best to get started with tried and true recipes and methods from published sources.

Ingredient Baskets (DIY Blue Apron)
If neither of these batch cooking plans are for you, another idea to try is creating meal ingredient baskets for the week. This again requires some prep and planning, but not as much work on the front end. First, you select your recipes for the week and create your shopping list. Once you have purchased all of the ingredients that you need, you simply split them up into meal baskets that can be stored in the refrigerator (or pantry if the items are nonperishable) with a copy of the recipe attached to it. When it’s time to start dinner, you just select a basket and everything is right there ready to go. This method does require more preparation time on the day that the meal is served, but the beauty of it is that it can be a fun way to get the whole family involved in preparing the meals. Whoever gets home first gets to select that evening’s meal basket, but they also have to get the meal started. Depending on age and skill level, your kids can even be a part of this too! These meals are also perceived as fresher than the batch-cooked meals which will make even the pickiest family member happy. Think of this method as a DIY meal delivery service (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, etc).

Check out our Dinner Made Easy and What's in Your Pantry handouts for some quick, easy, and balanced meal and snack ideas to get you started. Once you make meal planning part of your routine, you will be able to do it more quickly and efficiently and your family will be happier and healthier for it!