Posted on 04/02/2015 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
Like many moms, a big part of my day is devoted to making healthy meals for my family and I. I’m either searching for and buying healthy ingredients and products or constantly in the kitchen peeling, cutting, chopping, dicing, cooking and cleaning.
Evenings and early mornings are spent making breakfast, lunches and snacks. And some part of my weekend is spent cooking vegetables, soups and grains or making protein bars.
Making sure my family eats healthy is a near-obsession, especially because the “forces of darkness” in the form of omnipresent fast-food outlets, sugary drinks, and nutrient-depleted salty snacks are everywhere!
But, let’s face it. Even though I place a lot of importance on home-cooked, healthy meals, and enjoy doing all the work, it’s a huge time-suck.
Over the years, though, I’ve found some time-saving shortcuts to make the process easier. Now I spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my family. So here are 8 of my favorite time-saving shortcuts for better cooking:
1. Buy pre-cut or frozen.
I used to spend time chopping up onions, carrots and celery but I’ve wised up. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive but pre-cut mirepoix for soups and stews saves so much time. Look for fruits and vegetables that are peeled or pre-cut too, or buy them frozen. You’ll save time, always have healthy fare on hand and you’ll cut down on throwing out spoiled food.
2. Use a slow cooker.
The slow cooker is by far the quickest and easiest way to have a meal on the table come dinnertime. I find soups and stews are best, but you can also throw a whole chicken in there, overnight oats for breakfast, applesauce and even dessert. Chicken carcasses can also be used in a cooker to make a terrific broth after the family has devoured the rotisserie goodness.
3. Open a can.
Canned foods not only save a ton of time but they can be as healthy as their fresh counterparts. I like canned wild salmon or sardines for lunch, vegetable stock for soups and anchovies on homemade pizza. Canned beans are super-easy and versatile too, but always rinse them to reduce the sodium. Be sure to read labels for salt and sugar content and always choose brands that use BPA-free cans.
4. Cook in bulk.
My husband (see #8) often makes large batches of chicken stock or fresh tomato sauce and then freezes them in individual portions. I also try to cook several vegetables at once by roasting some in the oven and steaming others on the stove, or enough quinoa to last the week, for example.
5. Prep ahead of time.
When you have a window of time, pre-cut raw veggies, make a fruit salad, cook hard boiled eggs, or portion out raw almonds. So instead of being tempted by the chips in the pantry, you’ll have healthy snacks on hand all the time.
6. Get the kids involved.
My kids are young but they insist on helping me in the kitchen. So I give them a small cheese board and a baby knife and let them “chop” their own vegetables. Older children can help you measure, pour, mix and stir. It’s not only a good way to get them excited about healthy eating but they’ll be pre-occupied so you can focus on dinner.
7. Do a freezer meal swap.
Get a group of friends together and trade meals. Or double up a recipe and surprise your neighbor with half. Chances are, she’ll reciprocate the next time.
8. Get help.
Who says you have to do it all? Ask your partner to pitch in or hire a mother’s helper to watch your kids while you make dinner. If your budget allows, consider hiring a personal chef or a meal delivery service to cover some of the weekly meals. When all else fails and you’re simply too busy, give yourself a free pass and pick up a pre-made cooked meal at your grocery story or healthy take-out.
So, there you have it. Home-cooked doesn’t have to mean time-suck, or a huge sacrifice on quality or nutrients. Mix in these 8 time-savers with some traditional home-cooked, whole food options and you’ll have a happy family and happier mama.