As a busy parent juggling the demands of work, home, and family, maybe you don't think you have time to prepare meals. And yet, neither will your budget sustain a diet built around eating out or ordering in. If you can't make more money, you need to make more of your time. Here are some efficient food preparation tips to help with that.
- Taking time to plan saves time in the long run. Make up the week's menu the day before you grocery shop and write your grocery list. I plan seven dinners, plus food available for breakfast and lunch. Plan on having leftovers for lunch to recycle for dinner. Broil chicken one night and use the leftover chicken for tacos or a casserole the following day.
- Don't feel guilty if you occasionally serve frozen waffles with fruit or a vegetable omelette for dinner.
- Keep a folder handy with your family's favorite fast-food recipes from cookbooks and magazines to keep in the folder. (It's difficult to prepare a 20-minute meal if you spend 10 minutes searching for a recipe.) Keep menus from carry-out restaurants, delis and pizzerias in the folder for meal emergencies.
- Keep your freezer stocked with items such as ground turkey for burgers or burritos, pizza crusts, pita bread, or tortillas, freshly ground parmesan or romano cheese, and frozen fruit and vegetables for emergencies.
- Instead of making salads or side dishes, stick to one main dish when you're pressed for time. Cut up fresh fruit and vegetables along with some breadsticks for the family to munch on while you make dinner.
- Grocery shopping: Look for convenience items that save without sacrificing nutrition, such as deboned chicken, roast turkey, peeled baby carrots, grated cabbage, and pre-cut spinach. Avoid packaged foods that are high in sodium, sugar, fat, and additives. I take advantage of the supermarket's salad bar with its washed and chopped greens and vegetables.
- Keep your pantry stocked with marinara sauce, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, pasta, boxed grains, canned beans, and refried beans. Make sure you have on hand the ingredients needed for your "fast-food folder." Have condiments such as salsa, chutney, mustard, vinegar and wine available to quickly add flavor to food.
- Draft family members to assist you—a spouse or older children—to chop vegetables or grate cheese while younger children set the table.