Working families want happy, healthy, and full lives. Often, though, we find ourselves scrambling at meal time to throw together a good meal. Meal time doesn’t have to be a scramble or unhealthy. Build an arsenal of tools to help create healthy meals for yourself and family. The following tips are those that I use myself to make home cooked meals, healthy lunches, and snacks for my family.
My top advice: buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats when possible (organic if you can afford it), always keep staples on hand (carrots, onion, celery, garlic, chicken stock, herbs of some sort), try something new!
Before heading out to the grocery store, decide what is on the menu for the week. Pull your recipes, visit My Recipes, Food Network, AllRecipes, Cooking Light, or The Pioneer Woman (or whatever site you prefer) to find meals for the week. Try to plan for 7 days. If you eat out one day, you will have a “spare” meal and ingredients on hand for the following week.
When writing your grocery list, get specific. My list is always sorted by the aisles in the grocery store so I don’t miss anything. I also make a notation next to each item to correspond to its meal. This method helps me in two ways. One, the list moves me through the store without any backtracking. Two, I don’t decide to cut an item because I can’t remember what it’s for (I’ve done this too many times!).
Embrace The Crockpot
The crockpot gets a bad rap as something for your grandmother or of a bygone era. I’m here to tell you, no, the crock pot will save you. On those nights that the kids have soccer, gymnastics, and piano lessons; or you simply want to come home to a warm, fresh meal; the crock pot is the go-to kitchen appliance. Of course, you need to prep the meal in the morning but those 15 minutes are worth the effort when you walk in the door too tired to cook.
My favorite meals for the crock pot include:
- BBQ Pulled Pork – AllRecipes, Robert Irvine
- Chicken Tortilla Soup – AllRecipes (my version is a little different. I don’t use enchilada sauce or tomatoes. I use tortilla chips instead of tortillas and only chicken stock – no water)
- Turkey Chili
- Beef Stew
Create A Go-To Quick Meal Arsenal
Everyone has those nights when they just don’t want to cook. You didn’t prep the crock pot, got home tired, and decided that the homemade enchiladas were too much. Prepare for those nights with a go-to quick meal. In our family, those meals are usually:
- Breakfast for dinner – eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, french toast – whatever your family likes
- Spaghetti – Marinara Sauce – Giada de Laurentiis
- Grilled Sandwiches
- Taco Night
- Soup – check out the yummy recipe by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) Veggie Tortellini Soup
If you are feeling really motivated, you can prep meals during the weekend and freeze them. Often these are crock pot meals and may require defrosting. However, they can help you out on those nights you draw a blank on what to cook. If you have the time and energy, consider keeping a couple of these on hand.
The Lunch Menu
Again, if you have time, you could prep your weekly lunches on the weekend. This will save time in the morning and reduce stress trying to get out the door. For ease, create a “menu” and select an item from each category (works great for kids lunches).
Main – turkey / cheese sandwich, bagel & cream cheese, turkey / cheese / wheat crackers, turkey / cheese / pita or tortilla roll up, chicken and vegetable salad
Fruit & Veggies – banana, berries, apple slices, oranges / cuties, strawberries, pears, raisins / dried fruit, carrots, celery, cucumber, jicama, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, etc.
Crunchy – granola bar, homemade energy bar, pretzels (Nutella, peanut butter dip, hummus), veggie chips, etc.
Dairy – cheese stick, yogurt, baby bell, low / non fat chocolate milk
Treat – fruit snacks, mini cookies (like Nilla wafers), homemade cookies, homemade brownie (make it healthy with this amazing recipe), trail mix,
Drink – water, low / non-fat milk, 0 waters (non-calorie flavored waters), sugar-free fruit juice
Of course, you can’t forget snacks. We all love our snacks. The key is to find something healthy that will energize your body. Sugars and fats will make you feel sluggish. Not exactly what you want mid-day!
The above lunch items make great snacks but if you are looking for healthy recipes because you are dying to cook, try these:
Power Balls – Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Market
Chocolate Cake in a Mug – Ree Drummond
Slow Cooker Chicken Recipes – Cooking Light
Hummus – Cooking Light
Healthy Snack Ideas – Cooking Light