Getting healthy and tasty dinners on the table during the work week can sometimes be a grind. Hungry kids are often cranky and impatient, so the pressure is on to get food on the table as soon as you get home.
With a few steps in the right direction you may find yourself eating more nutritious and balanced meals, while saving money by eating out less often. Check out these parent survival tips to help ease suppertime anxiety.
1. Make a meal plan. As Louis Pasteur famously said, “chance favours the prepared mind”. Making a weekly meal plan stacks the odds of meal time success in your favour. Some families like to have themed nights like Meatless Monday or Fish Friday; others like to mix it up. Meal planning takes some extra time up front, but it gets easier the more you do it. Having a few tried and tested weekly meal plans on hand takes the work out of this step in the long term. Knowing what’s planned for supper before you get home will relieve some stress and help you get meals on the table quickly.
2. Shop ahead. Use your meal plan to build a weekly grocery list, organized by grocery store department or the different stores you plan to shop at. Buy all the ingredients for the recipes on your meal plan. This will save you from having to stop at the store on the way home, or from getting derailed by a missing ingredient.
4. Have a backup plan. Sometimes life gets in the way so plan for the unexpected and have a super easy backup meal for those days when you don’t feel like cooking or get home late. This will help you avoid the temptation to order take-out. For example, your backup plan might be something easy to cook like scrambled eggs or baked beans and whole grain toast with some fruit and glass of milk.
5. Prep food beforehand. Do yourself a favour and do some supper prep either the night before or on the weekend. Also, you don’t need to make everything from scratch, take advantage of prewashed and cut salads and veggies at the store. Here are some ideas:
- Prepare pizza dough the night before. It will rise slowly in the fridge overnight.
- Precut veggies for snacks or for making soups and stir-fries.
- Make sauces and dips (e.g. tomato sauce, peanut sauce and yogurt dip) ahead and in big batches
- Precook whole grains (brown rice, barley, kamut, millet, steel cut oats, quinoa etc.)
- Buy prewashed greens, salad mixes, frozen veggie mixes and other ready-to-use healthy foods
6. Cook once, eat twice. It’s easier to make a double recipe than it is to make the same recipe twice. You can store the extras in the freezer for supper next week, or use them for lunches. Aim to make big batch recipes on the weekend and then save half the batch for a quick weeknight meal.
7. Make use of a slow cooker or pressure cooker
- The slow cooker is great for hands-off cooking. It requires some advance prep work, but then slowly simmers your meal while you’re away. If you can fit in a bit of planning and prep ahead, you’ll love how the slow cooker lets you come home to ready-to-eat hot meals.
- The pressure cooker dramatically speeds up the cooking process (saving gas or electricity) by raising the temperature inside the pot to above 100°C. It is great for those who would rather not have to prep the meal before leaving the house, but requires more attention and timing while cooking. A stovetop pressure cooker is versatile and can be used as a regular pot. It can also brown meats and onions, and is great for cooking beans.
8. Share the work. Get your kids to help out with age appropriate tasks. This might not get dinner to the table any faster, but it will reduce the likelihood of pre-meal complaining, give kids a sense of accomplishment and increase the likelihood that they’ll try the meal.
Do you have other tips to share with fellow parents? Bon appétit!