Keeping up with your family’s increasingly hectic schedule can be a bit taxing at times. Is it any wonder then that your evening meals often come from a can or a box? Major constraints on your time prevent you from whipping delectable cuisine like Sandra Lee or Rachel Ray but that doesn’t have to be the case. The following recipes and cooking methods will pack a whole lot of pizzazz in a short amount of time. In fact, preparing meals in advance gives you more control over your resources. It can save you time and money!
Leftover chicken and casseroles can be reheated and served to your spouse and children on weekends or days off from school and work. Fresh ingredients can be added to stews and soups to create entirely new recipes.
Here’s a couple of ways for you to make better use of your kitchen:
- Pick up a copy of Kate Heyhoe’s book, Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint IN THE KITCHEN. A lot of energy is wasted cooking. Make your appliances and cookware work more efficiently by following the advice given by Heyhoe. By eliminating your “cookprint”, you reduce costs and help the planet.
- Shop locally and buy in season. Visit farmer’s markets and buy organic as often as possible. Learn which fruits and vegetables are in season and use them to enhance the flavors of other dishes. Can and preserve leftovers. Gourmet jams, jellies, and spreads can be made out of the simplest ingredients and used to jazz up last night’s leftovers.
- Swap out the plastic. Use earth friendly organic cotton lunch totes, sandwich and snack bags. Replace your plastic water bottle for a reusable stainless steel one with a secure lid. Carry canvas bags to the supermarket and choose to buy items with little to no packaging. Aim to have “waste-free” lunches daily.
- Experiment with spices, dips, and sauces. A little bit of seasoning can go a long way. Enhance the flavor of your dishes by experimenting with fresh and dried herbs. Make hummus and ranch dressing. Both compliment the flavors of many types of vegetables. Make caramel dip or homemade peanut butter and serve it with sliced apples.
- Introduce new foods gradually. Kids are often reluctant to try new things. Follow author Jessica Seinfeld’s advice and sneak fruits and veggies into other dishes. Zucchini and squash can be added to casseroles and baked into bread. Carrots and bananas can be used as an ingredient in muffins, cakes, and cookies.
- Divvy up fruits and veggies in advance. Washing, cutting, and sorting items like grapes, carrot and celery sticks, strawberries, blueberries, and cucumber slices into individual containers makes preparing lunches a snap. Simply grab the appropriate item from the fridge and place it into your spouse or child’s lunch bag before heading out the door.
- Make Jeremy’s award-winning chili recipe. Chili is a great meal that is inexpensive and is perfect for freezing and reheating as a quick meal. Not only that, but chili is versatile and can be served as the entire meal, as a topping for hot dogs or baked potatoes, or even incorporated into another dish. For about $25 you can feed your family for days.
Making slight changes to your routine can save your sanity. Spicing up a reheated cacciatore or dressing up a day old salad will become commonplace as you learn to cook smarter not harder. And when you cook smarter, you save time and money, which is more important than ever these days.
Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer for ChickSpeak, Buzzine, DisFUNKshion Magazine, Student Stuff, and a guest contributor for Wisebread. She loves thrift related topics and can spot a bargain a mile away.
Charissa is into frugal living and saving money.
Another thing that my family does is participate in a dinner co-op. We can save money because it's more economical to make a bunch of dried beans (or whatever- in bulk), we eat much better, and we only cook an in-depth meal once a week. Three other nights, food is delivered to our door.
All great ideas. I like to cook large amounts of food on the weekend and use them during the week to help save time on cooking and cleaning every day of the week. Also, local is definitely the way to go as you get so many choices of fresh produce for a fraction of the cost at grocery stores.
I find that I get more excited about cooking when I'm trying a new recipe. Making the same boring meals week after week gets so tiring and makes me want to avoid my kitchen. When I have a new recipe to try, suddenly I'm excited and want to be in my kitchen.
With kids try introducing vegetables in something else or add some sort of sauce to it. Then they will be more likely to eat it and can then transfer to eating them without the sauce and on their own.
Yes-that's exactly how I feel sometimes. After coming home from school and work and running errands, it's hard to be in the mood to whip up a tasty and nutritious meal for the family. However, recently I've been better because I've learned to be more resourceful by making dishes that I already had foods for in my refrigerator that way no food gets spoiled and goes to waste and my family gets a healthy meal! I also love fruits and veggies because they are a convenient and healthy alternative as opposed to chips/ candies.