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Posted in Food and Recipes | June 2014

That was fast—and delicious!

making food ahead
The healthiest thing you can feed your family is a home cooked meal made from scratch, because you can control the salt, fat and freshness of the ingredients used. But with today’s busy lifestyles, it can sometimes seem next to impossible to get a hot, nutritious meal on the table during those busy weeknights.

We have some tips, resources and suggestions that might make mealtime a little simpler, healthier and easier every night of the week.

  1. Plan your meals in advance. You know your family’s schedule, so make sure to plan exactly what you’re making—and have all the ingredients needed to make it—each night of the week. Last minute dinner choices are often not the healthiest, particularly since fast food can seem like an easy option when you’re short on time. Eat Right Ontario has an online meal planning tool that allows you to choose the type of personalized menu plan that you desire (vegetarian, active lifestyle, eat right for less, cooking for one or two, etc.), then gives you a weekly, customized plan that includes links to the recipes, a shopping list and other useful information for healthy eating.
  2. Make big batches. On the weekend, or on other days when you have some extra time, make large batches of freezable meals that you can store away and simply pull out to reheat during the week. BBC Good Food has 40 recipes for delicious freezer meals including crusty cheddar pies, fuss-free lasagna, and so-simple spaghetti Bolognese. Betty Crocker has a month’s worth of freezer meals including slow cooker pot roast, spicy orange chicken stir-fry, and sweet and sour meat loaf. The site also includes a host of valuable tips for make-ahead meal success.
  3. Swap recipes. If you and your family are tired of the same old-same old, or you just don’t have any quick weeknight recipes in your repertoire, get together with other like-minded friends for an old-fashioned recipe swap. Ask your friends to bring copies of their quick and easy family favorites to share with the group. Make sure to specify that the recipes should be ones that can be prepped and frozen in advance or made from scratch within 30 minutes or so. If you want to cast the net a little wider, start a recipe swap group on Facebook—or hunt for one that already exists and join in the fun.
  4. Search online. The Internet is a home cook’s dream resource! All you have to do is go to Google, type in “quick weeknight meals” and you’ll get thousands of sites to choose from, like The Food Network’s Healthy Weeknight Dinners, five budget-friendly weeknight meals from Eating Well, quick family favorite meals from Delish and yummy weeknight meals from Healthy Delicious.
  5. Keep your pantry stocked with staples. If you always have a few key ingredients on hand, you’ll be able to whip up a quick meal in a pinch even if you haven’t planned ahead. The Register-Mail has a great article about how to keep your kitchen stocked for quick weeknight meals. It includes simple recipes and a list of pantry must-haves such as canned beans, dried beans, eggs, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, onions, salsa, quick oats, rice, quinoa, broths, dried herbs and spices, mustards, oils and vinegars.

When all else fails, a simple tuna sandwich with a side of crunchy raw veggies is a comforting and quick way to feed your family when you’re out of time and energy—and it’s still a better option than fast food. But with a little planning and perhaps some inspiration from friends, you can have hot, homemade meals on your dinner table throughout the week!

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