With the return of school comes the return of busy schedules. And finding time to prepare and enjoy quality meals with your family can be a difficult task. You could order Chinese takeout or delivery pizza, but those quick fixes can eventually lead to unhealthy eating habits. Instead, check out these ten simple tips to help you prepare quick and healthy homemade meals all school year long.
Take a Shortcut
Take advantage of convenience products and cut out extra steps. Use frozen vegetables, pasta sauces and grated cheeses. Buy pre-marinated meats, like Honeysuckle White® marinated turkey tenderloins or cooked meats from the deli. The little time you save on each item really adds up.
Unclutter your Kitchen
The key to a stress-free meal is a clean and organized kitchen. Keep utensils near your work area, pots and pans near the stove and cleaning materials near the sink. Before you begin, be sure all your dishes are clean and in their proper place.
Work While You Wait
Use your "waiting time" wisely. After one step has been started, begin to prepare for the next. For example, you can wash and chop vegetables while the oven is pre-heating. Or prepare the pasta sauce while the noodles are cooking.
Clean as You Go
Save yourself the hassle of dealing with a dirty mess after the meal. Keep the kitchen sink full of soapy water and as you work, toss used utensils, spoons and whisks into the sink for easy cleanup.
Have Important Ingredients on Hand
Keep your fridge, freezer and pantry stocked with common cooking ingredients. This way, you’ll always be prepared to make a quick meal. Rice and pasta are easy and inexpensive essentials. Others might include ground turkey, eggs, frozen and canned vegetables, etc.
Make Simple Meals
Save more complex recipes for when you have spare time. On a weeknight, fewer ingredients mean fewer problems. For a simple and nutritious meal, stick to a basic mix of a starch, one or two vegetables, and a protein.
Keep Good Time
Save yourself time with a multi-use timer. This essential kitchen clock will keep you on track and help you better manage a complex recipe with several steps. To eliminate any confusion, write down which timer belongs to which step.
Right when you get home from the grocery store, begin to prepare all fruits and vegetables. Wash, chop, place into containers and refrigerate. Now you have produce that’s ready to be added easily to any meal or served as a quick and nutritious snack.
Cook with the Kids
Little kids can be a big help. Give them small jobs like cutting, peeling and mixing. Or have them fetch tools and ingredients for you. Best of all, you’ve managed to turn "saving time" into "quality time."
Learn Simple Substitutions
There’s nothing worse than finding out in the middle of preparing a recipe that you don’t have all the required ingredients. Use this quick substitution chart to avoid untimely trips to the grocery store.
WHEN YOU NEED … / USE …
- 1 cup buttermilk / 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to measure 1 cup; let stand 5 minutes
- 1 cup whole milk / ½ cup evaporated milk plus ½ cup water
- 1 cup sour cream / 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tsp. lemon juice / ¼ tsp. cider vinegar
- 1 cup half-and-half / 1 Tbsp. melted butter plus enough whole milk to measure 1 cup
- 1 tsp. baking powder / ½ tsp. cream of tartar plus ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch / 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour