One of the keys to healthier eating — and saving money while you do it — is preparing meals at home. However, it can be difficult to find the time to make meals and enjoy them.
There are a number of benefits to cooking at home beyond just improving your health and saving money. According to many studies, there are relationship and other benefits for sharing meals at home with a family.
If you want to improve your meal situation, here are 5 ideas for making time to prepare your meals and eat at home:
Schedule in the Time
Sometimes, I waste time. We all do. But you might b surprised to find that you have more time than you think. Take a look at your schedule, and determine whether or not you have been wasting time. In many cases, all you need to make dinner is 30 to 60 minutes. Could you find 30 to 60 minutes a day to cook dinner? Chances are that you can.
Plan Your Meals
The easiest way to avoid the last minute rush for take out is to plan your meals. Figure out what you are going to eat for dinner most nights of the week. In our family, we plan meals for four or five nights, which covers all of the work and school nights. We still have room for spontaneity on the weekend, but planning helps keep us on schedule, and ensures that we have healthy options.
We also plan to have various ingredients on hand so that we can make things quickly and simply. Pasta (we enjoy organic brown rice pasta), food staples, frozen soups (some of them homemade) and even some minimally processed frozen meals provide us with ways to quickly prepare meals without resorting to less healthy options.
Often we make a list of items needed to create our meals. We go to the store on Tuesday, after our produce box has been delivered. Sticking to a list ensures that we get what need to keep with our meal plan, and it can save money.
Make it a Shared Activity
One of the things my small family enjoys about meal time is that we all help. My son is 10, and we began basic cooking lessons last year. While we don’t put him in charge of anything major, and while he is never unsupervised, he can still help out. My husband and I frequently prepare meals together, with our son doing his part as well — even if it’s just tearing up lettuce for salad and setting the table.
When you do it together as a family, it’s easier to make the time for it, and you’re making good memories that are often more fulfilling than vague memories of sitting around the TV.
Learn to Use the Slow Cooker
For some families, the time just isn’t there. But that doesn’t mean that you have to forfeit home cooked meals. This is where meal planning comes in to help the situation. I match up the meal plan with our schedule. On days that I know we’ll be busy, I plan slow cooker meals. I usually prepare the crock pot the night before and refrigerate it. The next morning, all I need to do is pull out the food, turn on the slow cooker, and let it go all day. When it’s time for dinner, five minutes to prepare a salad and cut up some fruit is all I usually need to complete the meal.
30-Minute Meal Cookbook
Another kitchen item I enjoy is a cookbook full meals that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Many of them can be prepared in 15 to 20 minutes. As long as we plan ahead, and make sure to buy the necessary ingredients at the store, there’s no reason for this to be problematic. You might be surprised, after looking through such a cookbook, at the variety of reasonably healthy dishes you can prepare relatively quickly.
If you want healthier meals prepared at home, there are ways to accomplish this. From more conventional methods of cooking and making time, to unique solutions like choosing to focus on raw foods, there are ways to eat better and enjoy time with your family.