I don’t love to cook. In fact, I am sort of ambivalent about it. I cook six dinners a week because my family needs to eat. The meals aren’t gourmet, but they are still healthy. My time is precious and if you feel the same way as I do, don’t fret! I will share a few shortcuts to help you make healthy meals quickly.
Many Americans just like me are moving away from cooking and baking at home. A preliminary study from February 2018 has shown that in 1974-1975, men and women spent 14.6 hours per week on food management (food preparation, baking, cooking, cleaning up). But in 2000, the total hours per week went down in this study to 11.6 hours. David Tamarkin from Epicurious went so far in 2017 as to say that home cooking is dying. Many people have busy schedules with their jobs, or juggle after school activities of their children, and as a result turn to quicker ways to eat. They buy more packaged foods or go to restaurants. Grocery stores have added salad bars, delis, and restaurants to accommodate their shoppers. Some consumers even have meal kits delivered right to their door step.
Our time is precious but spending time in the kitchen does have some benefits. With more control over the ingredients, you can make meals healthier than prepackaged meals. Prepackaged meals generally have more sugar, fat and salt in them. According to a study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, eating more meals from home gives you better dietary quality and lowers obesity rates. Cooking meals at home usually means saving money over dining in restaurants or fast food places as well. I feel triumphant when I find a recipe that every one of my family enjoys and it is healthy and inexpensive.
You can still prep and cook food at home even on a busy schedule. But it may take a few shortcuts. I’d like to highlight some that I have used.
If you find that wandering around the grocery store to find what you want to buy takes up too much time, many grocery stores now have an order online function. You can order online and go pick up your groceries at the store. If your preferred store offers it, you can have your groceries delivered to your home.
Put your teens to work
If you have teens that get home before you do, you can have them start the meal ahead of time. They can pre-cut the veggies or put a pre-assembled casserole in the oven for you. Teaches them kitchen skills and helps you out as well.
Another easy method is to have no-bake dinners. These meals can be in the form of sandwiches or wraps or salads. If you have the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry, your meal is quickly prepared. Just dig in.
Make double batches
If you have a little more time one night, you can make double batches of your favorite meals. Eat one that night and freeze the other for another time. I have a little cookbook I found in the checkout line of my grocery store in 2008 that features recipes for just this purpose.
Plan your menu
While sitting at your children’s soccer practice, why not plan your meals for the week? Try two weeks or the whole month. Post it on your refrigerator for everyone to see. It takes the daily guesswork out of figuring out what to make, makes shopping easier, and when the kids ask “What’s for supper?” you can point to the list on the refrigerator.
Once a Month Cooking
If you are curious about making your meals at home while saving some serious time, you might try investigating Once A Month Cooking or OAMC. Various plans exist on the internet as well as books featuring this kind of cooking. A true OAMC program features shopping, preparing, cooking and storing a month worth of meals at one time. I find it is too much work for me to do a whole month’s worth at a time so occasionally I will do a two-week plan. Here is an easy 10 recipe plan to get started with if you want to try it. Just pull a meal out of the freezer and pop it in the oven!
While our time to make and serve meals may be shorter than our mother’s or grandmother’s used to be, we can still serve healthy meals. I may not make roast beef and mashed potatoes as often as my mother did, but she also never served us tacos. And my kids LOVE tacos. With these tips we can work smarter, not harder. Please drop me a line in the comment section if you have any ideas I haven’t mentioned.