You have good intentions to make healthy and delicious meals for the family, but think it takes a lot of time to do it. Here are some ideas that have helped me get a better handle on my good intentions.
I take a few minutes every week to come up with some ideas for meals and use that information when grocery shopping. I try to plan one meatless dinner per week, and if the family doesn’t eat all I cooked throughout the week, I have a “refrigerator-clean out night” of all the leftovers.
Store staples can assist in creating fast and healthy meals. I stock a variety of canned beans for quick bean salads that contain a good source of protein; a variety of different beans helps change up the “same old” menu. Pasta, rice noodles or rice are great for stir fry or to go with chicken and sauce. Quick-cooking grains like quinoa, couscous or bulgur make good sides. Stay away from flavored versions, as they have lots of sodium. You can use your imagination to add your own flavors, or have the family decide which flavor they want.
Use your refrigerator to help grab-and-make. Yogurt, mustards, marinades, vinaigrettes, sauces and chutneys can make great veggie dips (for snacks or meal fun), sauces for pasta or toppings for chicken, fish and other meats. Scallions, shallots or chives have a more delicate flavor than onions, and need less cooking. You can saute them or use them raw; they’re good for salads, mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower) and other veggie sides. I encourage snacking on raw vegetables or fruits. Baby carrots, squash slices, apple slices or grapes are more nutritious and easy to have on hand. Oranges, lemons and limes help brighten flavors on fish or chicken and perk up salads and marinades.
My freezer is my salvation. Chicken or turkey cutlets or thin fish fillets cook in a lot less time than whole pieces. I buy larger amounts of ground beef or chicken, seasoning and cooking it all at once and putting meal-size amounts in separate baggies in the freezer. It takes just a little more time cooking, but saves so much more time later. Try it with vegetables and fruits as well. I saute mushrooms and onions, and bag them in meal size baggies.
Meal time is easy when you can pick and choose what to serve from your freezer. I’m doubly happy that those veggies and fruits add fiber, minerals and vitamins to the family’s diet. Stuffed pasta, like ravioli or pot stickers, is good for additions to soup or to saute with vegetables. Edamame is high in protein, and so are nuts; you can toss them into salads, casseroles or stir fries. Frozen lasagna, pies, quiche or other treats can be available for fast and special occasions.
Start slowly, using one or two ideas at a time. I hope you find the road to fast and healthy cooking easier than you thought.