You’re planning on getting the whole family to eat healthy, nutritious meals. But by the time you walk through the door at night everyone is starving, you’re exhausted, and the idea of cooking a meal is completely unappealing. Not to mention it’s already 7 pm, and if the younger kids don’t get to bed soon there’s going to be meltdowns. With no time to prepare and cook a meal, it’s takeaway or drive-thru instead.
Most of us are extremely time-poor these days, trying to find the time between work, kids after school activities and general life errands. So how can you prepare a healthy meal when there is literally NO time? Here are 5 things that you should do when you don’t have time to cook for the family.
1. Make a Meal Plan
For someone that already feels like there are not enough hours in the day, finding the time to make a plan might seem difficult. However, taking 10 mins out to sit down and plan for the weeks’ worth of dinners is going to actually save you time in the long run. Think about it – you’ll be saving yourself the time that is currently spent gazing blankly in the fridge, wondering what on earth to feed everyone tonight and the time spent out buying takeaway foods or ordering home delivery.
When preparing your meal plan, highlight the days that are particularly hectic and the days when you’re likely to get home late as these are the days when you will need to have organised something quick, easy, and more than likely pre-prepared. This article has handy tips on how to write a weekly meal plan.
2. Cook in bulk
It doesn’t take any extra time to cook a larger quantity of the same meal. On the days that you do have time to cook, make extra serves to freeze and reheat on the busy days. This could be pasta sauces, stews, curries or even a whole lasagne.
Another option is to set aside a few hours on the weekend or one weeknight and cook up an entire weeks’ worth of dinners. Those eaten earlier in the week can be kept in the fridge and freeze those meals that won’t be eaten for 3 or more days.
3. Stock your pantry with quick and easy meal options
If you haven’t had the chance to do steps one and two, then a well-stocked pantry (and freezer) can be a saviour when things get really hectic. Having nutritious food items with a long-shelf life readily available means that you can throw something together in under 5 mins. For example, a sachet of ‘heat & eat’ rice, a tin or two of tuna and a bag of frozen vegetables cooked in the microwave is a perfectly suitable and filling meal.
Stock your pantry with items such as tinned fish, cans of legumes and quick cooking rice or grain options. Then make sure there is also a handy supply of frozen vegetables in the freezer.
4. Invest in a slow cooker
How nice would it be to walk through the door at the end of the day and have dinner already cooked and ready to eat? Having a slow cooker in your kitchen arsenal makes that possible. Slow cookers start around $40 and can be a fantastic long-term investment for the time-poor. It can be as simple as placing meat, potatoes and other non-starchy vegetables with stock and herbs in before heading out the door in the morning. Hey presto – a casserole dinner is ready the second you need it that night.
If mornings are also really busy then cut down preparation time and purchase diced meat, baby chat potatoes and pre-cut vegetables. Meals made in a slow cooker can range from the very basic to gourmet masterpieces. There are plenty of slow cooker recipes out there if you are looking for inspiration – this chicken korma curry is well worth a try.
5. Make supermarket “fast” foods your takeaway
Just because you haven’t had time to put a meal together doesn’t mean that you have to resort to highly processed takeaway food. A healthier (and often cheaper) option is to grab some pre-prepared options from the supermarket on the way home. A roast chicken and a bag of salad are going to take you next to no time to get onto the dinner table. For 7 other supermarket meal ideas, check out this article here.
If you need help finding ways to fit healthy eating into your family’s busy schedule one of our team at The Healthy Eating Hub can work with you to find the strategies that suit your lifestyle.