Short on time? Busy schedule? No time to cook? If you can’t figure out what to make for dinner, these tips and tricks can help you to stick to your food and nutrition goals – even with the craziest of schedules.
Make a Plan
Eating healthier doesn’t happen by accident. Taking the time to have a food plan for the week for you and your family can make all the difference. Start by mapping out the week ahead and ask yourself a series of questions: What should we have for breakfast? What will we need to pack for lunches? What nights will we be at home for dinner? What nights will we have time to cook?
Once you answer these questions, you can start to get a sense of how meals will shape up for the week, and you can start to fill it in with food choices for meals. See the sample meal plan for the week below. After your plan is drafted, you can compile your grocery shopping list and stock up on the ingredients necessary to make the plan happen.
For super busy weeks, you can do some food preparation ahead of time. For example, baked rigatoni and salad for Monday night. Over the weekend, when you have some down time, you can get the meal ready to go into the oven and have the salad prepared and ready to go. This will allow for a quick and easy dinner on nights when your schedule is super crazy. You can also pre-roast batches of vegetables for the week or slice vegetables for dinners like taco night.
Get your children involved in the food preparation too. Depending on the age of your children, you can adjust tasks to be age appropriate. Check out the Kids Cook Monday website for a list of age-appropriate kitchen tasks: thekidscookmonday.org/kitchen-tasks-for-different-age-groups.
There are lots of helpful tools available to make healthier eating easier, from convenience foods and apps to services and kitchen gadgets.
Convenience foods can help save time and add quality nutrients to a meal – frozen vegetables, whole grain rice mixes or prepared sauces can be a timesaver. Here are few quick specific examples:
• Stock up on bags of frozen vegetables, which can be a perfect addition to dinners like stir-fry vegetables for a stir-fry meal or fajita vegetables for taco night, and you can even serve prepared frozen vegetables as a side dish to go with a meal.
• Quick cooking whole grain boxed grain mixes like seasoned quinoa or brown rice. These tend to be pre-cooked, so the preparation time is less. These are typically found in the rice section of the grocery store.
• Prepared sauces are a perfect addition to meals like spaghetti to go with whole grain pasta, pizza sauce for DIY pizzas or guacamole for taco night.
As far as phone apps, a great time saver is the Instacart app. If your grocery store participates with the service, it is worth giving it a try! Instacart allows you to grocery shop from the app and then drive up to the grocery store to pick-up your groceries. Depending on where you live, you can even have the groceries delivered to your home. It will cost you a bit more for each item you buy, but you may find you stick to your grocery list more, which could ultimately save money.
A meal kit service can also be great for super busy weeks. It can help you find some new recipe or meal ideas. Meal kit services like Green Chef, HelloFresh or Blue Apron will allow you to select a number of meals (the number depends on your subscription level) and ship all the ingredients along with the recipe. A bonus is that most ingredients arrive pre-portioned, ready to be utilized in the recipe and require minimal preparation.
Kitchen gadgets like the Instant Pot or slow cookers can be very helpful when preparing meals for busy weeks. The slow cooker is great for chili, soups, roasted meats and stews, and the Instant Pot – which cooks food under pressure – lets you prepare a soup or meal in a matter of minutes. Check out the Instant Pot Lemon Chicken recipe below. Work meals that utilize these kitchen gadgets into nights when you are short on time.
Wishing you the healthiest New Year yet!