7 Tips to Simplify Mealtime

One of the biggest issues families face today is mealtime—together. Lots of schedules, directions, agendas, and taste preferences. The idea of gathering for a home-cooked meal may even seem hopeless, which then leads to more eating out.

Eating in is typically healthier, more economical and often tastier than the alternative. Here are some ideas to make meals at home a bit simpler. Even if you aren’t all together at the same time, most of these are fine as a late plate.

  • When you have the opportunity to make meatloaf, casserole, soup, stew, anything, make extra for another meal. The leftovers can be frozen for another crazy day or eaten the next day or so for lunches and snacks. By doing this, you save time, energy, and aggravation—AND, you won’t dirty as many dishes to reheat the leftovers.
  • Check out the specials in the meat department. I recently picked up some pork chops that were seasoned with panko breadcrumbs, sundried tomatoes and other seasonings. They were reduced to unload them that day. I cooked rice and tossed a salad together with greens, tomatoes and other veggies, whiled the chops were on the grill. We had a tasty meal for very little money and effort in about half an hour. Sweet!
  • Remember those tasty rotisserie chickens that just about every grocery store carries these days. I found myself in a quandary about dinner this past week and needed to stop at the store to pick up chocolate milk for hubby. (It’s his special treat.) We hadn’t eaten dinner, it was getting late, I didn’t care to eat out and we were hungry—on the verge of hangry. (Combo of hungry and angry which can also be referred to as fussy.) I snatched up one of those chickens and it was perfect. You could add it to a salad, make a wrap, or add some vegetables for a complete meal.
  • Any type of burger—veggie burger, hamburger, pork burger, chicken burger, turkey burger—cooks very fast and makes a great lunch the next day.
  • Eggs cooked to your liking, along with sautéed vegetables are good anytime of day. When you are shopping, pick up the vegetables that are on special that week and be sure to get a variety of colors. Chop them up in similar size pieces and sauté in olive oil. This is quicker than roasting and more flavorful than steamed. I like a combo of potatoes (sweet and golden Yukon), mulit- colored sweet peppers, onions, Brussels sprouts, carrots.
  • If your family eats fish, this cooks quicker than just about anything. It is one of those foods that I don’t make extra of, since it’s not that great leftover. The exception is salmon, which is good cold or a bit warmed on greens.
  • Pasta is quick, easy, and most people like it. For those of you who avoid gluten, you might try quinoa pasta or brown rice pasta. (There are bean pastas, and those are not my favorite.) Add a sauce you enjoy and browned ground meat or poultry. Or, add the sautéed vegetables and skip the sauce. Pictured is last night’s meal. I used chicken sausage that I added along with the veggies. Again, this took less than 30 minutes and was delicious!

Keep in mind that the meal doesn’t have to be perfect to provide good nutrition and bring your family together. Celebrate any success you have in getting your family around the table, even if it’s for hot dogsorganic, of course!

“Research shows that the most important thing a child can do to assure long-term well being is eat meals with his or her family. The more meals together, the better!” –Dr. Bill Doherty, Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program, University of Minnesota

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