Preparing Meals For Your Family

Preparing healthy inexpensive meals for your family is easy with these tips

The key to ensuring that your family eats a nutritious, healthy meal without spending hours on preparing is planning. Planning your dinner menus can not only save you time but also money. By planning your meals ahead of time and buying all the necessary ingredients at one time, you eliminate the need to run to the grocery store every day, which of course, leads to buying much more than you originally needed.

First, make a menu of all your dinner meals for the period of time for which you do your grocery shopping, e.g., if you shop weekly, make a weekly menu, if you show bi-weekly, plan dinners for two weeks.

When planning your meals, take into consideration the family schedule for the week. If there's baseball, soccer and a PTA meeting all on Tuesday night, make it a light menu with easy clean-up. For instance, since generally we are home on the weekends and have more time to spend in the kitchen, prepare a big meal on Sunday - perhaps a roast chicken (big enough for a second meal), then with the left-over chicken and gravy, make a chicken pot pie (using a redi-made crust available in the dairy department of most grocery stores) to serve on Tuesday. It is also a good idea if you have some extra time on a Sunday afternoon, to cook ahead. Make a pot of meatballs or two pans of lasagne, one for Monday and one for next Tuesday.

Even on those nights when you don't have a "redi-made" dinner, you can still plan ahead. Start defrosting chicken breasts the night before. Leave instructions for your children to do some "prep" work - peel potatoes, make a salad, etc., so that when you come home it's simply a matter of sautéing the breasts.

Another trick to eliminate the last-minute prep work is to prepare your main dish all in one pan. Put a roast in a roasting bag with potatoes, carrots, onions and a little seasoning, and leave instructions for your children to put it in the oven at the designated time. Coming home to the smell of a roast cooking can really lift your spirits after a busy day.

Once you get into the habit of planning your family's meals, make sure you leave an "empty" day on your menu calendar to reward yourself and take your family for a dinner out!

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