Busy fall schedules and feeding your family well.
How many different directions do you see your family going this fall? Even if you have just two children, chances are they are both involved in different activities. That can mean that your family is either going in different directions most evenings or you are at the very least constantly on the go. Eating a balanced diet during those times can be difficult at best.
Years ago, I had two of my boys playing baseball, my daughter also played softball and was taking ballet two afternoons a week. Needless to say, I was one busy mama. The baseball and softball was in one town and the ballet classes were in another, which added to the craziness in our schedule. It was almost impossible to eat a normal meal and balancing it with good nutrition was nearly impossible.
Thankfully my kids are older now and we go fewer different directions than we used to. It is still often difficult to plan a balanced dinner and have the time to prepare them. Making quick fix meals is often a way of life during busy seasons in our lives.
Fall just seems to bring on a new kind of busyness after a lazy summer. I often wonder if it isn’t the lazy summer that makes fall seem so busy, perhaps we are just not accustom to the more normal routine that fall brings. With school starting again and with that all of the activities associated with school, from band to football and let’s not forget the homework and open house nights at various schools.
Let’s face it, do you ever hear anyone mention the lazy days of fall. Adjusting to the outside activities that the school year brings can be a huge balancing act for any family. Doing some planning now and even some cooking ahead will make this busy season of fall a bit easier to handle.
Just about anything you can do ahead in meal preparations will save you time and even money. Some easy things you can do now to help with the lack of time later is to cook bigger now. If you are browning a pound of ground beef or any ground meat, it’s just as easy to brown two or three pounds. Reserve the portions you don’t need for that night’s meal, cool it and package it in a freezer bag or container to be stored in the freezer for a quick fix meal. Make sure you label it clearly so you don’t end up with “mystery meat” in the freezer a month down the road.
This ready to use meat will be easy to throw into a pan to be heated with beans for a fast taco salad, make gravy to go over gluten-free noodles or mashed potatoes, taco soup or a hearty ground beef stew. So many options at your disposal with a good portion of the dish already cooked and ready to go. It doesn’t take long to open a can of beans or tomatoes to add to your already prepared meat for a tasty meal.
Using this same idea with just about anything you make will be a time saver for busy evenings or after long days when you are too tired to cook a whole meal. Are you baking potatoes one night to go with a roasted chicken or a meat loaf? It’s super easy to add a few more to the already heated oven. Let them bake with what you need for that night’s meal, once they are cool, put them in the refrigerator to be used in soups, chopped up for fried potatoes, add them to a casserole or grate them up for hash brown potatoes in a pinch!
So many ideas, a multitude of applications for an endless list of amazing dishes. Anything you can do ahead will be a time saver when time is short and you have a hungry family waiting for dinner. Perhaps you are grating cheese, chopping veggies, or making rice, if you are already doing a bit for one meal it’s not hard to do just a bit more to save yourself some time later on.
Another great tip is chicken. How often do you roast an extra chicken when you are doing that Sunday chicken dinner? Perhaps you are grilling boneless skinless chicken? This is such an easy way to add protein to a quick salad, have chicken for a tasty sandwich or the beginnings of a quick pot of chicken soup. You could have shredded chicken for chicken enchiladas, chunks of chicken for chicken pasta salad or a tasty pasta dish that is perfect for any evening meal.
There are so many tasty dishes that you could make shortcuts for. Having a menu plan is a huge help in cooking ahead to save yourself some time. Look at what your family enjoys eating and what you can do to save yourself a bit of time on those busy nights. I think you’ll find that dinner time is much easier to handle and you’ll save yourself that stop at the drive thru or grab and go at the grocery store. Your family will enjoy a well balanced meal and you will feel good knowing that they enjoyed a nutritious meal even when time is short.