Today, I want to address a question I received from a reader a while ago:

Charity says:

I am trying SO hard to make everything from scratch but I am finding it time consuming to do all the prep work.  I would like to know a few things to “start” with that aren’t too overwhelming.

I can totally relate with Charity!  It’s so easy to feel I don’t have time to cook healthy meals. 

When my sister moved in with our family a few years ago, it didn’t take her long to make an observation in the kitchen.  One hectic morning while I was frantically trying to cook a healthy breakfast for my kids, my sister remarked, “You are spending way too much energy in the kitchen, Kristy.  You need to learn to take a few short cuts!”

 

I didn’t really appreciate her remark at the time!  I felt like I was doing my family a favor by cooking really healthy meals three time a day, but I wasn’t doing anyone a favor by stressing myself out in the process.

So how does a busy mama prepare healthy meals without stressing out or spending all day in the kitchen?

Let me offer you three quick ideas:

1. Cut back on expectations.

As our family has grown and my life has become increasingly busy, I’ve had to prioritize and learn to let go of some expectations.  I try not to look at what other moms are doing or not doing, and focus on the priorities I feel the Lord has for my family.  I can’t do it all, but I can strive to do a few things well, and that includes getting meals on the table.

 

I’ve had to simplify. This means that many of our meals are a bit “plain”- a hearty bowl of Creamy Cheddar & Broccoli Soup, or a layered salad using left-over meat, or One Dish Spanish Rice or Stir Fried Beef & Spinach.  Nothing fancy. Just real food.

 

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2. Secondly, I’ve had to add creativity to the mix.

How many dishes can I come up with that include rice?  How many meals can I squeeze out of a single chicken fryer? What can I do with 2 or 3 cups of left-over vegetable soup?

Creativity simplifies my life because I’m free to think outside the box. (Maybe left-over baked oatmeal IS an okay snack for my kids!)

Creativity cuts back on my time because, even though I’m cooking from scratch, I’m not always starting from scratch.

3. Another time cutter: Buying & Cooking in Bulk

I’m not one of those mothers who can successfully pull off once-a-month cooking. I find that feat much too overwhelming!

What does work for me is thinking a few days or a week ahead. It doesn’t take much extra effort to cook and de-bone two chicken fryers instead of one; this yields our family quite a few meals’ worth of meat.

How about making a double batch of pizza dough… one for this week, and one for next week?

Or soaking enough rice or beans for several meals instead of just one?  (Mexican Chili, anyone?) Or mixing up enough homemade granola or muesli for two weeks?

Thinking just a few meals ahead goes a long way in lightening my load in the kitchen!

Next, I want to talk about another key to getting healthy meals on the table: stocking a whole foods pantry!

Barbeque Chicken & Crumb-Topped Veggies

For now, tell me:

Is finding time to cook healthy meals a challenge for you?

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