One of my biggest challenges as a homemaker is getting healthy, tasty meals on the table three times a day. Beating the clock is my biggest struggle, as there are always so many important things pulling at my time throughout the day.
A favorite solution I’ve found for simplifying things in the kitchen is what I call “convenience” foods. I’m not talking about Hamburger Helper, frozen pizzas, and TV dinners, of course. 🙂
With a little forethought, it is possible to keep things “convenient” and simple, even when cooking from scratch with whole foods.
Here are a few of my favorite tips for keeping meal preparation time down to a minimum, without compromising nutrition:
Keep a container (or can) of fresh sweet peas in the fridge to use for pea salad (if your family enjoys pea salad, that is). I found myself sometimes hungry for pea salad (my kids love it too!) but I hadn’t made it ahead of time so it could chill. I started keeping peas in the fridge at all times; when we want a pea salad, I just whip the cold peas with other ingredients and we have a nice, chilled pea salad in no time!
- Hard boil eggs ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. Any time you need a boiled egg for a tossed salad, a pea salad, or anything else, you’ll spare yourself the trouble of having to boil and cool the eggs before you can use them. As an added benefit, I’ve found that chilled hard boiled eggs are much easier to peel as well.
- You don’t have to depend on store-bought salad “kits” or pricey bags of pre cut veggies in order to enjoy fresh food in a hurry! Keep salad fixings handy by pre washing, peeling and chopping your own veggies. My spinach leaves, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, broccoli, and whatever other vegetables I have on hand, are kept in separate zip lock bags in the fridge. Tossing a salad or putting together a veggie tray is a breeze when I’ve already washed, peeled or chopped the necessary ingredients. As a side note, some veggies tend to wilt or become slimy when they’ve been pre washed (lettuce) or pre chopped (cucumbers), so use your own discretion when preparing your veggies.
- Fill your pantry with your own homemade mixes for quick cookies, pancakes, muffins, biscuits, and bread. Again, store-bought mixes are usually costly; even if you purchase them on sale or with coupons, you’re still not getting much in the way of health benefits from white flour, processed sugars, and who knows what kind of preservatives. It takes very little effort to prepare your own mixes and the pay off is great– in price, nutrition and taste!
- When preparing a dish with meat or beans, cook more than is needed and freeze the extra. Store the cooked meat/beans in freezer-safe containers or zip lock bags. Simply thaw and add to soups, casseroles, or whatever you’re cooking up in a hurry. If you prefer canning to freezing, try canning your own meat or beans.
How do you simplify meal preparation without skimping on nutrition? What are your favorite healthy “convenience” foods or methods?
Kristy Howard is a pastor’s wife, second-generation homeschooling mom of five, and a passionate believer in friendship, coffee, and quiet time! Kristy writes about motherhood, ministry and life at KristysCottage.com.