With life as busy as it is, many people are thinking about scaling back and simplifying.
And while cutting activities from your daily routine is well and good, there are some things like eating that we simply can’t avoid.
Divide up the tasks
The best way, I’ve found to tackle this is to simplify the meal preparation. In our house, I do the cooking and my better half does the clean-up. There are times when neither of us revels in our respective duties but we put on a smiling face nonetheless. And since a cook and housekeeper are not in our budget and our bellies love a good meal, we have found some creative solutions that work for us.
Use shortcuts like sauce from a jar and frozen veggies
You know how food tastes especially good when someone else makes it? It’s the same with pasta sauce from a jar – to a harried parent it could be homemade. Stir-fry dishes can be a breeze if you purchase frozen vegetables and meat already cut up. And it’s totally amazing what one can do with a can of soup and a few extra ingredients. You can have a gourmet type meal in a matter of minutes.
Experiment with quick but healthy meal solutions
And you don’t have to compromise good nutrition for quick meal solutions. It’s a known fact that serving raw fruit and vegetables with a low-fat dip is much healthier than boiling the heck out of the veggies. Even a few frozen peas placed in a bowl on the kitchen table while you’re making the meal should temporary appease little appetites.
Keep healthy snacks convenient and self-serve
Instead of responding to the constant “Mommy, I’m hungry” requests, keep healthy snacks convenient and self-serve. Store them in the fridge in easy-to-open containers. Cheese and crackers, washed and cut-up vegetables and fruit are all great choices (along with handy containers of dipping sauce). Do the same for drinks; keep a selection in reusable drink boxes or install a self-serve water jug with spout and nearby stack of plastic cups. As a work at home parent, this ‘self-serve’ idea has come in handy more times than not.
Host a picnic in your family room
Meal time can also be fun family time. Even on those nights when you don’t have a clue what to make. For anytime or when you’re plain out of dinner ideas – host a picnic. Yes, you heard me – a picnic. Picnics are not only for summer and they don’t have to be complicated. Throw a plastic table cloth on the family room floor and enjoy. Make the ordinary extraordinary by turning deli sandwiches, hot finger foods, or simple cheese and crackers into fun. It sure beats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the dinner table. Or, turn grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup into a posh affair by lighting a couple of candles and serving the kid’s milk or juice in wine glasses.
Now, you can always go that one step further and create fancy little sandwiches using cookie cutters but a word from the wise (or at least an experienced mother) if you child doesn’t like cream cheese or tuna on a bagel or bun, chances are good she won’t like it shaped into a collection of little hearts either. It’s not worth the fiddling and trust me, it does take a little fiddling so unless your child already likes the ingredients on hand don’t bother.
Post an ad for kitchen help
Do you find it hard to get in some quality time with your kids – especially the teenage variety? Post an ad on your family bulletin board for kitchen help. “Salary paid out weekly with an endless supply of love, understanding and support”. Encourage togetherness by delegating simple tasks like washing vegetables or setting the table. My mother always told me that working along side another person promotes conversation. Your teen may be more willing to open up to your while chopping vegetables than she would be sitting directly across from you at the kitchen table.
Explore the benefits of a collective kitchen
Speaking of sharing kitchen duties, reminds me of a collective kitchen where a group of like minded individuals get together to plan joint meals. They come up with a menu, write a grocery list, pool their resources, shop, cook, and share the benefits of their labour. This is ideal for families on a tight budget and busy families in general. A group of five creative neighbours with varying work schedules could do the same thing and your benefit would be a night without cooking. This could be run many ways. First, each family could be responsible for preparing and delivering dinner to the other four on one weeknight. Sure there is some planning involved but the benefits could sure out way the any negatives. It is all in how you look at it. You could take it one step further and all get together once a month, socialize and do a bunch of batch baking and cooking to ease your load over the coming weeks. Or, you could just do your monthly cooking blitz. Decide on one weekend a month to shop, cook and freeze.