You’ve likely heard the benefits of sharing family meals. From better grades, to lower depression risk and improved self-esteem, there’s no doubt that eating dinner together is beneficial for the whole family. With hectic fall schedules starting up again, getting family dinners on the table may seem daunting. Below are some tips to help get organized for the busy season ahead and avoid the daily “what’s for dinner” stress:
1) Plan ahead. Take some time on the weekend to look at everyone’s schedules for the week coming up. From there you can see what nights you’ll need quick and easy dinners, and what nights you might have more time for cooking more time-consuming meals.
2) Go grocery shopping accordingly. If it’s a busier week, you might be relying on more on items such as pre-cut veggies, rotisserie chickens and quick cooking grains.
3) Nights that you do have more time to cook, make a double batch of your meal, and freeze the extras for a busier night.
4) Prep all your veggies as soon as you get home from the store. Having chopped broccoli, bell pepper strips, trimmed string beans and sliced mushrooms ready to go in the fridge will make a stir-fries, salads and vegetable side dishes come together in a flash.
5) Remember that smaller pieces of food cook faster. To speed up dinner prep, use chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts, thinly slice steak before cooking, and dice potatoes for roasting over baking them whole. Also save the bone-in cuts of meat for the weekends—boneless cooks up much faster!
6) Keep the pantry and freezer stocked with shelf-stable items, so you can toss together a meal in a pinch without having to make a mid-week grocery run. Frozen vegetables, whole wheat couscous or pasta, and proteins such as precooked frozen grilled chicken breasts, frozen shrimp, or canned beans can be combined in a variety of ways for on-the-fly meals.
7) Start a list of favorite meals that everyone loves that you can refer to when you don’t know what to make for dinner. Place it in the front of a binder or folder in the kitchen with the recipes behind it.
8) Involve everyone in the prep. School aged kids can help set and clear the table, pour drinks, and do some basic food prep. Teens may like being in charge of the meal or part of the meal.
9) Embrace simplicity! Eggs, sandwiches and pasta take minutes to prepare and are always winners no matter whose eating!
Amanda Buthmann MS, RD is a pediatric and family nutritionist at Lara Metz Nutrition in NYC. For more information contact her at Amanda@larametznutrition.com, or visit www.larametznutrition.com