When it’s back-to-school time, you suddenly have to add school schedules, homework, sports and activities to your already busy family schedule. With so much going on, it’s easy to let cooking and dinner together fall by the wayside. Don’t give in! With these back-to-school meal tips, you can keep your family dinner tradition intact without getting overwhelmed.
There are a few staples you always need around the house. Avoid the inconvenience of running out of key ingredients like butter, flour and milk by making a checklist of must-haves and looking it over before you go to the grocery store.
One of the best time-savers is using the same key ingredients in several meals. For example, buy more than one rotisserie chicken when they’re on sale. Have one or two for dinner and save another one to make a chicken casserole later in the week. Saves time and money, especially if it’s something on sale.
When you get home from the grocery store, it’s a good time to do some basic food preparation. Wash, chop and portion out meats and produce that keeps so they’re ready for you when it’s time to make dinner.
Cleaning up after cooking can take up almost as much time as cooking itself, and it’s much less rewarding. Casseroles, soups and other easy dishes allow you to prepare, serve and store a balanced meal in a single container.
For an added level of convenience, use a slow cooker once or twice each week. Just toss in your ingredients before leaving for work or errands, and it cooks while you’re gone. Breakfasts, dinners and desserts can all be prepared in a slow cooker.
Bonus: It’s super easy to clean, especially if you use slow-cooker liners. Just toss when done.
RECIPE TIP: Search common terms like “slow cooker recipes,” “casseroles” or “one-dish meals” for endless family recipe ideas. Bookmark your favourite recipe sites and blogs.
At the beginning of the week, make a few one-dish meals in a Pyrex® Easy Grab™ 3 qt Oblong Baking Dish. These are available with lids for easy freezing. Then, let it thaw in the fridge and bake it when you need it, especially when short on time. With this efficient system, your glass bakeware can be used for every step of the cooking process.
It’s important to keep an inventory, including expiration dates, of what’s in your freezer. In addition, you should know what foods freeze well. For example, most veggies hold up well, but yogurt does not. Prevent freezer burn by freezing quickly in airtight vessels, such as PYREX® Premium Glass Lids™ containers.
For some, prewashed or “steam in the bag” veggies are worth it, while others prefer the savings of unprepared or even locally grown foods. Decide which shortcuts are worth it to you, but if short on time, pre-prepped foods can be a huge time-saver.
One of the best lunch shortcuts is to create a regular routine that includes advance planning and prep. It could be as simple as packing leftovers from dinner into PYREX® No Leak Lids™ containers for lunch, or packaging up a few day’s worth of pre-portioned fruits and veggies.
As your kids get older, they can start helping with meal prep. Have a family cooking night, or if they are old enough, a night where the kids are responsible for a whole meal. On top of saving time and learning basic cooking techniques, this can be a fun bonding experience. And don’t forget, cleanup time is family time, as well.
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