The fall vegetable harvest is at its peak. Children are back in school and cooler weather beckons a return to heartier meals of warm soups and stews. After a busy day of school or work, there’s nothing better than walking into a house greeted by the wafting aroma of an appetizing dinner being cooked.
Sitting down to a communal meal marks the end of a busy day and gives family members an opportunity to touch base with each other. While the idea of being cast into the role of meal-maker seems demanding and maybe even unwanted, there are ways to streamline the routine. Family members can take turns and pitch in as needed. Preparation of simple, balanced, nutritious meals are good goals for all families to have.
If your schedule is about to speed up this fall with sports practice, dance lessons, and homework, it’s understandable you might be tempted to eat out more. But family mealtimes are about more than the food eaten. Gathering around a table becomes an opportunity to share news, touch base, appreciate each other, make plans, and generally just bond as a family. Try not to sacrifice this sacred practice in favor of fast food drive-thrus.
Takeout food can wreak havoc with anyone’s system, as portions are often larger than needed. Greasy food and additives can upset anyone’s stomach. While grocery store food prices are high, takeout food is usually higher. There is a lot to be said about planning your own at-home meals.
Assign the Role
To successfully get hearty meals on the table regularly, you’ll need to assign the role of chef. Mom might want to do it, but dad can take turns as can older children. Perhaps the rule becomes the first one home after school or work starts dinner.
That said, the day’s chef needs to know what’s on the menu. That requires meal planning, shopping, and good communication.
Stock your Pantry and Fridge
To pull off daily hearty meals requires having a well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry. Keep on hand a good balance of fresh proteins (meats, cheese, nuts, or eggs), fruits, and vegetables. Proteins and vegetables are chock full of vitamins and nutrients and proteins to help keep hungry tummies full longer than carbs do.
Breads, pastas, and rice dishes are carbohydrates. To stay in balance nutritionally, pair them with adequate amounts of proteins and fiber.
Additionally, to pull off great recipes, stock your pantry with spices, broths, and condensed soups. There’s nothing worse than having a great recipe idea and not having the ingredients on hand when you need them.
What to Make?
When considering what to make for dinner, why not dig out old family recipes or look online for new ones to try? The ideas and resources for meal-making are endless.
When your energy is running low and the idea of spending hours in the kitchen is unappealing, look for recipes that require only one pot. There are many casseroles or stir fry recipes to choose from.
Simply adding a can of condensed soup boosts the flavor of an otherwise boring dish of meatballs, chicken, or pork chops.
Chili spice is one simple and flexible spice that can boost otherwise boring meals. Add chili spice to baked beans with bacon and top it with cheese for a Tex-Mex taste. Add chili powder to a ground beef casserole or chicken stir-fry dish for variety.
Additionally, consider easy-to-store, and easy-to-make options like frozen raviolis or frozen dumplings. These dishes can be quickly boiled and served to make a delicious meal in a matter of minutes.
Save on Dishes
Save on the amount of cooking dishes used by skewering meats and vegetables and barbequing them.
Try a platter dish where you simply present all the food groups on one platter instead of in separate bowls. Add simple side dishes of noodles, fresh salad, or a loaf of crusty bread. Fajitas can be served this way. Simply sauté your favorite protein, onions, and peppers and present them on a platter along with lettuce and cheese with tortillas on the side.
Slow cookers are great if you don’t mind preparing meats and vegetables earlier in the day. The pressure is off at day’s end when you know dinner is in the cooker ready to be served.
Home cooking may sound like a lot of work, but what it costs in time and energy shows up in cost savings and flavor, in most cases. Homemade food also allows you control over what your family consumes avoiding extra additives and fillers.
Keep Your Sanity and Do Your Best
How will you maintain your meal-making sanity this fall when life speeds up? You won’t feel as frazzled if you have a plan and all the tools and ingredients you need to pull off a series of hearty meals.
We all need to eat. Someone’s got to make it. Will that someone be you? Will you gather your cooking essentials and pull together some scrumptious meals for your family this fall? With a little planning and confidence, you’re well on your way.