If your home is anything like mine, it seems like everyone is always heading off in different directions. Whether you are a working parent or not, pulling together a family meal can sometimes be a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be. I think for a lot of families the time required to prepare a family meal creates the biggest barrier (especially when the kids are young-when you have teenagers, you may need a different strategy entirely). This week at the Savvy Source, we are talking about food with the family, so here are a few ideas to help you make the meal a reality without losing your mind.
Do The Prep Work in Advance
Even a simple recipe can take a while if it involves a lot of fresh ingredients that have to be peeled, chopped, or otherwise prepared. Because fresh foods are such an important part of a family diet, make them easier to use by preparing some in advance. Most foods can be prepped a day early as long as they are stored properly. Let's say that you want to make a quick stir fry for the family on Tuesday. Monday night you can chop all of the veggies and store them in a sealed container (add a touch of moisture if you think they might dry out). Then chop the meat (or tofu) and store in a different container (I sometimes use a baggie for raw meat and then toss-avoids any potential contamination). If your sauce is homemade, make that, too. Then, on Tuesday you need only fill the rice cooker (a necessity in our house) and cook the prepared items.
Use the Crockpot
I know that I have mentioned this appliance before, but it bears repeating. Many a hot meal in our home has been a result of slow cooking. Use the hint above and then morning assembly is easy. If you have a removable crock, you can even assemble the night before and store in your refrigerator. Who doesn't want to come home to the smell of a cooked dinner. Plus, for the summer months, it doesn't heat up the whole kitchen!
Cook Two Meals at Once
Now you think I'm crazy because if you don't have time to cook one meal, how on earth will you cook two? Well, on those days when you do have time to cook, make the most of your kitchen time. If you are making one lasagna, make two. Make your pot of chili extra large. Let tomorrow's dinner simmer while you are eating tonight's. And the best tip related to this practice? Freeze a bunch of the food. That way when your day is extra crazy and you come home to realize that there are no prepped foods and no crock pot meal, you can turn to your freezer and have a hot meal ready in no time.
A Meal Doesn't Have to Be Hot (or Complicated)
That being said, a family meal doesn't have to be a hot meal. It's a time to get together, share your day with each other, and reconnect. Have a salad, or sandwiches, or (gasp) take out. True, it's a lot healthier if you make your own food. But picking up a pizza on occasion is not the end of the world. Especially if it gives you a moment to breathe and enjoy the people with which you share your home.
There's More Than One Meal in a Day
Everyone seems to imagine dinner when they think of the family meal. But if you know that your day is going to be especially crazy, get everyone together for breakfast. It's all about the time together, not the exact food items in front of you or the time of day. Cherish it, and make it happen when you can.
What do you do to make the family meal a reality in your home?
Jennifer Signore is the Pittsburgh City Editor for The Savvy Source. You can read more of her work every day at Being Savvy Pittsburgh.
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