Home Cooking

Plan ahead for stellar meals

Planning meals in advance can mean the difference between average and stellar dinnertime cuisine. Busy moms often have very little time to prepare meals for their families, but a little bit of advanced preparation and some creative ideas are all that's needed to make mealtime less stressful.

Here's some advice to help busy families make every meal fast and nutritious:

Research fast, easy meal ideas

There are many good websites with fast, easy and nutritious meal ideas that busy moms can prepare in advance, including spaghetti, meatloaf, lasagna and soup. Search for meals you can freeze and defrost when you need them for even quicker preparation.

Plan an entire week's meals in advance

Take inventory of the refrigerator and freezer at the end of each week, and then prepare a list of meals for the coming week based on what's already in stock. Planning meals takes a few minutes but it saves time in the long run. If you're planning to cook pasta or potatoes, cook more than you need and make salads out of them for lunches or the next evening's meal.

Shop for groceries once a week

After planning meals for the week, make a very specific shopping list with all the groceries you'll need for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead of making several trips to the grocery store each week, get all the groceries you'll need in one trip. It'll end up saving you time and money, and will also help you stick to your meal plans.

Prepare lunches the night before

Getting ready the night before saves a lot of time and effort in the mornings - and don't forget, the kids can help! Keep pre-cut vegetables, fruit and cheese in the fridge so that children can put them in lunch containers and into their lunch pails.

Keep grab-and-go breakfast items in stock

Having nutritious breakfast foods on hand, such as fresh fruit, granola, frozen waffles, yogurt cups, cereal and microwave oatmeal, can save precious time in the mornings and keep children eating healthy.

Cook meals while you're out

Preparing meals in a slow cooker is so easy that you can leave it on while you're out. Put a roast, potatoes and vegetables in the slow cooker before you leave the house and your meal will be ready when you get home.