No matter how busy your days are — and goodness knows they are jam packed from sunup to well after sundown — you’ll always prioritize feeding your family healthy meals. Wanting to put healthy meals on the table is one thing, but finding the time to plan, prepare and clean up after those meals is a whole other ball of wax. When time is crunched, the solution is all to often to grab something easy, which usually means unhealthy. With a little forethought and investment, you don’t have to sacrifice health for convenience. Here are three cooking hacks that will help you put wholesome meals on the table, while leaving you a little extra time to enjoy time with your family.
You are probably already using the longtime favorite appliance of busy cooks everywhere: the slow cooker. If you like the slow cooker, you are going to love the latest trendy time and space saver, the instant pot. Among other tricks, the instant pot functions as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker and sauté pan. In one pot, you can sauté meat, veggies and aromatics and then add liquid and grains or lentils to cook on the pressure cooker setting for a complete meal in under 30 minutes. In 10 minutes in the morning you can send your family out the door with a belly full of steel- cut oats made that morning using the pressure cooker function, a task that normally takes hours. At the end of the meal, you’ll be left with only one easy-to- clean pot. New users of the instant pot complain that, with so many functions, it is not an intuitive appliance, so before you get started, check out one of the many easy-to- follow online guides and tutorials. For recipes, The Prairie Homestead’s 21 Best Instant Pot Recipes will get you well on your way to cooking like an instant pot pro.
Aluminum Foil Packs
Although not a high-tech time saver like the instant pot, cooking with aluminum foil packs on the grill is just as handy. Set out a variety of healthy ingredients like fish, shrimp, chicken, corn, tomatoes, peppers and asparagus and let each family member customize their meal. Wrap up the meal in foil and set them on the grill. You get to spend quality time with your family while packs cook, everyone gets a healthy meal they’ll love and there are no pots and pans to scrub at the end. For inspiration, have your kids check foil pack recipe YouTube videos; for convenience, they can view these videos on a smartphone with a top-notch screen, like the Apple iPhone 7. The possibilities for foil packs are endless, from potato hash to salmon with asparagus to cinnamon apples for dessert.
One Ingredient, Several Ways
Save yourself time by making a double batch of a main ingredient, like roast chicken, and using it for multiple meals. Chicken can be served with vegetables on Sunday, lunch quesadillas on Monday and as a base for Tuesday night’s chicken noodle soup. When cooking a freezable meal like soup or sauce, double or triple the ingredients and store the extra to thaw on nights when your schedule is extra packed. Look to the Kitchn for delicious and healthy meal ideas that freeze well, like Hearty Chicken Minestrone Soup and Veal Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce.