Over the last couple of decades longer commutes, more after school activities and more bills have meant that more families need two incomes to make ends meet. At the same time, many studies have shown that families that eat meals together are healthier and happier – the problem is that the two things are in opposition to each other, and it makes grabbing fast food or a pizza on the way home from work seem like a good idea. The problem is that in addition to being generally unhealthy, fast food or convenience food is very expensive. What’s the answer for meals in a flash? Planning and asking for help.
Seven ideas for meals in a flash!
- Lasagna – This is a meal that requires planning ahead, but is well worth it. You can make batches big enough for multiple dinners and it tastes as good (or better) reheated. When it’s time to eat, reheat the lasagna and whip up a quick salad for a nearly instant, well rounded meal. Add some extra fiber by using whole grain noodles.
- Make use of your slow cooker – seriously, they are amazing for throwing in a pile of ingredients in the morning and coming home in the evening to a house that smells amazing and a meal that’s even better. Crock pot chicken, hearty stews, casseroles – you name it, you can probably make it in a slow cooker.
- Rice cooker – If you have a rice cooker, you can use it the same way you would a slow cooker. Steam your rice and vegetables along with your chicken and have some stir fry almost as fast as you could order Chinese. The movie critic Roger Ebert has an entire cookbook full of meals for your rice cooker.
- Burgers – The secret to fast burgers is to make your patties up ahead of time. Beef, turkey, buffalo – it makes no difference. Press the patties, freeze them and when it’s time for dinner, throw them on the grill frozen. Depending on how you like them cooked, they are ready in 15 minutes or so. While they are cooking you can make up some sides or veggie toppings, throw it all on a bun and enjoy.
- Fish – The great thing about fish is how quickly it thaws and cooks. You can go from freezer to oven in a just a few minutes, and all the different varieties of fish mean even if you have it often, you don’t have to have the same thing over and over. Neutral flavored fish like tilapia are great gateway fish for the kids because they don’t have a strong taste so you can serve with lemon pepper, blackened, bread them with tartar sauce – just about any flavor goes well. Add a side of steamed veggies and some rice and you have an incredibly nutritious and delicious meal in a hurry.
- Tacos – These are great because they are fast even if you are prepping alone, but you can get it done even faster with the help of the kids because the prep is so easy. If you want to cut time even more you can buy your cheese and lettuce pre-shredded. Brown the meat, reheat the beans (or mix it in with the meat to make it go further – the kids will never notice) and cook the shells. Everyone can be eating in a half hour or less!
- Roast Chicken – Last but not least. You think this takes hours to make, and it can, but there are things you can do to speed the process up. Cut the chicken in half and the cook time is cut close to in half also. Make it ahead of time and reheat or grab a roasted chicken from the supermarket deli, throw on some sides and it’s a meal in a minute you can’t eat in a month as my grandma used to say.
The secret to meals in a flash is to plan ahead so you don’t have to shop every day. Use crock pots and rice steamers to cook meals while you do other things. Make extras of items that freeze well like stews. Feeding a family when you’re short on time can be a challenge, but with a little planning, you can take more time with your family enjoying the meal and less time making it.