Making healthy meals for your family daily that everyone will enjoy can be a daunting task. If you’ve found yourself reaching for take-out menus or visiting the drive-thru a few too many times a week, we may just have the solution for you. Check out our 20 Best Cooking Tips to Save Time, Money and Your Sanity and see how you can make sure your family gets nutritious and delicious meals every day of the week.
Time Saving Tips:
Meal Planning: Knowing what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week will not only save you time but will also help you and your family stick to healthy food choices and save money by avoiding last minute drive thru stops and take-out runs. For more planning tidbits, check out Plan Ahead for Success: Just How Important Is Planning Your Day?
How: Set aside 30 minutes once a week to make a menu. Plan ahead for busy nights with leftovers or a slow cooker meal. Dip into Skinny Mom’s recipe index loaded with hundreds of skinny meals the whole family will enjoy.
How: Make a double batch of your favorite freezer-friendly meal so you can have leftovers that last a while!
Freezer Cooking: Freezer cooking is defined by taking care of meal prep ahead of time (think chopping veggies and preparing meats) and freezing the ready-to-cook ingredients for future use.
How: Pick a day to prep a few or more meals that will be ready and at hand for easy meal time cooking. Check out Money Saving Mom’s Guide to Freezer Cooking and get started!
Double Favorite Recipes for Easy Go To Meals: Does your family have favorite meals they can’t get enough of? Save time by making a double batch and store the leftovers for another meal that week.
How: Store leftovers for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. If you don’t plan on eating the meal again in four days store in the freezer for up to 4 months. Check out leftover food guidelines here.
Use Your Slow Cooker: Break out your slow cooker for more than your pot luck parties. Get a hot lunch or dinner for the family ready hours ahead of time. This is a serious time saver and your slow cooker can deliver some fabulous skinny recipes.
How: Check out tried and reviewed family friendly and skinny slow cooker recipes here and add some to your weekly meal plan. Easy as pie!
Morning Meal Prep: Getting up just 15 minutes earlier can give you enough time to prepare ingredients for the day’s meals, saving you time throughout the day and making meal times less hectic.
How: Chop vegetables, brown hamburger, make a marinade or prepare a salad for upcoming meals in the morning.
Ready-Made Recipe Builders: Homemade meals are the healthiest as you can choose quality ingredients and there are no hidden additions. Add some healthy ready-made ingredients to save you time and keep your family’s healthy eating habits on track.
How: Add items like whole wheat pizza crusts or dough, pre-cut vegetables and pre-washed salad blends to your weekly meal plan and shopping trip.
Make Your Own Pizza Night: Leave a big part of the meal prep to the rest of your family with a make your own pizza night!
How: Get ready-made whole wheat pizza crusts, pizza sauce, shredded low fat cheese and pre-cut veggies and have your family make one large family sized pizza or individual pizzas. Try our Skinny Homemade Roasted Veggie and Ricotta Pizza!
How to Save on Your Family’s Food Budget:
Match Coupons with Sales: Coupons alone can save a few dollars, but combining them with sales can cut your grocery bill by half if not more.
How: Check out your local supermarket circulars and see what’s on sale that week. Compare their sale items with your coupons and combine a sale with a coupon where you can. Visit Survivngthestores.com for easy coupon and sale matching! For more money saving tips with coupons, check out our interview with the co-owner of Money Crashers Finance Blog.
Buy In-Season Produce: Buy what’s in season in your area for the lowest produce prices. For example, if you live in New England, buying strawberries in February may make a huge dent in your grocery budget, but in the late spring and summer the prices are at their lowest.
How: Add in season produce to your weekly meal planning. Opt for frozen or canned versions of out of season produce.
Freeze In Season Produce: Stock up on in season produce at the lowest prices of the year when you can and freeze for later use.
How: Freeze sliced and whole pieces of fruit and vegetables individually until frozen, then combine in a freezer bag. This will prevent pieces from freezing to one another. Use in meals as needed the same as you would any other frozen produce item.
Bulk Up Meat with Veggies: Buying meat for the whole family can be an expensive proposition. Bulk up your favorite meaty meals with veggies for savings. As an added bonus your family will get more vegetables in their diet! Try our Skinny Italian Beef and Peppers!
How: Add sauteed onions and celery to burgers or spinach and grated zucchini to meatloaf. Get creative with vegetable additions, and before you know it vegetables will be taking center stage on your family’s dinner plates.
Vegetable Garden: Rather than buy in season vegetables, grow your own! Not only will you save money, but studies show that kids who are involved in gardening and picking out food in general are more likely to try new fruits and vegetable dishes.
How: Visit The Vegetable Garden and find out what and when to plant based on where you live.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program: If you live in an area with local farms you may very well have a CSA near you. Members pay a fee and are given either a discount on farm fresh produce or receive a monthly bundle of in season produce.
How: Sign up and support local farms while trying new fruits and vegetables! Some CSAs also offer meats and dairy as well.
Use Ingredients You Have on Hand: Feel like you always have a lot of food but still find yourself grocery shopping? Take an inventory of what you already have in your refrigerator and pantry and make your weekly meal plan using these items first.
How: Visit Recipe.com, type in the ingredients you have on hand and get a list of recipes you can make from them.
How to Save Your Sanity:
Let Everyone Know the Menu for the Week: End your stint as a short order cook by posting up the week’s menu. Make it a family rule that what’s on the menu is what’s on the table!
How: Have fun picking out a decorative chalk board or white board and place it in the kitchen or family room with the weekly menu posted for all to see! (photo credit here)
Leftover Night: Do you have one night a week that is typically hectic? Make that night leftover night!
How: Take a night off from cooking by taking any and all leftovers out (four days is the maximum you should keep leftovers in the refrigerator) and serve family style.
Have Your Kids Help Pick Out Fruits and Veggies: When kids are involved in the cooking process they are far more likely to eat the meal you’ve prepared.
How: Have kids help with the meal planning, shopping, or the cooking. Even toddlers can “chop” veggies with a plastic knife!
Start a File of Go-To Family Friendly Recipes: Take the guess work out of what will be on the menu by having a stockpile of go-to recipes.
Breakfast for Dinner: Who doesn’t love eggs and bacon? Take the guesswork out of dinner all together by having breakfast instead! Add some pancakes for dessert to complete the meal!
With these 20 time, money, and sanity saving tips you’ll be well on your way to having more healthy, homemade meals your whole family will enjoy, and more money in your monthly budget for a little something for you! Mani-Pedi anyone?