5 Ideas to Make Work Night Cooking Less of a Hassle

by Tracy · 1 comment

After a long day at work, the last thing most of us want to do is have to spend another hour or two getting a meal on the table, especially if we’re also trying to juggle activities for multiple family members (and pets!) It’s no wonder we spend so much money at restaurants and on take-out meals. Not only is this habit expensive, it can also take a toll on our health, as most prepared food is higher in calories, fat and salt than home-cooked choices.

If you’re struggling to find the time and energy to put home-cooked meals on the table, here are five tips that might help.

1. Take time once a week to plan a menu and write out a shopping list. It might be worth the expense to try out a menu-planning service to help you get the hang of it (many have free or reduced cost introductory rates). Do your shopping during off-peak times; it’s more pleasant and reduces the chances that you’ll forget something because of all the hustle and bustle.

Think about your daily schedule as you plan your menu. For example, on days when you get home late, a crock-pot meal or an easy-to-throw-together salad might be a good choice. Save recipes that require more hands-on preparation for nights that are less demanding.

2. Once you get home with your groceries, do some prep work as you put things away. Go ahead and freeze meats that you won’t use until later in the week to cut down on potential waste from spoilage. Wash and chop hardy vegetables for recipes. You can even put away ingredients for recipes away together in the pantry so it’s easy to pull out what you need when it comes time to cook.

3. It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and double (or even triple) recipes so that you can freeze half for another meal. Stews, chilis and most casseroles freeze and reheat well. You can also cook some meats in advance and package them up in recipe-sized quantities. For example, you can brown 5 pounds of ground beef or slow-cook an entire pulled pork shoulder and freeze it in 1 cup portion sizes to use in recipes.

4. Don’t feel bad about using some convenience products. Scratch cooking is terrific, but if a jar of curry paste or a bag of frozen stew vegetables helps you cook more at home, go for it. Do be aware that some prepared sauces and mixes have very high sodium levels. You can mitigate this by keeping serving sizes reasonable and serving with plenty of unprocessed sides (like simple steamed vegetables).

5. Stay motivated to cook most nights by reminding yourself of all the very good reasons you have for wanting to eat at home more such as saving money or eating a more healthful diet. Look for ways to track your progress so that you can see proof of how your hard work is paying off. Perhaps you can chart how much you are saving on food costs each month or how many servings of vegetables you are getting each day. It’s much easier to resist the temptation to each out if you know exactly why you want to avoid it.

Remember, eating is critical to our survival. It’s worth it to take a little more time and effort to do the best job feeding ourselves and our family that we can.

Bonus Tip:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Priswell October 30, 2012 at 8:58 am

I make huge pots of things, such as beans, bean soup, spaghetti sauce and chili beans – anything I can cook in my pressure cooker. Then I divide it up into containers and freeze it. On busy days, those frozen blocks of food become mighty attractive, and make coming up with a quick dinner easier.

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