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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(Editor’s note: please welcome Benjamin, with a guest post on cooking strategies that are quite useful. Thanks, Benjamin!)

As a parent, you want to feed your kids wholesome, healthy meals as often as possible. Yet it is likely you’re juggling work, school, chores, shopping and extracurricular activities as well. Getting food on the table in the midst of all this may be hard, but there are steps you can take (that don’t require taking a class at one of the many cooking schools found online) to make preparing delicious food easy, fast and even fun.

Plan Your Meals

Planning the week’s meals in advance helps save both time and money. When you know beforehand what you will be cooking each night, you need only make one trip to the grocery store for the entire week. One large, planned trip as opposed to several hurried stops made after work saves money by allowing you to make more careful decisions when purchasing ingredients. Instead of grabbing what’s most convenient, you can pick and choose the best items for the meals you have in mind.

Do Some Prep

Despite the long cooking times of grains like brown rice, you can still incorporate them into quick meals by preparing servings ahead of time. Simply cook the rice when you are able, then allow it to cool to room temperature. Portion the cooled rice out into airtight containers and freeze until you’re ready to use it. Cooked rice may also be kept in the refrigerator for one or two days.

Prepping vegetables is also a big time-saver! Use this restaurant trick at home to reduce the time it takes to put a dish together. Chop the veggies you know you’ll need for the week, toss them in airtight containers and pop them in the fridge. When it’s time to cook, all you have to do is pull out the appropriate container and you’re ready to go.

Mix it Up

Making food fun can be as simple as trying a new dish. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy and delicious. There are many cookbooks available full of great-tasting meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Add one or two of these to your collection and pick a recipe to try each week. You may discover new favorites that are even quicker and easier to make than some of your “old standards!”

Learn to Love Leftovers

The word “leftovers” no doubt conjures the image of limp vegetables and dry meat. However with a little planning, leftovers can be just as delicious as fresh dishes. Things like stew, chili and curry are easy to make in large batches and store well in the freezer. Other good dishes to make and freeze include lasagna and other baked pasta, casseroles and shepherd’s pie. Having these homemade “convenience foods” on hand when you’re in a hurry takes the stress out of dinner by allowing you to simply defrost and reheat enough for the family. It’s also much healthier than relying on commercial boxed meals or frozen dinners.

Get the Kids Involved

Whether shopping for food, prepping ingredients or putting together a meal, getting the kids involved is a great way to make cooking enjoyable for the whole family. Helping with all aspects of dinner preparation gives kids real-world experience and allows them to learn the ins and outs of cooking. This is an invaluable skill that they can make use of for the rest of their lives.

Making a homemade meal every night doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With planning and preparation, cooking can become an enjoyable part of your everyday life. Sharing the results of your work in the kitchen with your family is a rewarding experience that is well worth the time.

Photo provided courtesy of THEMACGIRL* via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Earnest Parenting: tips for keeping cooking manageable.