I think a lot of parents struggle with cooking from scratch, especially if it’s not what they grew up with, but we are trying to do better for our own children. What do you do if stopping for pizza or cooking from frozen just seems like the only way to get dinner on the table tonight? Not only do processed meals contain ingredients that you want to avoid, they are a more expensive option than cooking from scratch with whole ingredients.
Understand first where you reach for a meal when you are in a time crunch or just too tired to start from scratch. Prepare in advance for that moment of weakness. To start, you need to think about the solution before tonight. When your will is strong and the kids are quiet (like that happens), plan ahead. Buy enough that you can make three times as much as you need. Eat the same food two nights in a row then freeze the rest for another meal later. You just put a bit more work into preparing one meal while you got three out. Think quantity, and work ahead.
Choose Convenience Tools Rather Than Convenience Foods
Buy a slower cooker and a bread machine. These should be on your baby registry. Experienced parents will understand.
If you wake up feeling like it might be one of those days, pull your saved leftovers out of the freezer and create some new kind of stew. Our favorite slow cooked meal is curry. You can hide a lot of vegetables in a mild curry that children will eat. Clean out the refrigerator or freezer and use what you have so it doesn’t go to waste (which, of course, saves you money). You do this in the morning, and you don’t have to think about it again until it is time to put on a pot of rice near dinnertime.
Fresh bread without fuss doesn’t mean using a mix. You can mix your own recipe in advance from whole ingredients to avoid expensive specialty mixes. Dump the ingredients in and hit the button. Kneading bread by hand feels great, but sometimes you aren’t into the process so much as focused on the result. It’s OK to do both.
Have a Back-up Easy Meal
My mother was a single parent who worked all day. We ate a lot of tv dinners. Sometimes, though, when she really wanted us to eat immediately, she opted for her favorite easy meal: egg sandwiches. It’s an omelet between slices of bread, and it takes about five minutes to prepare. If you have bread and eggs, you are set. My family’s quick meal is salad. We cut up all sorts of fresh vegetables and leftovers, toss it in a bowl, and call it salad. Know what your family is willing to eat and keep the fresh ingredients available.
We have had a great response to food discussions on the Parenting by Nature Facebook page recently, and, when we asked what you want to save money on, the answer was overwhelmingly FOOD! That’s why we followed Saving Money on Food with this post. You had a lot more great ideas, though, so during February we’ve scheduled a whole month of posts devoted to food and other ways our customers keep their families healthy naturally. Keep sharing your ideas and experience. Other parents can learn from you.