Make it easier for your clients to get healthful and balanced meals on the table every night with this handy guide! Be sure to read all the way to the end -- today's post has free recipe links, a new PDF handout, and so much more!
Stress-Free Strategy #1: Bake Once and Serve Twice
Planning ahead for busy nights pays big dividends! When you find yourself with some free time in the kitchen, make the most of it by preparing a double batch of whatever you're cooking. For example, it's almost as easy to make two lasagnas as one. Use one lasagna the night you make it, and the second one can go, unbaked, into your freezer. Then, on another night when you're feeling rushed, you can pop that frozen lasagna in the oven and have dinner on the table, no stress required.
There are lots of foods that you can make ahead and store in the freezer. I'm especially fond of these six recipes...
- Baked Ziti
- Pizza Macaroni Casserole
- Quick-Bake Lasagna
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Tomato Rice Casserole
- Turkey Chili Pie
And, if you'd like more information about this strategy, check out these great posts!
- Cook Once, Serve Twice
- Freezer Magic: 8 Tips for Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
- Secret to Faster Meals: Stock Your Freezer
Use this tip to make the most of your time, when you have it! It will pay off on later nights when you don't have a moment to spare.
Stress-Free Strategy #2: Plan Ahead
For stress-free meals, plan what you want to make for the week, then make a grocery list. Keep seasonal produce and sale items in mind in order to get the most bang for your buck. Then, after you've bought what you need, store it properly and think about what items will keep well and what needs to be used right away.
How does this strategy pay off? In a stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer! Say goodbye to last-minute trips to the grocery store for one lone ingredient. Bid farewell to staring into the depths of the fridge, wracking your brain for inspiration. By planning your meals ahead of time and shopping accordingly, you'll seriously reduce the stress of mealtime. Plus, you'll have healthy food on hand when you're hungry, which makes it easier to make nutritious choices.
Want some inspiration and examples? Check out the post Stock Your Kitchen for Fast Meals! It's got a list of great foods to keep on hand and a guide to 10 easy meals that feature those ingredients.
25 Ingredients, 15 Meals is also loaded with great meal ideas and shopping tips.
Last, but certainly not least, is the 3 Week Plan for Better Meals. This post outlines exactly what to do if you want to shop for and make balanced meals for the next 3 weeks. Try it for yourself!
Stress-Free Strategy #3: Bust Out the Grill!
Using a grill is a quick way to take the fuss out of a meal. It's usually easy to prep the ingredients and the cleanup is a snap! Plus, the cooking times are generally quick, which means that you don't have to plan so far ahead or wait forever for the food to be ready.
Grilling brings out the best in lots of common ingredients, so when in doubt, toss your items in a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw them on the grill. Because of its versatility, grilling offers a great way to use up foods that might be languishing in the fridge. If you want to up the ante a bit, consider marinating your ingredients for a few hours -- it's hardly any more work and it really takes the flavors to the next level.
I've been grilling like crazy lately, and here are some of my favorite creations...
- Chicken Fajita Skewers
- Farmers' Market on the Grill
- Grilled Chicken and Chard
- Grilled Chili (it really works!)
- Stir Fry on the Grill
And for more information about grilling, check out these super-helpful posts!
- A Beginner's Guide to Grilling
- Delicious Healthy Meals on the Grill
- Grill Your Farmers' Market Finds
Stress-Free Strategy #4: Use One Pot!
One-pot meals are becoming more and more common these days, and I can certainly see what all the fuss is about. Low-key prep, minimal cleanup, and a wide range of options make one-pot meals a stress-free way to get food on the table. Plus, when everything is going into one pot, it's easy to see if the ingredients are balanced according to MyPlate's guidelines.
My team and I have developed some one-pot meals that have become regulars in my dinner and dessert rotation. Which will be your favorites?
So there you have it! Fantastic strategies for making healthy meals, without the stress! Which options are most appealing to you?
And, since I always keep my promises, here's a free handout with a guide to planning meals ahead of time. Enjoy!
You didn't think I'd forget about the Nutrition Education Store, did you? Many of the tips in this post were inspired by bestselling materials for educators. Check out the top options...
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.