Meals prepared at home are often linked to healthier food choices and smaller portion sizes. One of the common barriers to preparing meals at home is finding the time. With these five simple strategies for quick meals, anyone can enjoy the benefits of meals from home without spending too much time in the kitchen.
Strategy #1: Prep basic ingredients
Start by identifying the foods that you like to have on-hand each week. Examples might be cooked grains, hard boiled eggs, grilled meats, roasted vegetables, or sliced fruits and veggies. To maximize your time, set aside one hour to prepare basic ingredients before the busy week starts. Store these food items in air-tight containers in the fridge to make them accessible during the week. Have fun with this weekly routine by playing music and getting your family involved!
Strategy #2: Have a stocked pantry
Research shows that having a stocked pantry is a motivator to preparing meals at home. Examples of healthy foods requiring minimum prep include whole grains, beans, frozen fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, and canned tuna. When these items are in stock, it is easy to throw together a quick dinner. For example, simply combine cooked grains, frozen veggies, and beans into a stir-fry. Add a favorite sauce and an egg on top, and the meal is complete! Here is a list of kitchen essentials that make meal prep a breeze!
Strategy #3: Create one-pot meals
One-pot meals only require one dish during the preparation process, which means less clean-up. Combining all the ingredients in a single dish means that no extra time is needed for preparing side dishes. Use the one-pot meal strategy for soups, frittatas, and even pastas!
Strategy #4: Cook once, eat twice
Cook enough food to have leftovers for future meals. To avoid leftover boredom, create different meals from the same ingredients. For example, cut leftover grilled meat into strips to add to salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Use leftover vegetables for salads and sandwich toppings!
Strategy #5: Pack quick lunches
Put together quick “adult lunchables” by selecting one food from each of the major food groups: grain, protein, fruit, veggie, and dairy. For example, combine whole-wheat pita (grain), 2 tablespoons hummus (protein), sliced red peppers (veggie), one whole apple (fruit), and one low-fat cheese stick (dairy) in a to-go container.
Here are 12 meals in minutes that have 5 ingredients or less!
Prep basic ingredients for at least one meal in the upcoming week. Or, try a recipe from the “Meals in Minutes” handout.