Finding time for your job and loved ones requires enough juggling, and some days, home-cooked meals just don’t feel like an option. But we want to make sure you get that family mealtime together, plus cooking your own food is almost always cheaper and healthier than going out. Here are a few tips and shortcuts that will take the edge off the busy times…
Basic habits to live by:
- Make lists for regular grocery shopping and menu planning, and for big meals, outline a schedule
-Maintain a clean kitchen, and make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment ready to go before you begin cooking!
-Invest in a food processor, so that you can puree vegetables, shred cheese, make dough, and whip up sauces, sorbets, and dips.
-Be prepared for efficient cures for weeknight dessert cravings. Stock wafers, maraschino cherries, pudding mix, graham crackers, chocolate chips, and caramel sauce for decadent treats like milkshakes and s’mores. Buy baking mixes, then customize with nuts, dried fruits, powdered sugar, whipped cream, mint, or grated nutmeg.
-On the savory side, fill your pantry with broths, canned vegetables, and instant starches like rice and potatoes. You can spruce up almost anything with fresh herbs, spices, lemon, or cooked bacon.
-Have a rotation of meat, fish, and dairy items in your fridge or freezer (seasoned chicken breasts, ground beef, pre-cooked sausage and other pork products, and frozen fish filets). Familiarize yourself with our Freezer Basics. You can even freeze some dairy products like butter and cream.
For the perpetual pinch…
-Experiment with a weekly stir-fry, and cheat with pre-cut veggies, also great for purees like Squash Soup.
-Think broiling, grilling, and walk-away cooking methods like braises or simple roasts.
-Take advantage of extra weekend or late-night cooking time by making big-batch items that keep for a few days, like legumes, hard-boiled eggs, or pastas.
-Browse Paula’s products, from her signature hoecake mix to house seasoning.
Some shortcuts from the baking queen!
-Buy pizza dough for Collard Green Pizza or Mexican Pizza.
-Wow guests with store-bought puff pastry in Cheeseburger Puffs, a sausage-laden baking mix base for Tomato Tarts, or canned corn and cornbread mix for a creamy casserole.
-Sample our no-bake fruit desserts, or fake a cake with these sumptuous Blueberry Skillet Cake or Coffee cake recipes using mostly packaged ingredients.
-Freeze leftover fruit for future desserts and smoothies. Prepare and freeze components, like pie filling and crust.
-Put your kids (or spouse, friends) to work.
-Microwave: use it to get butter to get to room temperature on low-powered settings, cook potatoes to serve whole or mashed, and defrost.
- Re-invent leftovers, especially chicken! We have tons of recipes for this, but try a pot pie!
-Buy prepared garlic and lemon/lime juice.
-Substitute dried herbs (the standard recommendation is 1/3 of the amount of fresh herbs).