We’d all love to provide healthy home-cooked dinners every day to support our family’s health. But as busy parents with so many things to juggle, finding time to cook from scratch can be a real struggle. If you’re anything like me, you probably end up serving up the same meals again and again until the kids refuse to eat them out of sheer boredom! So, in my continual quest to help you find a little more time in your hectic days, I asked Ingela Olson from Ingela’s Kitchen for some insider tips to help us rustle up wholesome family meals a little more quickly.
Here are Ingela’s top parenting hacks for quick healthy meals:
Chop your vegetables in advance
“Chopping vegetables can be the most time-consuming part of cooking,” says Ingela, “so why not chop them in advance and then just take them out when you need them. Take some time out on Sunday evening to chop the vegetables you will need for the next couple of days and then do another chopping session midweek and you are sorted for the whole week. If your children are old enough to help, get them to do it. They will learn some new skills and maybe develop an interest in cooking. To keep the vegetables fresh and maintain their nutritional value, I would recommend keeping them in the fridge in sealed containers for 2-3 days. Make sure you wash and dry them properly.”
Use frozen vegetables
“Another option is to use frozen vegetables. High quality brands that freeze the vegetables just after they have been harvested are a good alternative. The vegetables are frozen at the time when they contain the most vitamins and minerals and freezing doesn’t damage food, rather it preserves all the nutrients and natural flavour,” Ingela adds. “And when you buy pre-chopped frozen vegetables like butternut squash which is difficult to peel and chop you save even more time.”
Invest in a slow-cooker
“A slow cooker can be a great help for cooking easy family dinners. You add all the ingredients in the morning and by the time you come back from work, your dinner is ready. You can cook a wide variety of dishes such as one-pot meals, soups, stews and casseroles. And as a result of the long, low temperature cooking, slow cookers can help tenderize less expensive cuts of meat, thus keeping the cost low. On top of this, a slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven and of course there will be fewer dishes to do. What’s not to like?”
Do tray bakes
“Traybakes are a great way to get healthy family dinners on the table with minimal effort,” says Ingela. “And you will save on the washing up time too. You can make vegetarian traybakes, or you can use chicken, meat, or fish with vegetables, and you can roast your potatoes at the same time. Top it off with some fresh herbs and you will have a quick, healthy and delicious dinner in no time.”
Get batch cooking
“Batch cooking requires some work upfront, but you will feel great when you can just take out a home-cooked meal from the freezer, defrost it and warm it up! Be organised and plan what you are going to cook so that you have all the ingredients at home. Then look for opportunities for bits of time when you can cook (for example) eight portions of one or two dishes. You can batch cook early in the morning, late in the evening, or at some point during the weekend. It is of course important to cook dishes that freeze well.”
Aim for most of the time but not all of the time
“While our ambition is to always serve home-cooked, wholesome dinners, there will be days when we simply don’t have the time and have to cut corners and serve something that has not been cooked from scratch or that is not 100% healthy,” admits Ingela. “That’s fine as long as it doesn’t happen too often.”
Get healthy meals delivered to your door
“There are several companies that deliver recipe boxes with all the ingredients needed to cook the meals. This will save time and energy planning, purchasing and cooking and it also offers a lot of variety,” says Ingela. “You could also have ‘home-cooked’ frozen meals delivered to your door for weekday standbys. If you are really lucky, you might search out a local business like Ingela’s Kitchen that cooks and delivers fresh home-cooked, healthy family dinners!”
Ingela Olsson runs Ingela’s Kitchen which takes the stress out of family meals by cooking and delivering wholesome family-friendly dinners for busy parents (in Windsor and the surrounding areas). All the meals have been tested and approved by her 5-year-old twins!
Sign up to our monthly newsletters for lots more parenting tips!