Category Archives: TIPS TO SAVE YOU TIME

tips to save you time

Tips to help ensure you, and your kids, are eating enough healthy meals!

veggie & fruit plate with dill yogurt dip and homemade caesar dressing

veggie & fruit plate with dill yogurt dip and homemade caesar dressing

It’s that time of year again! (Already?!?!) The kids are heading back to school and the various sports and activities are starting up.  This means everyone is about to be shorter on time and energy 🙁

It’s not always easy finding the time to eat right, never mind finding the time to cook a balanced meal 7 nights a week (or at least 5 – the other 1 or 2 nights, for my family anyway, are for splurging on ‘treat’ food!).  Not to mention the nutritious breakfasts and school lunches we have to make all week.  I don’t know about you but during the school year, despite setting the alarm and getting up on time, I/we seem to be running late a lot and I’m caught trying to figure out what the heck I can throw together for breakfast and/or pack my kids for lunch that will be filling, healthy, tasty AND take under 5 minutes to make.  Haha  (I really wish peanut butter wasn’t a no-no at school!).

The key to making healthy food choices (and life easier for yourself) is to do a little planning ahead.  Just a bit of extra work on the weekend will ensure things run much smoother for the following week!

Below are some tips that have really helped me (I hope they can help you too!):

STOCK UP ON HEALTHY FOOD – for breakfast and packed lunches

  • I stock up on a few pre-packaged, healthy snacks that I know my kids like.  These come in handy when I’m running late and need to grab something quick for them.  I don’t use these all the time.  I Keep them for when I’m ‘in a pinch’.  Examples are granola bars, dehydrated fruit (which I buy from the bulk aisle to save a lot of money), whole grain crackers, pre-packaged cheese (like Babybel).  Obviously, choose things your kid enjoys.
  • I stock up on yogurt, cottage cheese, fruits and lots of veggies (I ALWAYS have apples and bananas on hand, at the very least).  I also always have peanut butter, jam, frozen fruit for smoothies, hard boiled eggs, instant oatmeal and healthy NON SUGARY cereal (such as whole grain cheerios), so the kids can get a quick, but healthy, breakfast.

MAKE FOOD IN LARGE BATCHES AND FREEZE – for dinners 

  • There are certain foods I always make in large batches so I can pull them out at any time for a quick, nutritious meal, snack or dessert.  Having a few frozen ‘go to’ items that are still healthy ensures you can make healthy choices and don’t end up eating fast food, without having to sacrifice time (pizza, chicken fingers, fries, etc. also don’t count in our house.  Those are considered ‘treat foods’).  Some examples of things I make in bulk are meatballs, lasagna, pizza doughcasserole, tomato sauce, hamburger patties (or turkey burger, quinoa burger, etc), and pesto.  I also always make healthy muffins in large batches and freeze so I can grab a one for breakfast, lunch or just a snack whenever I want!

PREPARE FOOD FOR THE WEEK ON SUNDAY

  • I cut up some veggies that will last several days such as peppers, carrots and celery.
  • I ensure I have everything ready for several kinds of sandwiches.  I pull out English muffins, wraps, bread and even a few buns from the freezer to ensure there is variety for breakfasts and lunches for the week (I keep ALL my bread products that I’m not using within 3 days in the freezer to keep everything fresh!).  I make tuna salad or salmon salad and egg salad (I love egg salad because I can use it for breakfast OR lunch) and I ensure I have some deli meat such as lean turkey, chicken and/or ham in the fridge at all times.  As long as I do this prep on Sunday, I know it will only take me seconds to make great sandwiches all week!
  • Prepare a few starches ahead of time.  Too often I’ve been short on time and turned to Kraft Dinner or instant rice as a side dish.  While there is nothing wrong with this once in a while, I try to avoid ‘instant, pre-packaged’ foods whenever I can.  Now I make a large batch of brown rice, quinoa and sometimes even pasta (like rotini or bowtie) all at once.  I keep it simple because I can add vegetables or sauce to any of these starches when I’m reheating them.  If I haven’t used some of them within a few days, I add whatever I have leftover into a salad or soup.  There are endless options for using these things up so I never worry about them going bad before I get a chance to eat them!  I also defrost the meat and/or fish I’ll be using for the next few days on Sunday so I don’t have to remember to defrost/buy it later.

WRITE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN!

  •  Some days just feel so busy that the last thing you want to worry about is what to make for lunch and/or dinner.  Take the guess work out by making a weekly meal plan!  If you do this, you’ll know exactly what to shop for for the week and you can defrost/buy whatever meat and fish you’ll be using for the next 5 days so don’t have to worry about doing it each day.  You’ll also know what starches and how many you’ll need and can pre-make them accordingly.   It saves a LOT of time and mental energy.

I hope some of these tips help you!

 

Turkey, Pork and Beef Meatballs with Lots of Garlic!

Everyone has those days where they totally forget to defrost something for dinner – or procrastinate on what to eat for so long that it’s too late by the time you decide.  I know you can defrost stuff using the microwave, but I try to avoid this whenever possible.

A few years ago I made a huge batch of meatballs.  I didn’t mean to make so many.  I just kept adding ingredients and before I knew it, I had enough meatballs to fill 2 trays.  So I froze most of them.  Ever since then, I ALWAYS make meatballs in these huge batches because they do have a lot of ingredients and are a bit labor intensive so this saves me lots of time and I can just pull a few out of the freezer when I need a quick dinner option!  I serve them with spaghetti (obviously) or with rice or even put them on a bun for a delicious meatball sandwich.  Hell, I’ll even throw them into quinoa or eggs!  In terms of healthy options and saving money it sure beats ordering pizza at the last minute!

INGREDIENTSmeasurements are estimate ONLY!

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 – 2 mild Italian sausage (optional.  I’ll throw it into the mix if I have some in the freezer)
  • 1 bunch Italian Parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5c ricotta (I buy this in bulk and freeze in one cup portions)
  • 1c grated parmesan cheese
  • OPTION: Fresh oregano and basil (If I have it.  I use dried during the winter months)
  • 1/4 c worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c or more of minced garlic
  • 1 diced white onion
  • OPTION: shallot and/or green onion (if I have it on hand)
  • A very generous amount of salt and pepper.

METHOD

  • Make a ‘slurry’ in the mini food processor I have.  It saves SO much time.  Instead of chopping, just throw the garlic, onion, egg, and herbs together and buzz it until it’s in a small dice!
  • Add that to the meat with all the other ingredients and mix until all is combined.  DON’T over mix.
  • Bake on a sheet tray at 375 degrees for around 18 minutes and let cool.

Put whatever you don’t eat right away by placing them wax paper/parchment lined sheet tray.  Freeze.  Store in a zip lock bag.  Bada Bing!

 

 

Mincing garlic & ginger in bulk

garlic

I LOVE garlic.  I use it just about every day.  But I find the process of peeling it and mincing it tedious.  Having said that, I just don’t like the way prepared minced garlic in a jar tastes.  It’s just not the same as the fresh stuff!  Plus it’s MUCH more expensive in a jar.  So I decided to start making my own.  Same with ginger.  I go to the local fresh vegetable market and buy a  small bag of peeled garlic and a decent sized ginger root every 2 weeks or so.  I put the garlic into my mini food processor, add enough olive oil to cover, and pulse it until it is in small pieces (you DON’T want to buzz it until it is a puree!  You want it to be in small chunks like you diced it with a knife!).  With the ginger, I peel it, rough chop it, and do the same thing.  I then put the garlic and ginger into separate containers (I use recycled plastic baby fruit containers but any small jar or container will do).  Because the olive oil keeps it from oxidizing, the garlic and ginger both stay fresh for up to 2 weeks and I can scoop generous amounts into anything without any effort at all.  Voila!