Make Time for Healthy Homecooked Meals

Homemade Meals Everyday

It's 5 pm. You just pulled in the driveway with two very hungry toddlers when you realize you forgot to plan dinner.

What do you do?

Does this sound familiar?

Jennifer Mellace describes this scenerio in her featured article in Today's Diet & Nutrition magazine and says that more and more families are eating out.

In 2005, the average household expenditure for food away from home was$2,634!

Thirty years ago most meals were prepared and eaten at home.

But according to research by the USDA in 2005, Americans spent over 10 times more eating out than they did in 1974. found that during the last 30 years, Americans' spending on fast food has increased from $6 billion to $110 billion!! 

Convenient Yet Healthy Foods To Keep Handy

I like Denise Webb's collection of ideas based on her article in Today's Dietitian on "Redefining Convenience Foods"......

Keep These Foods Stocked

Brown Rice: in a bag or frozen

Jarred Pasta Sauce: just open and heat, add prechopped vegetables steamed in a microwave and pair with whole wheat pasta

Canned Broth:use for soups, stews, casseroles or chili; choose reduced sodium

Canned Tomatoes:reduced-sodium versions to be added to soups, stews, lentils and beans

Canned Beans:black, pinto, navy, red or garbanzo beans can be ready in minutes, just open and rinse

Oatmeal in Packets or Cups:it's portable and cooks in the microwave in minutes and is excellent for traveling

High-Fiber Cold Cereal:not just for breakfast anymore, it works for lunch and a nutritious snack, look for individual servings or create your own with storage containers or plastic bags

High-Fiber Crackers:look for whole-wheat crackers and pair with hummus, guacamole, peanut butter or vegetarian bean dip

Canned Tuna or Salmon:open, garnish and eat, a easy way to get your fish in for the week

Frozen Entrees:many healthy options often with a vegetarian version

Frozen Veggie Pizza:look at the labels and then add more precut veggies before popping them in the oven

Individual Cups of Peanut Butter or Hummus:combine them with whole grain crackers, pitas or prechopped celery sticks

Edamame:frozen edamame can be toasted or stir-fried or added to a casserole, soup or stew

Prepackaged Guacamole Snack Packs:great for making burritos, tacos or topping off a prepackaged salad

Frozen Mashed Sweet Potatoes:in about 8 minutes you can have a side dish rich in beta-carotene

Frozen Veggie Burgers:ready to be placed on a whole wheat bun, in minutes they can be microwaved or quickly pan-cooked with a little olive oil

Whole Wheat Couscous:ready in just 5 minutes, it offers a serving of whole grains and can be tossed with any steamed vegetable

Precooked Quinoa in a Pouch:ready in about 8 minutes, add garbanzo beans, chopped nuts or dried fruit 

Back to Basics Nutritious Time-Savers


-Fresh Fruit

-Carrot and Celery Strips

-Dried Fruit

-Single Dried Plums

-Cherry Tomatoes

-Bag of Baby Carrots

-Rotisserie Chicken

-Bagged Spinach

-Fresh Pasta

-Premade Packaged Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

-Prechopped Onions, Celery and Carrots

-Deli Turkey Slices

-Shredded, Crumbled or Cubed Cheese


-Precooked Shrimp

Freezer-Friendly Meals 

Planning and preparing a variety of nutritious meals that can be frozen for a family or in individual servings is a huge time saver!

The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook (Trim and Terrific)provides a variety of nutritious recipes and educates readers on the world of freezing.

Clegg says that making dishes ahead of time and freezing them takes the stress out of cooking. She often makes use of precut veggies, no-boil lasagna noodles and fast-cooking brown rice.

Clegg provides a list of foods that simply don't freeze well and others that change after being thawed. 

Cooking Two-Weeks to One Month's Worth of Meals 

In Once-a-Month Cooking, Revised and Expanded: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day, authors Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg say setting aside time to prepare and cook several meals is not only good for the budget, but takes the pressure off to get a nutritious meal on the table each day.

The book offers detailed shopping lists and a step-by-step system that shows how to prepare and cook several meals all in one day.

See a sample recipe below from Once-a-Month Cooking, Revised and Expanded: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day and then go online and buy the book!


Freeze in: 10-cup container

Serve with: Green salad tossed with Vinaigrett; French bread

1 pound lean ground beef (2 1/2 cups browned meat)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 teaspoon onion salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion

1 28 ounce can Italian-style or plain crushed tomatoes in puree

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 14 1/2 ounce can beef broth or bouillon

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 12 ounce package plain ravioli without sauce


Grated parmesan cheese


Cook the ground beef in a large pot until browned, about 15 minutes. Drain the fat. Combine the remaining ingredients except frozen ravioli and additional Parmesan cheese. Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook, put in container and freeze.

To prepare for serving, thaw soup and put in a large pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Thaw and cook ravioli according to package directions until just tender. Drain ravioli; add to soup. Salt to taste. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 6 servings.