Many people have busy schedules and have trouble getting dinner on the table.  After a hectic day at work or a kids’ sports game or a crazy day at home, sometimes it just feels easier to pick up dinner, and that’s okay.  However, if this turns into a regular habit, both your budget and you waistline will suffer.  While it does take longer to make food than to pick it up on the way home, if you cook at home you will almost always be making healthier fare for your family.  (I find after I eat at home for the majority of my meals, when I do go out restuarant food tastes too salty.)

If you take some time to plan ahead, you will find that it is not so difficult to get tasty, frugal, homemade meals on the table.  This series will consist of four strategies for doing just that, beginning with having a cooking day once a week.

Have One Cooking Day a Week
Sometimes, the hassle with cooking during the weeknight is not the cooking itself but the clean up.  You can avoid a lot of clean up by cooking once a week.

When I was working full-time, this is a strategy my family employed.  On Sunday, I set aside a few hours to batch cook our meals.  I picked three to four recipes, doubled them, and cooked them up Sunday afternoon.  Then, during the weekdays, I pulled out one meal and we just reheated it for dinner.  I doubled each recipe so that my husband and I would also have the convenience of packing leftovers for lunch since we both had access to microwaves.

Now that I am home, I sometimes still do this.  I find lunch time with a 2.5 and nearly one year old to be a bit chaotic because when the kids are hungry, they are hungry NOW.  It is so much easier if I have leftovers in the refrigerator that I can just put in a bowl and microwave.

One Cooking Day a Week Recipes and Resources
If you are looking for some ideas, check out Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals: 200 Simple, Delicious Recipes to Make Meal Time Easy.  Or, if you want to go frugally, check out Robin Miller on Food Network.  Robin makes 3 meals once a week to feed her family.  You can pick any one of her episodes, and the site will give you a grocery list and a game plan for preparing the food.  It really doesn’t get any simpler than this.  I found by following her strategies, I could have everything prepared in less than 2 hours.  Then, during the week day, it may take 10 minutes to finish preparing the recipe.

Rachel Ray carries this idea further with five dinners in one day.  On her website, you can find Heat ‘n Eat: Five Dinners in One Day with 5 complete recipes and baking instructions.  You can find even more of these recipes on the Cooking Channel: Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day.  I have watched some of these episodes, and while the food looks delicious, I have never tried her five meal plan because the majority of her recipes contain dairy, which I and my daughter cannot have.  If you don’t have food issues, the food looks delicious!

Invest two hours on the weekend, and you and your family will have delicious, cost friendly, healthy recipes waiting for you each weeknight.

I shared this post at Kitchen Economics.

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