Cutting Dinnertime Chaos
Speedy Meals with Slow Cookers
Is your crockpot sitting way in the back of your kitchen cabinet, neglected? If so, you’re missing out on one of a busy mom’s best helpers! Hectic schedules leave little time for cooking dinner, but the fabulous crockpot allows you to have delicious meals that are already done and hot by dinnertime. Slow cookers are also forgiving of cheaper cuts of meat, making them tender and juicy for discriminating tastebuds while helping you save money.
Crockpots are simple to use and there are numerous cookbooks with crockpot recipes, or you can find many delicious recipes on the Internet—many using minimal ingredients. In the morning before you head out the door, stick your ingredients in the pot and do a quick clean-up of the kitchen. That’s it—your main dish will be ready by mealtime!
Your family may love lasagna, but who has time to assemble this delicious, multi-layered dish after a busy day? Enter the next best thing to fresh: a frozen dinner you made yourself. On a night or weekend when you have extra time to cook, double your dinner recipes, then label and freeze one half for another night. You’ll love having these entrees ready to pull out of the freezer, thaw, and bake. “Freezer cooking” is a great way to save time, money, and your sanity. It also offers families convenience and nutrition. After all, isn’t your family better off having homemade sloppy joes (frozen sloppy joe meat takes just a few minutes to heat and eat!) versus a hamburger from the fast-food place down the street?
Make it a Family Affair
Instead of corralling your children in front of the TV so that you can get dinner going, invite them into the kitchen. Little ones as young as three can help by setting the table while older siblings can wash lettuce, make a salad, or pour milk. You can increase the level of difficulty, such as letting them chop vegetables, as they get more confident in their skills. (When they do reach vegetable chopping, though, head to a kitchen store and ask for a mezzaluna, a crescent-shape knife with handles at each end. Children “rock” the knife back and forth, keeping little fingers safe from the knife’s blade.)
Granted, having the kids in the kitchen takes patience in the beginning as you show them the ropes on how to be safe around knives and hot stoves, but the payoff is quick and bountiful—not only are you getting much needed help but you’re also teaching them valuable life skills. And more importantly, it’s a great opportunity to talk and reconnect with your family at the end of a long busy day. An added bonus? If you have your menu planner posted where everyone can see it, the older kids can actually start the family meal if you’re running late.
Dinnertime doesn’t have to be a rush to the table. In fact it can be a fun end to the day; it just takes a little planning. Eating together is one of life’s greatest family pleasures, so tap into its power!
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