Summer is coming to an end and we are preparing ourselves for back to school and fall. It’s amazing how the summer lightens our spirits with the warm weather, sunshine and brightness all around, abundance of light but nutrient dense foods like salads and plenty of fruit options. We let go of ourselves in the summer in so many ways- beach or water front outings, camping, social BBQ’s etc.

Then come September we are in a frenzy to settle back into work/ school routine and the never ending ’I’m always so busy, I just don’t have time for anything’ mode. And then ofcourse there are the battles of cooking at home vs. the easy eat-out option. But like everything else, a little bit of planning in advance can solve your meal related woes. Here are some practical and easy to follow tips.

Before the kids go back to school and you fall back the usual work routine, schedule a time to sit together as a family. Mark your weekly commitments like soccer, music lessons, fitness classes and so on, on the calendar. Look at the days when you have absolutely no time to cook. These are the days for which you need to pre-cook and freeze foods in advance or have a slow cooker recipe going so you have hot food ready when you come home.

Now look at the days where you have limited time to cook- as these days will call for quick easy to make recipes. Also account for the days you might want to take a break from cooking and eat out for a change. In our family eating out is generally on a Friday evening or weekends. I generally make the ’special’ time consuming dishes on the weekends as I have more time on hands and am not on a timeline to rush somewhere.

The next stage in the planning process is to come up with a menu for the whole week. Planning for 2 weeks in advance is even better. This takes the stress of staring at the fridge and wondering what to cook out of the equation. Believe me. Planning the menu as a family also reduces the skewed expressions we moms get from the kids faces when they are served dinner. Well they were a part of the planning, weren’t’ they? Of course nothing is set in stone and you could always change around the days or make adjustments to the meal ideas during the week.

The next thing is to determine a day for grocery shopping where you’d shop for the ingredients according to the menu, so you are not running last moment for grocery. Buy at least 3-4 days’ supply of fresh ingredients like veggies and fruits. Some foods lose their nutritional value if stored too long, so preferably don’t buy fresh foods for a week or longer. The dry foods like beans, grains, lentils etc can be bought in bulk for the month. It’s economical and time saving.

On weekends with help of all family members pre-cut veggies or cook and freeze some foods in advance. This way it’s a team effort, everyone gets time to spend with each other and you are not left alone with a big stack of veggies in front of you to deal with all alone.

Sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, a little bit of forward planning and scheduling discipline will save you tons of time and headache during the week.

So hope you and your family will get into the kitchen and enjoy the benefits of nutrient rich homely meals.

Bon appetite!

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