Having the time to cook is a luxury many families don’t have. For families that have both working parents, cooking dinner may be the last thing you want to do when you get home after an excruciating day at the office. And while there is a myriad of sheet pan dinners and microwave meals available for you to make, they’re not always healthy for the rest of the family.

You don’t have to let your busy schedule deter you from serving scrumptious, healthy meals for the people you love the most. Here are some tips and recipes that you can try without spending too long in the kitchen:

Have a routine

While it’s certainly nice to have different meals for every day of the month, it’s not always feasible to do so. It’s not easy on the pocket, either. Preparing fancy dishes every once in a while is ideal, but for your day to day, your life would be much simpler if you stuck to a routine. You can also try to keep notes on recipes that are both easy to cook and are a hit with the family, as this will help you from having to recreate the wheel every week. When you put favourites on regular rotation, you wouldn’t have to plan new meals each week. It’s a win for everybody.

Practice meal prepping

The idea of preparing three meals a day, seven times a week can be daunting. Not only is it time-consuming, but the time you spend cooking meals is time away from bonding with your family. Thankfully, an easy solution is to prepare your meals in advance. Lifestyle writer James Gonzales explains how meal prepping during the weekends frees up your time during the weekdays, giving you more leeway to actually enjoy the food you prepare for your family. This doesn’t mean you have to cook every single meal for the week during the weekends though, as you don’t want to be stuck with constantly reheating refrigerated meals. Instead, try chopping up vegetables or pre-cutting meats to save time when putting together dishes. You can even give some days a theme, like Pizza Fridays or Taco Tuesdays. This technique helps narrow down the options, making meal prep so much easier.

Make time at the table more meaningful

Aside from sustenance, family dinners are also a form of bonding and part of a larger family tradition. Harvard Business Review suggests keeping things happy and treating the dinner as a shelter from the long workday instead of a task you have to sit through. You can use the opportunity to share any good news like upcoming vacation plans or even a funny joke. Additionally, you don’t have to feel pressured to make family meals long. They don’t need to stretch to hours to have an impact — it’s the regularity and quality that counts the most.

Quick recipe ideas

Brussel sprouts salad

As emphasised by Claudia Correia, it’s incredibly important to eat a balanced diet, which means that aside from meats, you should be consuming vegetables, too. Eating a rainbow of vegetables delivers a variety of vitamins and minerals along with fibre, so it’s best to incorporate veggie-based meals throughout the week. To dodge a thumbs down from your younger kids, prep something unique, like a Brussel sprout salad. It’s both easy to make and healthy, and you can mix it up by adding apple, or even extra protein, like grilled chicken breast or sautéed shrimp.

Asian chicken rice bowl

If you’re finding it hard to find time to cook, you probably barely have the time to shop, too. Preparing a meal like an Asian chicken rice bowl lets you make a flavourful, nutrient-packed dish that is crafted out of ingredients you can easily pick up from the supermarket. The best part is, it’s easily doubled or tripled, making it perfect for large families.

Multicooker ramen

When you don’t have much energy to prepare a full meal, you won’t go wrong with ramen cooked using a multicooker, as you only have to push a few buttons to whip up the dish. You can use bone-in chicken to develop the flavour of the broth, and then throw in ramen noodles. Voila, you already have dinner!

Overnight oatmeal

Your family may not mind eating cereal and instant oatmeal packets every morning, but those are often loaded with sugars. Web MD suggests that a great workaround would be to prepare make-ahead breakfast with steel-cut oats in a rice cooker. That way, you will only have to program it and have it ready when you wake up. You also have the option to make it cold by soaking oats with low-fat milk or reduced sugar soy milk and diced fruit or let it sit in the fridge overnight. Sprinkle in some crushed almonds and milk for good measure.

Chicken salad sandwich

Want something that would work for lunch or dinner? An easy chicken salad can do the trick. Serve it with whole-grain bread, or turn the chicken salad into something more by completing it with lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers. If you’re pressed for time, you can use leftover chicken breasts to make four hearty sandwiches and serve them to the whole family for their meals when in school or work. To take things up a notch, try adding apple slices – Parents recommends adding apple, pomegranate seeds, and low-fat plain yoghurt to keep it light and crunchy with a hint of sweetness.

This article is a contribution by Alyssa Henck. 

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