Life has sped up and I don't know about you, but dinner, being at the end of the day, often gets less attention that tasks that happen earlier in the day.
When I was a kid, somehow my mom got dinner on the table almost every night. Maybe with the exception of going out for pizza or Mexican food after Little League games when they finished late.
Our family may not have been perfect, and we probably had breakfast for dinner here and there, but we did sit down together for that one meal every night.
Now family life is even busier and sometimes it seems like it's more stressful to get a meal on the table.
I'm sure you know the feeling of feeling tired from the day and trying to switch gears and figure out what to make for dinner.
On the other hand, grabbing something to eat at a restaurant on the way home from wherever, isn't necessarily less stressful.
You have to get everyone to agree on where to eat, the food doesn't come fast enough for whoever's most hungry, and then when you get the bill, it really doesn't seem like it was worth it at all.
Seriously, wouldn't you rather save it for special occasions or date night without the kids!
Why eat at home?
Cooking at home can often be faster than eating out, especially if you already have the ingredients on hand.
You also have control of the quality and quantity of the food you eat, plus you remove the temptation of eating unhealthy foods you're trying to avoid.
The huge incentive for most families is the cost savings.
With a more focused effort at eating at home, means that you can buy good quality organic ingredients for much less than the cost of eating out.
So how can you find the time?
As many of you know, I'm just home from traveling for ten months.
I cooked simple meals regularly, but nothing too complicated.
At the beginning we were in a camper van, then in hostels. In South America I probably cooked the least and the last few months I was cooking in Airbnb's, but not too much. The kitchens were usually only stocked with basic cooking supplies.
So when I got home I really had to get it together, again. I almost felt like I couldn't remember what I used to cook.
The kids were complaining that there wasn't any food in the house and while that wasn't entirely true, we did end up eating out a few times just because I was uninspired.
It's really amazing what the current version of Real Plans can do. Absolutely everything is customizable. The number of people you're serving (I upped it to six, since during the summer there are often extra kids for dinner and if not, I get leftovers). The type of meals is customizable: vegetarian, paleo, traditional, gluten free and you can even mark specific ingredients that you don't want.
You can also add in lunches and breakfasts, if you like, such as the Freshie Huevos Rancheros on the left. And if you don't like some of the meals planned for the week, you can trade them out with recipes from the recipe box.
I have a lot more energy for cooking when it's something new!
You can even add your own recipes in, although I haven't tried this feature yet.
One of my favorite features is that it produces a weekly shopping list based on what's planned for the week.
I still end up stopping at the store a couple of times during the week for a few things, but they're just super quick trips.
I also feel like we waste less food, since I have a plan.
What about fresh produce?
I've been doing my shopping on Saturdays so that I can go to the farmer's market for my produce, then get anything else at my regular grocery store.
The freshest produce is at Farmer's Markets or your local CSA.
This week, I'm going to start my CSA up again, so I'm guessing that some of the things on the list will probably come in my veggie box. (I explain CSA's down below).
In some parts of Europe, people still shop for their produce daily at fresh food markets.
I would love to be able to do that, but it just isn't as convenient here. We were staying about a block and a half away from street in Nice pictured below. I was so surprised when we turned the corner. I had been feeling a little homesick, so I actually got a little teary eyed when I saw this!
Also, you often get to know a bit about the farm and the farmers.
My son went to a farm camp for the second time this summer and it was like magic, all of a sudden he eats all of his vegetables and tells me how healthy they are!
Any other easy options?
Another option I've tried, when I knew I'd be super busy and wanted to avoid eating out was a meal delivery service.
I've tried one with the meals pre-cooked and one that came with three meals worth of recipes and ingredients.
My kids didn't really like the pre-cooked meals, so I only did it once. I liked it, but it defeats the purpose if the kids don't eat it.
I thought the delivery service that came with the recipes and ingredients was fun.
While it's cheaper and more convenient than eating out, it's still more expensive than shopping yourself. I think it's worth doing every once in awhile, when you know you'll have a lot going on. I'll link to a couple of options in this weeks Cheatsheet. It's good to find the one nearest to you so your food isn't being shipped across the country.
For more information and resources, I've put together a meal planning and home cooking resource guide. Enjoy!
Click above for a complete guide to Cooking at Home and Meal Planning (both DIY and Done for You)!
Now it's your turn.
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Hi, I’m Crystal!