Last week, we talked about focus foods for nextovers. No matter how good the captain of your culinary starship is, it needs a good team. I took the approach of thinking about your vegetables as your mains, so we’re going to talk about proteins, grains, and seasonings today.
It seems we all have more demands on our time and attention than we used to. I’m certainly not judging those that have difficulty making family dinners happen. I know how hard it can be to get a meal on the table while also coordinating everyone’s schedules, and when I was a single parent it all seemed even more difficult. Here’s the thing, though: research shows there are some benefits to sitting down at a meal together—for both children and adults—that might convince you that making the effort to have family meals together is a trade-off that will pay off for everyone.
To my mind, the prime directive of nextover cooking is this: save yourself time and hassle in the kitchen. To accomplish this, you’re probably going to need to cook something in enough bulk to last you family for three meals. The second directive is: don’t be bored at dinnertime. To meet that goal, you need to choose an ingredient that plays well with others, or better yet, can be a master of disguise.
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals are substantial and in an ideal scenario they would take priority in our family calendars over other activities. However, with conflicting schedules it can be challenging to fit in family meal time. For busy nights, home cooks need family dinner fallback meals that are guaranteed to please and require minimal time and effort. Keeping some basic ingredients on hand will help you whip up a simple, but nutritious meal and avoid the drive thru, takeout or eating at restaurants. This is a win for your family’s health and budget. For this month’s Nutritious Nudge, let’s discuss some fallback recipes that you can call on to consistently and quickly get dinner on the table.
If you’re the family meal planner in charge of the plan/shop/cook process for your household, you know that when the rest of the family is there to share in the task it’s a good thing. When it also helps bring the family together, it’s even better. From sharing who picks the meal, exploring the local market for the ingredients you need, and finally bringing it all together with one another in the kitchen, meal prepping can foster family time.
We love meal prepping in my house. By “we,” I mean “I,” and by “love,” I mean “appreciate the time savings.” The problem with meal prepping is the leftovers. Big batch meals are easy to make, but with just two adults and a toddler in the house? Even the best lentil soup in the world gets a bit tired after three nights straight. The happy medium, I find, is nextovers.
Food allergies are tough enough if you have one. If you have more than one, finding safe food in public can be a challenge. If you’re prepping a snack that needs to be safe for a diverse group, making safe choices for everyone is that much harder.
The pandemic has changed so many facets of our lives that it sometimes seems like everything is getting revamped, revised, or reconstructed. That most certainly goes for school, too. If your child’s school is opening for in-person learning this fall, you no doubt have lots of questions about what the day will be like for your child. Your child will, too. One thing that will likely be very different is the school lunch experience.