How To

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How bulk cooking can make meals easier

Healthy family meals can get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules. Convenience may win out when parents are short on time, and it's hard not to be enticed by the ease of fast food or the lure of frozen foods. While these options are certainly fine on occasion, there is a more nutritious solution for time-crunched families.

Planning is a big part of enjoying a homecooked meal, and cooking in bulk can help families enjoy more homecooked meals. By thinking ahead about meals, you can more easily enjoy homecooked dinners than if you were to wait until the last minute to think about what's for dinner.

If bulk cooking is a foreign concept, the following are some resources to help you along.

• Get started by browsing cookbooks, online recipes or speaking with friends and family members about their favorite meals, especially those that may be popular with younger eaters. Concentrate on a specific meal each day. Dinner is the meal many families hope to share, as breakfast and lunch are often eaten outside of the home. Make a list of the ingredients that go into your family's favorite meals, selecting recipes that use many of the same ingredients.

• Wait until you have a free schedule and ample time to go to the store to shop for all of your supplies. Have a list on hand and check off each item as you find it. Cooking in bulk also means you can buy in bulk. Very often bulk-size foods are discounted, saving you both time and money. Shop for the staples that are needed for most meals, including fresh herbs, cheese, spices, oil, and whatever flavorings your family finds most appealing. Large bags of rice and potatoes also are handy to have available.

• Take advantage of warehouse club membership fees or manufacturer or store coupon deals on multiple buy specials. Buying jumbo-sized packages of food makes more sense when you intend to cook in bulk.

• Clean out the refrigerator and freezer, as you will need plenty of room to store your ingredients, and later, your prepared meals. Figure out when you will be doing the cooking so you know what will need to be refrigerated or frozen once you return from the supermarket.

• Establish a dedicated cooking day. Many bulk cookers cook on the weekend. You may be able to have a spouse or friend take the children for the day so there will be no interruptions.

• Gather all items that need to be chopped or sliced and set them aside. Leave ample time to chop or slice, which can take a lot of time. Use all of your available cooking resources, such as the grill, stovetop, oven, and slow cooker, at once. Then just drop the ingredients in as necessary.

• Have plenty of freezer-safe storage containers on hand. Divvy up the meals into containers and label clearly. Now each day of the week you have a fast meal that can be heated up in no time. Fresh bread and a salad may be the only other components you need.