Monday, April 16, 2007

Getting Started

I once read a poll in a magazine that my mom's generation typically spent an hour or more cooking dinner each night. The same poll indicated that my generation spends half an hour or less. Times have changed, women have changed, and we no longer have room in our lives for meals that require huge amount of effort on a regular basis.

I enjoy cooking, but I do not enjoy trying to decide what to make. After finding myself standing in front of the refrigerator at 4Pm too many times, stumped as to what to cook that night, I've changed the way I approach dinner.

Also, with two small children to care for, getting my routine down to the nitty gritty means I can still put a healthy, wholesome and tasty meal on the table without spending too much time in the kitchen.

Some things that have worked for me:

I plan my meals in advance. Not so much a schedule set in stone, but I choose a handful of meals that sound good, write down any ingredients I don't have on hand, then organize my grocery list by section, to eliminate extra time spent food shopping. I shop once a week or so so I can buy plenty of fresh produce, meat and fish without worrying about it spoiling. Having a rough idea ahead of time helps me plan in my head what I need to do, and eliminates a lot of convenience items that are also sometimes too high in salt, sugar, or processed ingredients.

I subscribe to a cooking magazine and use other websites and publications as references. I like magazines that use everyday staples that my picky family will eat and that won't require me to go across town to the organic grocery store, or pay an arm and a leg for exotic ingredients. See the "Links" box for more information.

I also have an arsenal of cooking gadgets that cut prep time. You can see some of them in the sidebar box, "Saving Time and Money." Look for posts on how to navigate the grocery store, how to read nutrition labels and ways to maximize your effort in the kitchen.

In addition, my young son likes to "help" cook, so I enlist him to do safe and non-messy steps. As an added advantage, he is more likely to try something if he helped cook it, even if all he did was push the start button on the microwave.

You don't have to be a Food Network icon to put healthy, tasty and fast meals on the table for your family! Welcome, and have fun getting started!

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