Nowadays it seems more difficult than ever to gather the family around the table for an evening meal on a regular basis. It seems that most nights, a hurried rush through a drive-through window serves as the family dinner. Fortunately, there are several ways in which even the busiest of people can make it possible to enjoy a healthy nutritious dinner, even on the weekdays! Following, are five ideas anyone can use in order to make weeknight dinners easier, and healthier.

Plan Ahead the Weekend Before

It’s often said that a person is more likely to stick with a meal plan if there is a good amount of planning involved over the weekend. Figure out what meals can be planned out ahead of time that uses similar ingredients in order to avoid incurring additional expenses for items only used in one dish. A great day to prep ingredients ahead of time is Sunday when things are less hectic and rushed. One of the most tedious parts of any meal is chopping and washing the produce and meat. If possible, pre-prep your ingredients on Sunday, and store them in separate containers in the fridge. This way, the only thing to be done is to pull out the ingredients and throw them on the stovetop for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner.

Consider Using a Meal Prep Service

Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough time to prep for weeknight dinners, even on the weekends. In these situations, it is a good idea to consider using a meal prep service. Look into what is available locally. Some meal prep companies offer a meal delivery menu that specializes in locally sourced ingredients prepared by chefs and cooked fresh daily. Meal prep services can help busy families avoid having to waste precious hours preparing dinners during hectic weeknights, so they can sit back and enjoy some much-needed family time.

Consider Picking Up Side Dishes at the Grocery Store Deli

Most people spend a considerable amount of time preparing side dishes to go along with the main course for their weeknight dinners. Consider shopping the deli section at the grocery store in order to save oneself the hassle of preparing every single dish by hand. Most deli selections offer premade sides, such as potato salad, soups, pasta salad, sautéed vegetables, and more. Sides prepared by the grocery store deli are always cooked fresh daily and are ready to enjoy alongside whatever main dish one has decided to fix for their weeknight dinner.

Pull Out the Slow Cooker and Let it Do the Hard Work

Although the slow cooker seems like a relic of the past, it is actually one of the easiest ways one can guarantee a delicious, home-prepared dinner during weeknights. Prepare the ingredients the night before, and throw them in the slow cooker right before heading out the door the next morning. The best thing about slow cookers is that they are extremely versatile, and a great way to use up any produce or proteins which may be nearing their expiration date. Cooking dinner on low heat for seven to eight hours throughout the day is a great way to enjoy a satisfying home-cooked dinner any night, without having to spend hours cooking in the kitchen.

Get the Family Involved in the Prep Work

Kids love to be involved in family meal planning, especially younger kids. Consider getting them involved in the kitchen in order to cut down on prep time. Simple prep work, such as washing produce, or sorting beans and rice are great ways to get smaller children involved, while older children and teenagers may be able to take on larger tasks, such as dicing onions or seasoning the meat. Getting the whole family involved is not only a great way to cut down on the time it takes to make dinner, but it is a great bonding experience too!

The thought of preparing a healthy, home-cooked dinner during a busy week of school and work may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. By following the aforementioned tips and investing just a bit of planning, time, and prep work, even the busiest of families can enjoy healthy weekday dinners on a regular basis.

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