How can I prepare tasty and healthy meals for my family in a rush?

Your question

As much as I’d love to diligently prepare a healthy feast for my family every night, often life always seems to have other ideas. By the time I’ve got after school clubs, play dates, homework and late meetings out of the way, I find myself staring blankly into a cupboard or freezer in a panic, wondering what I can throw together in seconds to fill us all up. 

Surely there must be a way I can manage mealtimes better, and ensure my family eats well most nights?

Our answer

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! The one question I hear the most is, ‘Can I still cook healthily when juggling job, family and a busy social life?’ And the answer is a definite ‘Yes.’

The trick is not to get too overwhelmed by what needs to be done, but to plan ahead and cook in advance. Start making lists, and don’t be afraid to let your kids chime in – they are wonderfully creative and have great ideas for mealtimes. Even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still create a delicious meal. A secret of mine is that some of my signature dishes evolved from mixing leftovers. It’s amazing how imaginative you can be in inventing new dishes when you’re under pressure!

To help you learn to eat healthily while balancing all your responsibilities, I have put together some of my best cooking and preparation tips.

Consider what season we have

Usually, seasonal veg and meat tend to complement each other splendidly, so let Mother Nature do your shopping list. Play with lots of textures, colours and flavours.

Make a weekly shopping list and a daily meal planner

Concentrate on the key ingredients of each meal. Some people find sticking to a recipe 100% too dull, as they feel it takes away spontaneity and creativity. Let your kids help you when picking the ingredients and deciding on the final touches.

You can also combine a well-planned daily meal schedule with the convenience of healthy meal delivery services like Nutre Meal Plans to enjoy delicious and nutritious meals without the hassle of shopping and cooking every day.

Prepare condiments, rubs and sauces in batches

It feels great to know your homemade seasoning doesn’t contain any toxic additives. Add to your key ingredients and you’ve got a meal! You can always add some spice kits from spicentice, too.

But, some spices will do more heavy lifting than others. For example, a pinch of organic cayenne powder can add a kick to your taco seasoning or elevate the heat in a barbecue sauce. Moreover, when making a marinade for chicken or vegetables, sprinkling some organic cayenne powder not only enhances taste but also boosts metabolism.

Cook in batches

I recommend using a slow cooker because the preparation time is short and the cooking method is nutrient-preserving since your food cooks at about 65-80 degrees. Make wonderful autumn or winter stews that can be frozen and re-heated at a later date.

Starters, mains and desserts can all be made in a slow cooker, ensuring that, in moments of rush, there will be a nourishing dish already waiting. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of outdoor grilling, there are also ways to speed up the cooking process. Go for quality models like Rec Tec or Yoder grills to make sure you’re getting accurate temperatures and good heat retention.

Plan your meals according to colour and make up your own scheme

Anything goes for me. I like to use the traffic light as inspiration (so I have something green, red and yellow on the plate). If you feel adventurous, why not cook with the seven Chakra colours? Or maybe ask your children for ideas: What colours do they love? What colours are in their favourite painting? If they’re involved in the planning and preparation, they may be more enthusiastic about eating too!

Food is such an important – and pleasurable – part of our daily life. And with a few clever preparations and fun experimentation, your family can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals every evening. So happy cooking and exploring!

Answered by Nadja Christin, personal chef, healthy cookery teacher and founder of revolutionary food business Eatneon