Make Family Meals Easier: Double Up to Save Time and Money

woman chopping food to put in pot on stove

Juggling work, school and activities can make cooking family meals more challenging. That’s when planning ahead can really pay off.

As you plan each week’s meals, look for ways to save time and money. For example, cook a double batch to make one meal into two or three. Or choose recipes based on ingredients that can be used in other meals during the week. With simple, healthy meals on-hand, you can avoid the temptation (and expense) of dining out. And you’ll save money that might be lost as food goes to waste

Here are 6 simple strategies to help your meals go further:

1. Double the recipe.

There can be a lot of prep work involved in some recipes, so make it count. Making twice as much doesn’t usually take twice the time. Make a double batch and save one for another meal, especially if it’s a family favorite.

2. Fill your oven.

Roasting a chicken? Add a sheet pan of veggies to roast at the same time and save some for future meals. Grilling? Same idea. Fill the grill with extra chicken, vegetables or even fruit.

3. Same ingredient, different recipe.

Save time by preparing ingredients that can be used in more than one meal. Roasted veggies can do double duty as a side dish tonight and in a casserole or soup later in the week. A pot of beans can add fiber and protein to several meals. Chopping some extra veggies at the beginning of the week can reduce prep time when cooking and also serve as a healthy snack.

4. Combine leftovers.

Serving chili one night and baked potatoes another? Top leftover potatoes with the chili for a tasty third meal. Cut up leftover meat or chicken to add protein to salads, pastas or sandwiches.

5. Make friends with your freezer.

Many foods freeze well — think soups, stews, chili — and make an easy meal on busy nights. Store in single-meal quantities (say, four servings) in an air-tight container. Make sure it’s cooled thoroughly in the fridge before putting it in the freezer. When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat and enjoy a healthy homemade meal.

6. Use your pantry.

Nothing eats up time like an extra trip to the grocery store. Stock your pantry with staple ingredients such as canned beans, canned tomatoes, whole-grain pasta and quick-cooking grains like quinoa. They can create a quick, balanced meal when time is short.

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