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Streamline Meal Preparation For Busy Spring

Spring gets busy. As well as the usual busyness on the farm, after a long winter with often unknown weather conditions, the arrival of warmer weather brings more meetings, conferences, concerts, graduations and all sorts of activities prior to summer.

Busy schedules can lead to erratic mealtimes. Erratic mealtimes, in turn, can lead to people making poor food choices.

When you have less time for meal preparation, you may be tempted to eat more convenience foods. That could strain your family food budget and you may also consume more calories, fat and sodium than recommended for good health.

It is possible to streamline food preparation, but remember, this does take some planning. However, the time invested is worth it for your health and budget.

How is your household doing at managing food preparation time? If you are the “managing chef” at home, try answering the following questions:

Do you plan menus and write grocery lists so you have meal ideas and the food you need?

Do you sometimes prepare portions of a meal in advance?

Do you sometimes use leftovers as the basis for another meal?

Do other people in your household help with meal preparation and cleanup? Do you focus preparation efforts on one portion of the meal? For example, if the main course is time consuming, do you fix a simple vegetable or salad?

Do you assemble equipment, cooking utensils and ingredients before you begin meal preparation?

Do you use time-saving equipment, such as slow cookers and microwave ovens?

To save on cleanup time, do you sometimes use the one-pot method? That means adding vegetables to pasta that is cooking.

If you could say yes to most of the questions, you are using time-saving strategies. Consider what other strategies might work for you. If you could use some help with menu plans and recipes, check out our new “Cooking 101” publications. Visit http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/eats-martand click on For Singles/ Couples. The “Cooking 101” series has three weeks of menu plans, recipes and grocery lists. If you are cooking for a family, click on For Parents/Caregivers and then on Now Serving. Five weeks of menu plans and recipes are included in the series.

– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State

University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist

and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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