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Wilburn: A little bit of planning can save time, calories

POSTED: January 7, 2009 1:00 a.m.

When it comes to cooking and preparing meals, more and more Americans are opting for convenience.

Americans spend 47 percent of their food budget away from home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Today's consumer has chosen to eat out, order take out and get drive-through meals more often due to time and money.

In our rush to get from here to there and fit in a meal, the unfortunate truth is that health too often is compromised.

Making a mad dash through the supermarket's frozen food aisle isn't the best solution, either.

Typically, convenience foods purchased as fast food or from the supermarket are high in salt and added sugar and fat but low in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Many real estate articles on selling a home indicate that, of all rooms in the home, the kitchen is the most important. Considered the heart of the home, kitchens see a lot of activity.

In addition to the socialization that happens there, why not also make it a functional room and prepare healthy meals there for you and your family instead of eating food away from home?

The immediate nutritional benefits will:

  • Increase the amount of fiber and nutrient-rich ingredients
  • Control the type and quantity of fat used
  • Limit the amount of added sugar and salt
  • Adjust portion size to meet actual caloric needs

Perhaps the best place to start is to get more organized to create more time.

Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Cook in bulk

Set aside a convenient time for relaxed cooking, perhaps during the weekend or on a weekday evening.

Double or triple a recipe and cook it in the oven or on the stovetop. Divide the finished item into individual serving-sized portions and freeze them.

When time or energy for cooking is limited, defrost the right number of portions of your healthy, previously homemade meal in the microwave and serve.

Have a special meal night

On Fridays, why not try pizza or taco night? It will be fun because everyone can pitch in. Even little hands can sprinkle the cheese over the top.

You have more control over the ingredients, you can choose healthy toppings like Canadian bacon instead of pepperoni, ground turkey instead of ground beef, add more veggies and use half the cheese normally put on pizzas delivered to the door or tacos bought at restaurants.

The plus is that you don't have to think about preparing something different every night of the week.

Make it ahead

Watch grocery sales ads to save time and money. If you see, for example, that turkey breast is on sale, you can create several meals easily.

While the turkey roasts in the oven, you can do other things. After it has cooled, slice some and place in freezer bags to serve as part of the main course for a future dinner.

Dice some to be used in salads or casseroles.

Freeze the carcass to toss in the crock pot on a cool autumn day to make soup.

All of these ideas are simple, but you do have to plan ahead. Why not get that pencil and paper out now and start planning?

Adapted from: Colorado State University Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.


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