Contemporary wisdom advises that meals cooked at home are healthier and more economical than fast foods, but who has less time to spare than busy mothers do? Cooking is uncharted territory for many moms, but the act of preparing well-balanced meals shouldn’t have to serve as one more stressor. Cooking is a learned ability that anyone can acquire, and it’s a habit that even the most harried of moms can master with five easy hints.
Start with recipes calling for a limited number of ingredients that are readily obtained at a local supermarket. If a recipe mentions an unfamiliar verb or adjective, skip that recipe for now; expertise comes only with practice.
Does a recipe call for a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, when two dashes of hot sauce might work just as well? No recipe is written in stone. Scour the pantry, and don’t be afraid to be creative. For example, unflavored Greek yogurt makes an excellent stand-in for sour cream, and honey is an alternative to sugar.
Read others’ reviews.
Unless it’s a great-grandmother’s time-tested tome, don’t bother with a recipe that has no online reviews. Avoid recipes with negative reviews; delicious as they may sound, these will often turn out as disappointingly as their reviewers warned they would.
Improve upon the basics.
Don’t be ashamed about using pre-packaged starters. Can boxed rice be enhanced by a few freshly sautéed vegetables? Can boxed pasta be made innumerably better by the addition of beef, chicken or pork? The answer is yes, to the tune of several hours saved.
Create a meal schedule for the entire week, and consider preparation times. Chop meats or vegetables while the kids are napping, or spend a few minutes during commercial breaks in a favorite show. Preparation time adds up, but it’s very manageable when planned in advance. It also helps to budget meals during the week so that you can save not only time but money.
Invest in a slow cooker; these are time-saving miracles, as anyone who has ever owned one can attest. Complete preparatory work the night before, place the ingredients in the morning, and come home to a savory, fully-cooked meal in the evening.
Cooking isn’t rocket science. If it’s a science at all, it’s one that can be mastered by following directions and by using a bit of creativity. Start small, think big, and eat well.