Caring for our little ones is, to borrow an old-fashioned phrase, a labor of love. There’s a hidden truth there: raising kids is emotional work, but it’s work just the same. There are many dimensions to parenting, from the practical responsibility to maintain a safe and stable home, the example we set for our kids through our own behavior, and of course the relationships that we foster.
Each of these is time-intensive labor that accrues over years, and as such, it’s work that we need to fit into a busy schedule and weigh against all of the other claims on our time. That’s why every busy Mom is always on the lookout for the tips, tricks, and hacks that can make us more efficient in our delivery of love and care. And food, sleep, homework advice, rides to school and everything else that fills our days.
And there’s no place where smart ways to save time pay off more than in the kitchen. So when we asked you for the time-saving hacks that help you get dinner on the table, we knew we’d strike a nerve. Of all the different types of work that go under the heading “Parenting,” no job takes up a bigger slice of the clock than food prep and meals. Families are on a perennial search for healthy, affordable food, for dishes that the whole family will enjoy, and for strategies to get meals on the table and dishes in the sink on a timeframe that fits into everyone’s busy schedule.
The tips you provided, though, came more from an emotional place than a practical one. The most frequently echoed piece of advice was the tongue-in-cheek suggestion to just order takeout and call off the whole Meal Prep project before it starts. No one put it more succinctly than the reader who suggested that the ultimate dinner strategy is “Ordering pizza! [pizza emoji]” As we think ahead to the crowd who will be headed to our dinner table in a few short hours, that pizza emoji is looking more and more appetizing…
The temptation to save Mom Time by eating out or ordering in is ever-present. But solving the time crunch by throwing money at it is a practice that few families can sustain over the long-term. As we measure the trade-offs between price, nutrition, time, and the exacting tastes of our kids, finding low-cost solutions is paramount. There’s a silver lining here, though. Not only is good old-fashioned kitchen work usually the best way to save money and focus on fresh, healthy ingredients, but a meal prepared by the family that gathers everyone around a table provides the family with much more than a good meal.
That’s why RAGÚ® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce is indispensable to the busy home chef- it features the best ingredients and it’s the cornerstone of family-favorite recipes that are easy to prepare. Whether it’s the highlight of a savory, filling pasta dish or a flavorful accent to more adventurous fare, it can be the key to dishes that will satisfy the family without an afternoon spent over the stove.
Another theme emerged in your responses, and that was to think ahead. Several respondents recommended that, instead of thinking about kitchen time in terms of that day’s approaching dinner, we instead use that time to prep for multiple meals to come. “Have a meal plan,” one reader suggested. “Buy everything on the weekend, and set out as many ingredients as possible in the morning before going to work.” Another reader suggested to get the same effect by thinking carefully about portioning out our recipes. “Each time I cook I make enough for at least two meals,” she said. “Cook once, eat twice.”
These are both great strategies that make the most of every moment of prep time that we can wrest from our schedules. They require some additional strategy, though- not every recipe can be prepped ahead of time, and not every dish, once prepared, is well-suited to storing until the next day’s lunch. Here again is a situation where RAGÚ® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce can make all the difference. It’s the key to so many recipes that, in addition to requiring very little preparation overall, can be assembled in advance and then brought to temperature just in time for family dinner. It’s also the star of many casseroles and pasta bowls that keep in the fridge, just waiting to spring out and save the day during the next inevitable time crunch.
The most heartwarming time hack that you suggested, though, is also our favorite: deputizing kids, spouses and anyone else who’s handy. One respondent asks the kids to cook “cheetah speed” and another just “[tells] my husband to cook it.” It’s not always possible to assemble the whole crew to pitch in on dinner, but any time family members team up in the kitchen, the results are that much more a celebration of home and love. Every recipe, no matter how complicated, has a role for a young sous chef or two, and the experience of cooking alongside a parent is often the beginning of a lifetime love of cooking. It’s those connections and that kind of legacy that inspire the work we do for our family, and that’s perhaps the most important kind of nourishment we get when we gather for a family meal.
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