The busy parent's guide to weekday meals

(BPT) - It’s amazing what parents do in a day. You help your kids with homework, drive them to and from practice, whip up a meal everyone will like, make sure they brush their teeth ... the list goes on. Not to mention you have a job to go to. It’s a wonder parents can ever find a few minutes to relax.

While hectic can be an understatement when it comes to describing a day in the life of a parent, there are some simple and savvy ways you can save time and energy when preparing meals. Here are five tips for providing delicious weekday meals for the entire family.

1. Get in the habit of meal planning. Most people don’t realize how much time they spend stressing out about what to make for dinner each night. Something as simple as planning a weekly menu in advance can make things infinitely easier. Try sitting down on Sunday, writing down what you want to eat on each day that week and shopping accordingly. This is a simple and effective way to streamline the whole process.

2. Embrace convenience. There are far more convenient ways of getting a delicious weekday meal than chopping and sweating your way through a home-cooked recipe. You can order take out from most any restaurant these days, but Applebee's adds an extra layer of convenience for time-crunched parents — Carside To Go(R) pickup. You simply place an order online, through the Applebee's app, or by phone and schedule a pickup time that works for you. Then, on your way home from work, the gym or soccer practice, just pull into a designated Carside To Go parking spot outside your neighborhood Applebee’s and a team member will bring your food out to you. Deliciously simple.

3. Make food prep a family activity. Parents are always looking for a fun activity everyone will enjoy or a way to constructively engage their kids. You can knock out a few birds with one stone by encouraging your kids to become more involved with preparing family meals. For instance, you can assign them a simple side dish (it can be as easy as defrosting peas or peeling carrots) or have each kid pick a meal they want to help make each week. Whatever your approach, this is an educational and enjoyable way to spend time with your kids.

4. Don’t try to imitate the chefs on TV. We would all love to cook like those celebrity chefs on TV who don’t miss a beat and saute, grill, bake and broil any and all ingredients into a perfect dish. Don’t hold yourself to such impossible standards. Instead, focus on making delicious and nutritious meals that match your skill set and tastes. If you want to wow your family with culinary masterpieces, consider some quick and easy take out options.

5. Embrace leftovers. If you’re already in the kitchen cooking, why not add more ingredients to the pot so you can have extra meals to eat through the week? Or, instead of ordering just enough food for one night, order a couple of extra sides or entrees that you can heat up for lunch or dinner the next day.

No one said life as a parent would be a breeze, but with a few easy tweaks to how you plan, order and cook, you can make mealtime into a fun and easy part of your day.


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