Why Parents Should Love Prepared Meals
Time is gold, as any parent can attest to. After putting in eight hours at the office, picking up the kid from school, and giving attention to the myriad things that need doing once we get home, I barely get the chance to put on my sweatpants before even considering what to throw together for dinner. Among the aspects of my life that needed to be rebalanced after having a child, meal planning is one that's been hit pretty hard. My daughter's in preschool now, and I have yet to find my footing.
And in the interest of time, I've attempted to strike the balance with several strategies: restaurant delivery, last-minute (and often regrettable) runs to the drive-thru, frozen pizzas, and so many slow-cooker meals.
The one thing I haven't tried: prepared meals. And the more I read about them, the more I realize that parents should love them. Let's talk about the problems these meals can solve.
So much food goes to waste
There's just the three of us in my little family, so a lot of the time, food goes bad before I get to use it all. I have a can of Old Bay Seasoning that's way past expired and mystery items in the back of my fridge of unknown origin.
The solution: With prepared meals, servings are already set, and even the meal kits, which require some cooking, come with just enough ingredients for that meal, so we can experiment without the waste.
I don't have the bandwidth to cook
I'm lucky enough to have a flexible schedule and a partner to split school dropoff and pickup times. Even then, I find the hours between getting home and dinnertime shrinking exponentially. It's not that I don't have time to cook, exactly; I'd just rather spend that time doing other things. Like playing with my kid. Like straightening up the living room. Like doing nothing at all.
Besides that, while I very much enjoy eating and moderately enjoy the cooking of the food—I do not enjoy the tasks of the sous chef: the measuring, the chopping, the peeling.
The solution: While you can subscribe to meal kits that provide pre-measured ingredients for you to cook yourself, you can also sign up for services that drop off fully cooked meals. All you have to do is pop them into the microwave or oven, push a few buttons, and dinner is served!
Grocery shopping is a time suck
Okay, I admit it. I love the grocery store. I could wander up and down every aisle, picking out ingredients out of curiosity, amazed at the culinary possibilities on literally every shelf. Which can also mean, if I'm not disciplined about it, I can spend too much time there and come home with bags full of items I don't know what to do with.
The solution: With a prepared meal delivery service, I only have to shop for staples, which can be done in a super-quick shopping session. Shopping for meals takes a couple of clicks, and food appears literally on my doorstep.
We need more variety
I like to try new things, but when my experiment is a failure, I'm often stuck with the remnants of ingredients that are never used up, as evidenced by the huge bottle of sweet soy sauce that lingered in my fridge after my single attempt to make my own lard nar.
The solution: Meal kits require a modicum of cooking skills, but they're the best way to try new ingredients. You won't waste money buying a whole canister of smoked russian paprika that will go to waste when you don't have anything else to make it with.
Meal planning is hard!
While I love going to the grocery store, I find myself falling back on the same few meals; my repertoire is just not that dynamic. Add to that a semi-picky kid (aren't they all?), and the aforementioned weariness, and it's just easier to stick to a cadence of pasta, pork chops, chicken legs, frozen pizza, repeat.
The solution: The plans for prepared meal services are set, which means you can spend that mental energy somewhere else, and many will let you pick and choose from their options to put together a menu that's just right for your family.
We just need to eat better
When you're pressed for time, it can be hard to eat healthy. But these days, I'm not just thinking about my own nutrition, but that of my kid, who I want to imbue with healthy eating habits from the gate.
The solution: With all the meal services available, many of them focus on crafting vitamin-rich, nutritious foods, meaning you get wholesome and healthy meals delivered right to your door, making wholesome dinners easy for people with busy schedules.
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Though Aimee stays up to date on the latest food trends for the Guide, most of her meals are served cold and cut into tiny, toddler-sized bites.