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Simple shortcuts for successful family meals

Meal time tips for moms

There's a great disparity in most families between mom's definition of gourmet and the kids' idea. In fact, most kids would likely eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner if they could get away with it. While designating one night a week as a kid's choice free-for-all is a simple shortcut to a successful meal, moms still have six other nights to plan dinner for. If you're looking for a few shortcuts to meal planning, check out these six family meals that won't have you spending endless hours slaving in the kitchen.

Try theme nights

According to Stephanie Nelson, Coupon Mom (CouponMom.com), planning meal themes like "baked potato night" with baked potatoes and assorted toppings, or "make your own taco" night, are easy for moms since they require simple ingredients and they're fun for kids who get an opportunity to assemble their own meals as a family.

Let meals do double duty by making enough for two meals at once

Ms. Nelson advises moms to make double portions whenever they cook. For example by grilling twice as many chicken breasts moms can cover two dinners -- grilled chicken one night and sliced for fajitas the next night. This simplifies weekly meal planning and cuts prep time in half.

Skip recipes that call for too many ingredients or seasonings

Moms can search SheKnows Food & Cooking or SheKnows Recipes to find popular recipes with minimal ingredients and meals they can whip up in 30 minutes or less. According to Ms. Nelson, an easy one to start with is a frittata which requires eggs, rice, pasta, potatoes, and/or green vegetables and will turn eggs into an entree in 15 minutes or less.

Uncover the versatility of a rotisserie chicken

According to 28-year-old Austin, TX mom Sarah Bounds, once the chicken is cool, moms can cut it up into small strips or cubes and refrigerate it. The chicken can then be used over the next several days to make quesadillas, chicken pot pie, chicken enchiladas and chicken salad, and as a topping for a green salad.

Simplify your side dishes

According to Kati Neville author of Fix, Freeze, Feast, kids aren't impressed by fancy foods. Therefore, moms should feel free to create side dishes that require minimal preparation and ease meal planning such as rinsed fresh blueberries, rolls with butter, pre-sliced cheese and crackers, or sliced carrots and celery with dip.

Don't be afraid of frozen veggies!

Rachel Permuth-Levine, PhD, MSPH, a mom who also directs health promotion activities for employees at the National Institutes of Health, admits that although she tends to have very little time or motivation to cook, since she and her husband are in the public health field they understand the importance of raising a healthy eater. She suggests moms dump frozen vegetables in the rice or beans that they're cooking and add some garlic or other spices. This will ensure that their kids get to eat their favorite tasty carbs and a dose of the good green stuff!

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