(ARA) - Whether it's working late at the office, running errands or rushing to get the kids to practice, many of us cut corners to save time.
Preparing dinner is no exception. Because we hurry through our days, we sometimes don't have the time to make nutritious meals.
Our cooking habits have become rushed and as a result, our food and diets suffer. Whether it's quickly running to the nearest fast food restaurant or casually throwing something in the oven, dinner is now viewed as more of a chore than a time to catch up with family and enjoy a delicious meal.
Here are some healthy and time-saving ideas to help you enjoy great food in less time than you think:
* Don't Cheat on the Preheat
According to a recent survey by Thermador, manufacturer of high end appliances and the first built-in wall oven, a whopping 40 percent of people sometimes skip preheating their oven altogether. Ironically, cheating on preheating is not a reliable method of saving time, since 50 percent of respondents reported that they compensated by cooking their food longer.
Not properly heating your oven can have a negative effect on the quality, taste and texture of food as well.
"This is especially true of baked items, which can suffer from uneven browning or consistency, sticking and insufficient rising when prepared in an oven that has not been adequately preheated," comments Judy Barber, senior consumer scientist for Thermador.
Consider taking the time to preheat to ensure your food is cooked adequately. Barber recommends an oven with a faster preheat time, such as Thermador's wall ovens, which take less than seven minutes to reach 325 F.
* Plan Ahead to Save Time
Try planning meals a week in advance to save time. Preparing meals ahead of time and refrigerating or freezing can be enjoyable for those who like to cook, but have limited time in the evenings.
Simply remove the prepared meals from the refrigerator and pop in the oven. You'll get a home-cooked meal and have more time for other activities.
Another way to save time is to incorporate the use of leftovers. If you made a full chicken meal on Sunday, use the leftover chicken for homemade chicken noodle soup on Monday and the leftover gravy as the base for beef stroganoff later in the week.
Finally, clean your kitchen as you go. Making this a habit will actually save you time because when you're done, there will be little left to do and you can enjoy the rest of your day.
* Make Dinner Time Quality Time
Cooking shouldn't be a one person job. Try involving your family in all aspects of cooking. For example, take your children to the grocery store and have them each pick out a dinner they would like in the upcoming week.
On that day, have them help you prepare the meal. Not only will they learn to cook, but they will get a homemade meal and some one-on-one time with their parent.
Perhaps you and your significant other have always wanted to try a new recipe.
On the way home from work, swing by the local store and purchase fresh ingredients and try the dish at home. Trying new things can be fun and result in fun conversation accompanied by delicious food.
If you're extra busy, consider planning when you eat throughout the day. Maybe the kids have to stay late at school. Instead of grabbing a quick burger on the way home, why not have everyone eat an afternoon snack and have dinner at 7 p.m. instead of at 5?
Eating at home is generally less expensive and healthier than eating out. With a little planning and these helpful hints, dinner can be quick, delicious and nutritious, saving you quality time for yourself or your family. Courtesy of ARAcontent