It can be difficult to make balanced meals, day in and day out, as a working parent. To say nothing of the thought and energy required, sometimes you just don’t have the time. Takeout isn’t really a viable replacement financially or nutritionally. So what do you do?

We might be able to help!

We’ve found that the best way to cut down on cooking time is to prepare, literally. Do as much beforehand as you can. Here’s what we mean.

Organize Your Kitchen

This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, it’s amazing how much time you’ll cut down on when you know exactly where everything is. Your hands will get to the point where they just instinctively go towards what you need.

The best way to do this is to set up your kitchen the way you’re going to use it. This doesn’t mean you have to alphabetize your spice rack. Maybe try ordering them by which you use the most to which you use the least. If you have go-to pots and pans, keep them together. It doesn’t make sense to have to run all over your kitchen just to fit someone else’s idea of organization. It might be hard, but if you don’t use something, get rid of it.

Use the Right Recipes

This might seem like a no-brainer, but there are dozens of shows on TV dedicated to 20-30 minute meals. Even within those 20-30 minutes, not all of it is active cooking; you can be doing other things. Get acquainted with one pot recipes like chicken, rice, and cream of your preference soup. There are tons of dinners that consist of dumping things in a pan and putting it in the oven until the timer goes off. These dinners are your friends.

Plan Ahead

The best way to shop is to know what you need. The best way to know what you need is to know what you intend to cook throughout the week. There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day of work and finding nothing in the house to cook for dinner. Your local pizza place probably appreciates it, but your wallet might not.

Depending on the regularity with which you shop, take a relatively extensive inventory of what you have and what you need. Make a weekly or monthly menu schedule so you’re never caught off guard. If you can swing it, services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh can really take the guesswork out of the whole thing. If you can cook with your kids, it also provides fun bonding time as you both try something you may have never done before.

Learn to Love Leftovers

Leftovers get an undeserved bad name. There’s so much you can do with them besides just reheating them as is and having a less good version of a meal you just had. Depending on what you cooked, you can make sandwiches, soups, hashes, and frittatas out of your leftovers, get creative!

Moreover, leftovers are great for lunch the next day. This can help you cut down on both lunch costs for you and school lunch programs for your kids.

Don’t Forget Breakfast

The most important meal of the day is probably the most skipped. No one’s saying you need to have a country spread of biscuits and bacon. Fruit, cereal, maybe eggs and some milk are good enough to get the job done. Most of those take no time to prepare and can give you and your kids an extra boost. You can also pre-make breakfast sandwiches you can heat up in the microwave on the fly. Consider adding a breakfast for dinner night to your menu schedule!

Your time is valuable, but so is the nutrition of your family. Don’t sacrifice one for the other when you really don’t have to! Use these tips to have delicious nutritious meals until your kids get old enough to cook. Then, kick your feet up and have them do it!