Back to School: Quick Simple Family Meals to Save Mom’s Time

“Parents love to be able to feed their kids good, nutritious foods. That’s why we have created free tools and recipes to make cooking fast, easy and delicious,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Not only cooking at home better for a family’s health, but it also saves them money, because eating at home is usually much more affordable than dining out.”

Back-to-School Busy Schedules Call for Simple Family Meals

While the benefits of eating home-cooked meals are well documented, many parents are still unsure how to make it fit into their busy schedule. Here are 5 back-to-school busy schedule tips to help get healthy meals on the table quickly:

  • Plan ahead. On the weekend, sit down and make a list of what your family will eat for dinner all week long. Then head to the grocery store or farmers market to get the items you need for those dishes. Knowing what to make is often half the battle, so you can just look at your list on the refrigerator and get started making the meal.
  • Use what’s on hand. Pantries often have lots of food, yet people don’t know what to do to put it all together and make a meal. The Doctor Yum Project has taken on solving this problem by offering a free online tool, the Meal Maker Machine, that will help people create a recipe using the ingredients they have on hand. Simply input the items you have on hand and the system will create a convenient recipe for you.
  • Get everyone involved. Help spread the cooking tasks among the family. Get other family members involved in meal prep by assigning tasks to each person. Even younger children can help with age-appropriate tasks to help with getting the family meal ready.
  • Do prep work ahead. When you do have time on the weekend, take half an hour to wash, chop, and get your vegetables ready that will be used in recipes throughout the week. This way, you can reach into the refrigerator and pull out the chopped and prepared items that you need for your recipe. Another option that can help is to do batch cooking on the weekend, where you make up a few meals that can be frozen or put into the refrigerator. Those meals can then be pulled out and heated up during the week as needed.
  • Give pressure cooking a try. Pressure cookers like the popular Instant Pot are all the rage because they are a great way to help get healthy meals on the table quickly. This new generation of pressure cookers makes cooking healthy food so easy with other features like saute, slow cook, and yogurt making.  Drop in ingredients like dried beans, set the time and walk away while your dinner cooks up fast. This style of cooking lets you be free to focus on other after school activities like sports, homework, and more. Check out for pressure cooker ideas that will be sure to please.

“Work and school schedules can certainly make people feel pressed for time when it comes to getting meals on the dinner table,” added Heidi DiEugenio, director of the Doctor Yum Project. “Yet, when you do you will feel better knowing that your family is eating healthier, and you will have likely saved some money. Start the school year off cooking at home and it will soon become a habit, getting easier as the year goes on.”

Quick, healthy recipe from the Doctor Yum Project website:

Healthy Pesto
Prep time: 8 minutes

What you need:
2 cups basil (fresh, loosely packed)

⅓ cup parmesan cheese (grated)

¼ cup broth (vegetable)

2 tablespoons walnuts (or pinenuts)

1 clove garlic (use two cloves for more intense taste)

2 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoons salt

black pepper (to taste)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until everything is well-mixed. Serve over pasta or however you enjoy pesto! Works great on sandwiches, drizzled over grilled meats or veggies.


About The Doctor Yum Project
Founded by Dr. Nimali Fernando, The Doctor Yum Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. They offer a variety of community programs to help with those efforts. They are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and feature an instructional kitchen and teaching garden for holding classes. To learn more, visit the site at:

Happy Cooking!

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