How to Avoid Resorting to Takeout

Cooking something for family dinner every night instead of ordering takeout can not only save money, but it will also likely encourage more nutritious choices, as it puts you in control of exactly what goes into each dish you serve up.

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But inevitably there come the nights when the kids have after-school activities, or you're trapped at the office, only to get home late, with an empty fridge, and many hungry stomachs that are screaming to be fed. With some easy planning, and little extra effort on your part, however, takeout doesn't have to be your only option.

There are four simple tactics to fighting the call of the takeout menu. One is to prep in advance. Spend a weekend day roasting off a variety of vegetables from the farmers market to inspire a week of meals (throw all that remains into a curry or omelette come Friday). Cook once, eat twice is another tactic of smart parents. Take a simple Bolognese sauce as an example — make a double portion on Sunday for dinner, then freeze the extras for a dinner later in the week (or keep it in the freezer for a later date).

Dinner at home doesn't mean it all has to be from scratch. Instead of that mid-week Chinese food takeout night, pick up a still-warm roasted chicken from the store and supplement it with some frozen vegetables and baked sweet potato fries made fresh in the oven. And our favorite? Share the responsibility of cooking for the family with friends. Host a soup exchange with friends where everyone makes a quart of soup to share. All you have to do is dirty one pot, then you're a third of the way to multiple nutritious dinners (simply supplement the soup with a loaf of fresh bread and a hearty salad) that everyone will enjoy. And don't underestimate the power of a stocked pantry — with some pasta, tomato sauce, and ingredients from your market's antipasto bar, making pita pizzas or putting together a top-your-own pasta night take merely minutes to pull off!

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