I love to cook, and I like to eat good food. Nothing beats a healthy, savory, home-cooked meal, but sometimes when I get home from a long day at work, I just don’t feel like pulling out the pots and pans to make something healthy and delicious for my husband and me.

Sometimes there just isn’t anything to cook! Especially if you didn’t get all the groceries you needed for the week. It happens to all of us at one time or another, but if this happens several times a week for you, some changes in your planning habits need to be made.

Before my health coach days, those are the nights we would just pull out the tator tots, sausage and a frozen vegetable, or frozen pizza,(regular for my hubby, gluten-free for me), but not anymore.  Putting commercial processed food into our bodies just isn’t an option for me, anymore.

There are several things you can do to ensure that cooking is not a chore; you can be stressed out but still have a nutritious and delicious meal without ordering take out or opting for less than healthy options.

Compromise is the last thing that you should be doing with yours and your families health, and there really is no need to do it.

All you need to do is some planning. Plan your meals ahead of time; some might prefer a week ahead, some a few days, and some a few meals.

Efficiently planned meal schedules will save you a lot of labor; keep your body healthy and your spirits glowing. The following tips will help you learn how planning ahead to have healthy meals with minimum fuss can be a real time and stress saver.

• The Pantry- Keep your pantry stocked but stocking it with some thought put into the future will make you thank your past self-several times over. Having food that is healthy and can be eaten quickly is essential. Eggs, vegetables, fruits, dried fruits, spices, herbs and condiments, keep these things in sufficient quantity. Eating a little extra fruit so it doesn’t waste will not hurt you at all, but fast food will.  So, stock up on those fruits!

I go to Sam’s Club and buy frozen Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon. This is a great time saver. Whenever we get home from work late, I pull out two pieces of Salmon, pop them into the microwave on defrost to thaw them out and poach them in the skillet with a little granulated garlic, onion powder and lemon juice.  Add a salad or vegetable and you have a healthy nutritious meal in less than 30 minutes!

• The Freezer- There are a lot of food items that freeze well, cooked and uncooked. Frozen vegetables like peas, carrots, broccoli and more are reassuring, so are frozen fruits. They can last several weeks and months without being harmed much; no excuse for them not being there, unless of course there is no room left in your freezer.

• Big Batches- It is a lovely and tranquil weekend; cooking feels easy and relaxing. How about cooking a big batch and freezing it? This way you can have some of that tranquility later on in the week too. A lot of cooked dishes like stews, loaves, soups, casseroles, etc. freeze well. You can also cook a really big batch of tomato sauce and freeze it; it can serve as a base for other dishes in the future.

Not only will you be saving time, but you will also be saving energy. Put the cooked tomato sauce in an ice bath to cool it quickly, and then pop it into the freezer in freezer safe plastic bags or containers. Don’t forget to label them! Frozen foods often last a long time, but they are susceptible to freezer burn. A fresh fruit homemade sorbet will be a nutritious and delicious dessert, making large quantities will help again.

• The Extra Mile- How about cutting up a few extra vegetables which can be used as snacks with some mustard, yogurt or anything else that you like? Seems like a fine idea, try it. You can also make extra rice or quinoa which can be used in the next meal or stir-fried the next day. You can also hard boil a few extra eggs; with their shell intact, they remain fresh for a week in the fridge. Make some extra chicken and use the leftovers for another dish which requires cooked chicken.

I like to do extra cooking on the weekends in the fall and winter months, or on rainy days in the summer.  Doing some extra work when you are free and have ample energy will save you a lot of hassle when you don’t. Plan ahead so that you can always have a healthy meal in a few minutes.