(Family Features) - When school starts back up again, so do the busy schedules! Between school activities, sports, dance classes and music lessons, it can seem like there's never any time to sit down and eat a family meal, much less cook one.
But I've found a few tricks to help conquer the chaos so that we can gather around the table and have good food as well as good family time.
Have a Plan. Make a weekly menu so you know how to answer the "I'm starved - what's for dinner?" question every night. This simplifies your shopping, too. You'll know exactly what to get - and sticking to the grocery list will save money as well.
Use Your Freezer. Cut down on your cooking time by making large-batch meals, then freezing some for future dinners. Thaw meals in the refrigerator overnight so when it's time to start cooking, all you have to do is pop one in the oven.
Plan for Plan B. Let's face it - even the best laid plans can get derailed. But if you keep your pantry stocked with simple ingredients, you'll be able to throw a meal together in no time - like the delicious "Wheely" Easy Mac & Cheesy recipe here. Mix nutritious edamame with fun pasta shapes and a velvety cheese sauce and you have a simple supper everyone will love. (You can even whip up a tasty dessert, like this PB & J pie!) Plan B items to keep on hand: pasta, diced tomatoes, broth, rice, canned or frozen vegetables, evaporated milk and beans.
For more time-saving recipes, visit www.VeryBestBaking.com.
Jenny Harper is Consumer Test Kitchen Project Manage for the Nestlé Test Kitchens and VeryBestBaking.com..