Recently my long-time friends and I were sharing an email thread describing our shortcoming when it comes to getting a healthy dinner on the table during the work week. We are three intelligent ladies living in different areas of the US, each with different daytime duties and schedules and yet we all have one thing in common: we feel like we are failing when it comes to seamlessly feeding our kids at the end of a long day. I’m no expert, but I did come up with a list of ideas that have made my weekdays easier. Maybe some of these ideas will help make your dinners easier too:
- Instead of trying to plan out five meals to cook during the week, pick three. I have found that five is too many to put together and you can usually float two meals between leftovers and schedule changes that come up as the week goes on.
- Make (at least) three of the same things every week. You can switch up little things like the starch and/or the veggie side dishes (and you can change your three meals monthly if you fear you will get board) but making the same basic things during the week will save time and will help you get into a groove.
- Don’t make elaborate dishes. I’m not sure about your kids, but mine really like individual foods. Chicken legs, broccoli, avocado, rice. Done. Hamburgers (no bun because they really don’t eat constructed sandwiches at this age), sweet potatoes fries, veggie. Done. Red meat sauce and pasta, side veggie, yogurt. Done. Rice, lightly seasoned black beans, avocado, pork, done. Pizza with whatever topping we have left in the fridge. No chicken pot pies, no stews, no chili, limited soups. I love the thought of them, but my children don’t eat them as well as individual foods, and they take too much time and effort for little return on investment.
- Prep SOME things on the weekend. I have been cutting up a batch of onions, sweet potatoes, washing greens and cutting up broccoli on Sundays. Then I just grab and go from there depending on what meal I am constructing.
- Make some grains on the weekends. Make a batch of rice and cook some noodles or quinoa to have ready to go with any meal. You can construct a lot of meals under pressure if you have these things cooked and in the fridge ready to use. Refill your stock of one grain on Wed.
- Make ONE of your weekly meals on Sunday (the one that takes the longest to cook). Roast a chicken, cook a giant package of chicken legs, cook a pork shoulder (I cook my pork shoulder completely plain then season it for other meals later e.g. pulled pork (add bbq sauce) or tacos (pan cook it with taco spices), burrito bowls (reheat the meat with Mexican spices add it to a bowl of roasted veggies plus rice and avocado, cilantro, fresh tomato). Cook this beef, chicken, pork, item relatively plain then add spices later to make it work for whatever you are doing.
- Anything you make a batch of (e.g. chili, soup, red sauce), freeze half immediately to be used for another meal. I found that we get board of leftovers and I was consistently throwing some foods away. Having one meal in the freezer from a previous cooking adventure can be more helpful in the future.
- Frozen peas can be added to any meal to round it out
Those are my helpful tips and how I have managed to keep meal time somewhat sane. Feel free to add any insights that have helped to get healthy meals onto your table.