We’ve all been there. The kids are home from school and as it’s nearing 5pm, the dreaded question arises: “What’s for dinner tonight?” Ominous background music escalates as you realize you have no plan whatsoever for dinner.
With no leftovers in the fridge and no time or energy left to cook, what are your options now?
You’re stuck with only problematic solutions: the super unhealthy fast food drive through option (but you’ve already put your jammies on), the very expensive takeout order (which often takes longer to arrive than it would have taken you to cook a meal), or tossing frozen chicken nuggets into the microwave… for the third time this week.
Good news busy parents! With just a tiny bit of planning ahead, you can have dinner handled
every night of the week, and save time, energy, and money in the process. It’s not a myth—here’s the top three options that really work:
1. Make a list of your family’s favorite meals—the ones that even the picky eaters gobble up. Keep the staples for building these meals on-hand and post the list on your fridge as a reminder.
Consider that you can change the flavor profile of many of these to keep a variety – this means easier planning for you, but nobody gets sick of “this again.” For example, my whole family loves meatballs, so I always have huge bags of frozen meatballs on hand, and I can pop these into my Instant Pot and have dinner ready in 10 minutes. We keep the flavors fresh by alternating packaged sauces: Italian red sauce,
2. Use a meal planning service like Dream DinnersCitrus Pear to create make-ahead freezer meals. These are great because you show up for about 2 hours and walk away with 10-20 dinners containing real ingredients. Toss these into your freezer and then either pop one in the crock pot in the morning before work, or into the pressure cooker as soon as you walk in the door. You can customize by omitting ingredients that you know your family can’t tolerate or won’t eat, and the cost is very affordable -- similar to planning and prepping your own meals, but with a huge time-savings built in. Plus you don’t have to think of meals. We use these to supplement meal planning for the days when “I just can’t think about dinner.”
3. Always make extra. Making pancakes for breakfast? Double the batch and freeze the rest. The kids can pop one into the toaster for breakfast every day for a week.
Whenever I make anything with ground beef, I make twice the amount and freeze half.
Then it can be taco night any night! When the effort to double the batch is minimal, just do it and consider it an investment in your future sanity.
Every parent’s personality is different, so why not try out all three and see which option works best for you? Then you can enjoy relaxed family time that isn’t rushed or unhealthy.