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Am I the only who thinks one of the hardest parts of being a parent is feeding your kids… especially at dinnertime? I often joke that raising kids would be a breeze if you never had to feed them.
So I’m always looking for new ways to make dinnertime easier. Thankfully, my friend Randa Derkson is a true expert at meal planning and creating healthy recipes for families. And she has just created a new meal planning course to help us all learn exactly how she does it! I’m so excited to take the course and work with her as an affiliate.
Randa is sharing some of her tips with us here today and you can find her meal planning course here…
We’ve all been there. The kids are hungry, you’re tired, and dinnertime is looming. How is it that something as seemingly simple as getting a meal on the table can actually turn into one of the biggest chores of the day? While dealing with dinnertime can be overwhelming, don’t worry.
Here are 7 Ways to Make Dinnertime Easier and much more manageable.
1. Enlist your family’s help at dinnertime.
Divide and conquer! Your kids might be too young to help much but sometimes giving them a simple chore (breaking up lettuce for a salad, for example) not only keeps them busy, but it eliminates the “I’m hungry” whine. They’re directly involved in dinner preparation, so they’re invested in helping to get dinner on the table too! Not only that, but with most kids, if they help make dinner, they’re more likely to eat it.
In our home, we split up the other dinnertime tasks among the adults instead of one person taking on the whole thing. This might mean that one person puts the meat in the slow cooker in the morning before work and the other one takes care of the side dishes later. Or if schedules permit, we’re all in the kitchen working on the meal together. It honestly can be a lot of fun!
2. Prep ahead in batches.
When you get home from the grocery store, it’s so easy to throw some meat into a freezer bag or container with a marinade. Tuck that in the freezer and it will marinate while it’s frozen. It’s a simple way to eliminate a couple steps and save some time. Need some hard-boiled eggs for a recipe or to use for snacks and lunches? Start a pot of them while you’re working on other things.
If you have the time to cut up a bunch of vegetables (for snacking, salads, side dishes, to throw into a stew, soup, or stir fry) all at once, this can cut down on that dinnertime rushed feeling too. When thinking about what you’re going to make for meals that week, look for opportunities to prep ahead and double up on tasks.
3. Cook double.
When I cook dinner — if at all possible — I always try to prepare double. When I make a roast chicken, it is no more difficult to roast 2 of them at the same time. The second one gets pulled apart so that I can use the meat for simple meals like quesadillas, chicken salad, chicken wraps, chicken fried rice, shredded chicken tostadas, and chicken fettuccine.
Make extra meatballs when making spaghetti and meatballs. Use the extras for meatball subs. Make extra pork tenderloin. Shred up the leftovers, add barbecue sauce, and use for pulled pork sandwiches. Make extra fajita filling and use it to make a fajita frittata. Roast beef becomes beef tacos. You can even cook twice as much rice and pasta and freeze the leftovers.
I always make twice as many waffles as I need too! We put the rest in the freezer with some wax paper in between to keep them from sticking together. Boom! You’ve just made your own frozen toaster waffles. This works well with French toast too.
4. Take shortcuts.
There is no shame in serving some freezer meals. There are healthy options available at your local store or you could take a bit of time and prep your own ahead. This is where cooking double can come in handy too. Just freeze the second batch of macaroni and cheese for a simple, no fuss meal another time.
Look for bottled sauces that you can use for marinating and adding some flavor to a basic dish. Be sure to check the ingredients list especially for things like sodium and sugar content, but you’ll find some good ones out there.
Buy fruits and vegetables that have already been cut up for you if that’s a task that slows you down at dinnertime. You don’t have to do this every week if it doesn’t fit well into your budget, but using this strategy from time to time can really make a difference during a hectic week.
5. Use convenience cooking devices.
Thank goodness for whoever invented the slow cooker. That thing is a lifesaver in my home. A few minutes in the morning and I don’t have to worry about dinner until it’s time to serve. Want to make it even easier? Search “freezer to slow cooker recipes” online.
You might also find other appliances like microwave ovens and pressure cookers to be valuable investments when it comes to making dinnertime easier.
6. Have a Plan B.
Despite all the best-laid plans, life happens. You are all set to cook a homemade lasagna for dinner, but then you find out that your child neglected to tell you about a special play rehearsal that is going to make that impossible. You need to come up with alternate plans and you need them fast. And by fast, I don’t mean fast food!
I always have some elements of quick and easy meals on hand in my pantry and my freezer. My freezer is always stocked with cooked ground meat and cooked cut up chicken. With rice, pasta, pasta sauce, and beans in my pantry and vegetables in my freezer, there are quite a few different meals I can make just from those ingredients alone.
To make it even easier, I keep a list on my fridge of super quick meal possibilities so I don’t even have to wrack my brain for ideas when crunch time comes!
7. Make meal plans.
This is my favorite idea of all.
Planning ahead of time can make a world of difference when it comes to eliminating dinnertime stress. When you know in advance what you’ll be serving each day, it removes the question of “What’s for dinner?” and makes it easy to ensure that you have everything on hand to put those meals together. It really is the secret weapon for making dinner time easier.
Pro tip: download this free meal planner to make meal planning easy.
It IS possible to make dinnertime much easier. A little planning and preparation beforehand can save you time, money, and aggravation later on.
Disclosure: We are affiliates of Randa’s meal planning course. Randa Derkson is a busy mom of two, Culinary Nutrition Expert, and sick of the overwhelm when it comes to health. She’s the head nutrition expert at RandaDerkson.com where she’s committed to making healthy living easier.
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