Everyone is busy. Almost all the time.
But how many of your nights feel like this?
Kids have soccer practice. Mom has a tennis match. Dad’s home late from work. Dogs need to be fed. Homework isn’t yet finished. Clothes need to be washed. (Oh…and don’t forget…) Everybody needs to be fed. Before 6 PM!
It’s not easy to stay calm through a “nightmare night” and get a healthy meal on the table, too.
A safe fallback might be Mac ‘N Cheese, frozen pizza or take-out, but there are healthier alternatives that aren’t much more time-consuming. After all, with schedules as busy as these, you need the fuel to perform!
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Plan ahead. Even if you’re not a big planner, it’s good to earmark those “nightmare nights” on the calendar. Think about what you can make for dinner – beforehand.
Prep ahead. Chop vegetables and carry out other easy meal prep – before the “nightmare night” arrives, maybe even at the start of the week. Then you have an ample supply of sides to steam, bake or broil at the last minute.
Make it ahead. Though double duty is required, you can make two dinners in one evening and have the second dish on the “nightmare night.” Some great ideas for make-ahead meals include spaghetti, spaghetti casserole, Shepherd’s pie, quiche, frittatas, soups/chilies and chicken divan.
Marinate and rub. One of easiest and tastiest ways to prepare chicken, pork or beef is to marinate it. And if you forget to combine ingredients before you leave for work, a dry or wet rub is another great option after you get home.
Stir fry it. Stir fries can be combined in an instant, especially if you prep ahead. With a little fresh garlic, ginger and soy sauce – you’ve got a meal fit for a king. Add some bottled curry paste and coconut milk, and you’ve turned it into Thai treat.
Bean it! Beans and peas are a great source of protein, vitamin and minerals and are low in fat, too. If canned or frozen, they can be prepared quickly and easily. Simple meals include bean burritos, red beans and rice and Southern favorite, hoppin’ john (black-eyed peas over rice).
Slow cook it. Crock pots are the perfect kitchen accompaniment for busy families. If you toss in all the ingredients in the morning, your dinner will be awaiting you in the evening. Another bonus is there’s little to clean up! Try stews, whole chickens and personal favorite, pork verde (pork and salsa verde, served with tortillas).
Don’t cook it. You can also quickly throw together a delicious salad and add some canned tuna or white beans on top for extra protein. If the kids don’t like it, then try wrapping it up in a tortilla to disguise all the healthy stuff inside.
Drink it. If all else fails and you don’t have time to make dinner before the activities occur, then make protein shakes to sustain yourself and the little ones till everyone can eat – later.