Things are always crazy busy around here. My girls are both involved in sports, we’re active in our church, my hubby has a full time job, a start-up company, and is in charge of our 3 rental properties and I have all of my “mom and wife” stuff plus a job and a blog. Needless to say, getting dinner on the table can be tricky at times. We often only have a short window of time where we’re all home to eat together.
When life gets crazy, the best thing you can do is have a plan that will keep you from the drive-thru every night! For many people, Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) is the solution. We’ve found that it doesn’t work too well for us. Usually, I don’t have an open day in my schedule. Monday through Friday is filled with work for me and my hubby and school for the kiddos, there are always games to go to on Saturday and Sunday is filled with church and family activities.
Here’s my solution to getting quick delicious meals on the table!
1. Never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.
There’s nothing that will send me running to the nearest restaurant faster than a dirty kitchen or dishes that need to be washed (which might be why we ate out so much last month). Even a simple meal of scrambled eggs can take twice as long when you need to dig out the skillet from under the huge pile of dishes in the sink and wash it before you can even start cooking.
You don’t even have to do the dishes yourself…you can have one of your kids load the dishwasher!
2. Keep your kitchen and pantry well stocked.
If you have meat, milk, eggs, fruit, veggies, pasta, rice, potatoes, butter, flour, sugar, bread and a variety of spices, your options are pretty much unlimited. I also like to keep a few packages of biscuits and crescent rolls as these can be added to any meal or are great for casseroles!
3. Make the tools you have in your kitchen work for you.
At our house, we use our crockpot once a week to cook chicken breasts. This chicken can be used in casseroles, soups, on salads, or to make yummy BBQ Chicken Nachos.
We also use our electric roaster. We were able to snag this the day after Christmas in the Christmas sale section. Sometimes we make a whole turkey, sometimes we use a boneless turkey breast. Either way, we have our own mini Thanksgiving at our house twice a month…sometimes more.
4. Use canned or frozen vegetables.
With the exception of salad and guacamole, you can use canned or frozen vegetables in most recipes. I always keep a few cans of diced tomatoes, some diced tomatoes with roasted garlic and onion, some diced tomatoes with chilies, corn and green beans in my pantry. I try to always have broccoli, onions, and spinach in the freezer as well as a bag of stir fry mix.
5. Get your family involved!
It’s much easier to get a meal on the table when you’re not the only one doing the work. Last night, we had turkey, stuffing, applesauce, salad, and green beans. We didn’t get home from a basketball game til 7:45, but we had dinner on the table at 8. (I put the turkey in the roaster before we left). My hubby cut the turkey, Khrystyna made a salad, Amina set the table and got drinks for everyone, and I made the stuffing and green beans!
6. Plan Ahead
A menu plan is a delightful thing and it doesn’t have to be very difficult. Before we adopted our girls, my husband and I were pretty casual about meals. When we adopted our girls, I found out in a hurry that I needed a plan…and I needed it yesterday! One night at dinner, I decided we would go around the table and I would have each family member tell me their favorite meal. We went around the table 5 times and by the time we were done, I had written down 15 meals (there were some duplicates or I would have had more). I put together a calendar and wrote what we would be having each day. It eliminated whining and the “what’s for dinner” question.
7. Double Up!
I know I said I don’t have time for once a month cooking, but there are nights where I have the luxury of one whole hour to make dinner! On those nights, I try to double up. If I’m making baked ziti, I’ll double the recipe and freeze one and cook the other. Chicken pot pies are also an easy meal to double up on.
8. FFY Night
You do not have to cook every night. One of the best ways to get a quick and yummy meal on the table is to take advantage of your leftovers. I try to plan a weekly Fend For Yourself Night. Everyone can have anything they want in the fridge. Sometimes they eat leftovers, sometimes they make something original, but everyone gets fed and I get a night off.
9. Try something new!
You don’t have to make the same meals over & over again. When we’re rushed and stressed, we tend to go to what we know. With a little creativity (and a cookbook or two), you can add a few new recipes to your repertoire. Consider going to the library and getting a cookbook full of quick and easy meals. Search the internet for quick and easy recipes. You might be surprised at the results. A few months ago, I made Crunchy Fish Tacos. My whole family loved them and they were super easy!
10. Come up with a list of 5 meals you can make in under 10 minutes.
When you get home later than expected or your child announces that their game got moved to a field that’s 45 minutes away, it can be really tempting to hit the Golden Arches. If you have a list of meals that can be made in under 10 minutes, it takes the stress out of the situation. Dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate. You could scramble up some eggs with a bunch of veggies in it and throw some bread in the toaster. You could do soup and sandwiches. Put together a big salad and add some of the meat you cooked earlier in the week. You can even combine some of your leftovers to make some interesting and delicious meals. If you have leftover rice and some cooked chicken, you can combine them with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Pair it with a salad and you’ve got an easy, delicious meal!
I hope this will help you a little when it comes to getting dinner on the table!