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10 tips for school night dinners

Lazy days of summer are over and unfortunately the kids are still hungry. If you find yourself scrambling for a meal after homework, sports, & work you’ll appreciate these tips from a busy mom of 3!

1. Meal plan. This is the best way to get dinner on the table (within budget!) set aside 30 minutes each week to take inventory of what you have on hand and plan some meals. Try doing a mixture of familiar and new recipes. Then prep you can when you have some free time (everyone laugh with me now…”free time?!”). Dice vegetables, wash fruit, and take what you can out of packaging to make it more accessible. Click here for some great meal planning tips.

2. Easy freezer meals. (think: lasagna, meatloaf, or orange chicken). Despite your best efforts there will be days where work runs long, tantrums test your limits, and that stain in the carpet needs to be treated ASAP. Freezer meals to the rescue! Pop a frozen lasagna (store bought or homemade!) in the oven, add a vegetable, & some garlic bread and voila…everyone is happy!

3. Join a group. Find a Facebook group that caters to your cooking lifestyle (there are tons!). You’ll be amazed what new recipes you’ll try and some cooking hacks you’ve never thought of.

4. Wash as you go. When a pan or utensil is done go ahead and wash it or put it in the dishwasher. Take the extra minute while you’re cooking to prevent a long clean up session once everyone is done! Make sure the kitchen is clean each night before you go to bed to prepare for the next day.

5. Get creative. I keep pepperoni and cheese on hand for dinner emergencies. Use any leftover bread as the crust and make pizzas (my kiddos love making mini pizzas on english muffins and waffles). Breakfast for dinner is also super easy! Snacks like meat, cheese, hummus, vegetables, and fruit can be a lot fun when laid out as charcuterie board. If you have some miscellaneous items in your pantry try one of these recipes.

6. Grocery pick up. This is super useful if you have multiple kids or you’re on a budget! No taking the kids into the store and no impulse buys! You can ‘shop’ while relaxing on the couch and build your week’s menu as you go. It’s great because if we need household essentials or toiletries I can add them on the app before I forget. My favorites are Wal-Mart, Fry’s, & Target.

7. Buy Extra. I find it’s a lot easier to plan meals for the week when I know I already have lots of food in the freezer and pantry. I buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale and use vacuum-sealed bags for the freezer. I keep non-perishable foods like pasta, sauces, and vegetables stocked in my pantry for easy meals. And when you make a meal that’s freezer-friendly, double it!

8. Ask the family. When I’m planning out the meals for the upcoming week I make sure to ask what my kids and husband what they want for some meals. It’s less work for me to come up with the remaining meals and I know they’ll look forward to it! Some popular requests on repeat are a taco bar, meatloaf, and chicken pot pie. Our toddler typically requests Oreos and marshmallows.

9. Enlist help. Our 8 year old loves to cook with me! And it sure comes in handy when the toddler or baby needs my immediate attention. Instill in your kids a love for cooking and they’ll be a huge help! Teach them to cut veggies & fruit, boil water for pasta, stir dishes on the stove, and tasks like layering noodles for lasagna. Have your significant other help when they can as well! I love the rule of ‘whoever cooks doesn’t clean’ but often times we do what we can together.

10. Just order the pizza. Give yourself some grace, will ya? This is probably my best-kept secret (shhh…don’t tell). Happy kids and no clean up is a win in our house!

Do you have some great dinner tips? We’d love to share them!

RELATED: 8 More Tips For Quick & Healthy Meals

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