Weeknight Dinner Meals

I’ve said in a past post to always plan your meals for the week with your schedule in mind. That being said, some days get away from us and we need dinner now if we’re going to avoid going out to eat. That’s okay, life happens. So here are my tips for making healthy meals at home even when things aren’t going according to plan.

The first thing you could do is to try to set yourself up for success ahead of time. After dinner one night or some time on the weekend prep your ingredients for the next few cooking sessions. Instead of chopping onions every night you could chop three onions for the next several meals. You could even go to the extra step of browning the onions to cut down on cooking time during the week. You could then put them away in the refrigerator to use in the next three days or in the freezer to use later on. Washed and chopped veggies (not potatoes) will roast or saute well if used within a few days of chopping, and you’ll save on cleanup time since you will only have to prep veggies a few times each week.

Photo by Los Muertos Crew: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-person-chopping-garlic-7601449/

The next thing you could do would be to always have freezer meals in your home. Make batches of soup and freeze them in reused glass jars or plastic containers. Then you can put them in the fridge the night before a busy day and they’ll be ready to pour out and reheat as needed. Make large pans of casseroles, lasagna, and enchiladas, and freeze them in small glass containers filled with individual servings. Then you can just take them out and put them in the microwave or oven as needed. They will taste and cook better if they’ve been defrosted ahead of time, but some days you just need to get food on the table fast.

My last tip for homemade meals would be to compile a list of 5 quick meals you can make with items you typically have on hand. This could be pasta from the pantry with a jar of sauce and some frozen vegetables or homemade frozen (vegan) meatballs. Breakfast for dinner is a fun option for busy nights. Who wouldn’t want pancakes after a stressful day? And you could always have a hodgepodge platter dinner full of whatever needs to be used up: the last bit of hummus with some chopped fresh veggies, a side salad with the last of the lettuce, a single serving of soup from earlier for one person, the last scoop of beans paired with tortilla chips and salsa to make quick nachos for someone else… The goal is to get the family fed. It’s okay if it’s not the same meal for everyone or if it’s quickly thrown together with whatever is on hand.

Photo by Chan Walrus: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-brown-cooked-dish-on-white-ceramic-bowls-958545/

For the days you really can’t cook, no worries. Just see if you can get the whole family to a sit down restaurant. Take your time and enjoy your meal together. At the end, pack up any leftovers in reusable takeout containers you’ve brought from home (or kept in your car for such an occasion). Make sure you prioritize eating those leftovers just like you would if you’d made the meal at home, and feel good about the quality time you’ve spent with your family and the efforts you’ve made to eat in a way that’s healthy and minimizing waste. You’re doing great!