5 Tips for Easy Weeknight Meals

Easy Weeknight Meals

If your schedule is anything like mine you work all day, run to practices, fit in appointments, come home, rush to get homework done, feed your family and get the kids in bed when it then becomes time for you to relax. Do you feel like you pass yourself coming and going the whole time?  Not to mention the fact that meals are often on the go and you feel like a failure as a mom for feeding your kids take out or fast food so often.

Do you relate??

To help transition into a busy time of the year and make sure that my family is fed a tasty and healthy meal each night that doesn’t take hours of my time to prepare, I need a plan.  These 5 tips to easy weeknight meals work for my family, but you will of course need and want to adapt to suit your family needs.

Meal Planning 101 Plan then Shop

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{1} Make a Meal Plan

Whether you sit down and plan out meals for the weekdays, or the full 7 days each week, it’s so vital to plan ahead for your week to be smooth and successful.  You can do this once a week, twice a month or once a month.

Use whatever method works best for you.  I personally like having a spreadsheet typed up with all of our favorite family meals to choose from.  Others prefer to use a simply magnetic white board on their refrigerator to scribble notes on.

When you know what you plan on making ahead of time you won’t find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator door frustrated and reaching for the take out menus.  If you are at a loss for meal ideas check our recipe posts for great ideas.  Freezer meals are also a great way to supplement your weekly meal plan.

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{2} Prep Fruits and Vegetables Ahead

Most of us do our grocery shopping on the weekends.  As soon as you get home, pull all fresh fruits and vegetables to be used the following week and prep ahead.  You can even do this in bulk on some items once per month.

I prep onions, bell peppers, zucchini and squash ahead by washing, slicing, dicing or chopping and then freeze in portion sizes in freezer bags.  Always make sure to date any frozen foods so you know when they need to be used by.

Take time on Sunday afternoon to prep fruits and veggies for the upcoming week. Rinse and slice some fruits (berries, mangoes, kiwis, peaches) for the kids snacks and lunches and breakfast.  If you are planning salad during the week, go ahead and prep that as well by rinsing lettuce and pre-slicing tomatoes. Be sure to prepare extra for any sandwich prep throughout the week.

{3} Include a Sandwich Night

Our family loves a nice cold sandwich on whole grain breads with fresh luncheon meat (or pre-cooked chicken/turkey breast) various cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pepper slices, cucumbers and spicy mustard.  Served with baked chips and salsa, fresh vegetables and ranch dip (according to our boys, everything is better with ranch dip).

If your family doesn’t like cold sandwiches, make hot sandwiches like meatball subs, Philly Steak & Cheese or even simply cheese & veggie Quesadillas (made easier by prepping veggies ahead ).

Menu Planning Shop then Plan

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{4} Give Everyone Responsibility

From the oldest to the youngest you can involve the entire house in making meal times go smoothly.  Whether you assign the toddler to fold napkins and pass our forks or the teenager to washing and prepping veggies on the weekends, everyone in the family can get involved and relieve the burden often put on mom.

Ask your spouse to take on one night each week to cook dinner.  If you have teenagers give them one night per week they are responsible.  If they want to make their night sandwich night, frozen pizza night or leftovers night, allow that. Simply involve the whole family to share this “chore.”

Sample menu of healthy lunch ideas for kids

Check out a menu planning service to prepare delicious and healthy lunches!

{5} Embrace Semi-Homemade

It does not make you a bad mother, nor a failure if grabbing a rotisserie chicken or having a nuggets and fries night is part of your menu plan each week.  The key to success is doing what works best for your family.

If you worry about the quality of food, there are tons of healthy alternatives in the frozen food section to ease that guilt.  Grab the pre-cooked chicken in the grocery store and add your own large garden salad and baked potato.  Heat up a frozen pizza but add extra vegetables and serve with a salad.  There are always ways to adapt semi-homemade to make it healthier for your family yet maintain the ease of use for you.

The biggest thing that will help make any transition easier for you is good communication with everyone in your home on what they can do to help keep things running smoothly.  Children learn from our example so being organized and encouraging them to stay on top of their chores and homework so you can enjoy a few minutes each evening as a family will only benefit you as a family unit in the long run.  When everyone pitches in, the house runs a lot smoother and your weeknight stress disappears.

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