Oh, how I love the long, warm days of summer when children can stay outside enjoying sunlight well into the early evening hours. With September just around the corner those lazy nights will soon give way to shorter days and more hectic schedules.
Children need to complete their homework, chores need to be finished and everyone needs to climb into bed so they can wake up rested and refreshed for school the next morning.
How do you help the kids finish their assignments, drive everyone to soccer practice and still get a healthy, delicious dinner on the table? Consider a multitude of solutions including meal planning, freezer cooking and easy-to-prepare meals.
On a busy school night you don’t want to face the daunting preparations of an elaborate meal. Freezer cooking allows you to prepare everything in advance. Each school night you simply pull out a previously prepared meal and heat it to the desired temperature. This eliminates the need for chopping, dicing and mixing as everything is typically in a bag, pie pan, or casserole dish and ready to go.
If you have never tried freezer cooking before start out slow. Begin by doubling a recipe so that you can eat one meal tonight and freeze the other for a future meal.
You can freeze just about anything. Buy two ready-made piecrusts and make two chicken potpies. Throw all of the vegetables in a giant pot, cook up the chicken and stir in some homemade gravy.
To prevent freezer burn invest in a Pyrex storage set with lids. If you plan to make a lot of soups buy round containers. If you are a big fan of lasagna, macaroni and cheese and casseroles search for rectangular ones. You can find a wide variety of sizes and shapes at Kohls.
Prepare in Advance
If the thought of freezer cooking seems daunting take a step back and think of other ways to make cooking easier for your family. Can you cut up all of the vegetables needed for the week on Sunday night? Can you slice or dice the chicken in advance so its ready to be dropped into a pot or pan when you need it?
Consider any early preparation steps that will allow you to mix spices, create sauces and cut proteins days in advance rather than on the day you need to make dinner. Consider chopping all of your skinless, boneless chicken breasts on the same day you bring them home from the store. Buy a couple of extra packs of chicken and use a FoodSaver to freeze everything until you are ready to use it. It is amazing how much time this one little step will save you in the long run.
Remember that dinner doesn’t have to include an elaborate meal. Consider preparing breakfast for dinner one night a week. After all, who doesn’t love pancakes, bacon and eggs? What other easy meals do you and your children love? How about grilled cheese with tomato soup poured from a can? Or pizza prepared using a ready-made pizza crust? Keep a few staple ingredients like mozzarella cheese and sauce on hand and you can have dinner ready in under fifteen minutes.
We all know that school days are hectic and busy, but with a little advanced planning you can prepare quick weeknight meals. Once the food is ready, grab a kitchen chair, sit back and savor the meal with your family.