School is back in session and so are the after school activities. We now have two kids old enough to participate in after school sports and clubs which makes for a hectic weekday afternoon and evening. We do not go crazy with the afterschool activities, but three nights a week, the activities encroach on dinner time making preparing dinner difficult.
The summer was nice in our home. Typically I would concoct a meal about an hour before it was time to eat based on what was in my fridge or freezer, or we would head to the pool and eat pizza. With the after school activities ramping up, I can no longer make dinner on the fly.
How to make weekday dinners and keep your sanity:
Plan ahead. Take a moment on the weekend to make a weekly plan. What nights are full of activities? What nights are not? Plan to cook a meal for the nights that there are few to no activities. Double the meal and save half of it for leftovers on a busier night.
Eat leftovers. I have met people who do not like leftovers, but our family would not survive if they did not eat leftovers. Leftovers can be enjoyable, if heated up the correct way. Most leftovers are best if re-heated on a cook top versus the microwave because microwaves are notorious for drying up food and zapping the taste.
Make a one pot slow cooker or pressure cooker meal. Slow cookers and pressure cookers such as Instant Pots have revolutionized how easily we can make food while going about our day. Both allow the food preparer to make the food ahead and allow it to cook until all parties are at home. A pressure cooker will cook the food and automatically switch to a “keep warm” setting for up to 10 hours. With fall and winter ahead, soups, chilies and other warm comfort foods are great in both appliances.
Cook ahead and freeze meals. There are numerous recipes online and tips on how to make meals ahead of time to freeze for ease. Not all freezer meals are created equal as some freeze better than others affecting their overall taste in the end. One of our favorite foods to freeze is grilled burgers and marinated chicken thighs. Simply grill a large batch of your favorites, eat them fresh and freeze the leftovers. We freeze five chicken thighs, burgers, brats or hotdogs per one court bag with parchment paper in-between, because we have five people in our home. Remove from the cooked meat from the freezer frozen, toss in a pot on the stove with about 1 inch of water, place a top on the pot and heat on medium until the meat is warm all the way through. Pair with a veggie and or starch and you have a quick delicious healthy meal.
Writer Bio: Summer Bolte
I spend most of my time and days with my three kids, husband and dog. My kids frequently play near me as I garden, cook, DIY and volunteer. My most unusual paying job has to be feeding fruit flies in a research lab, and my most fulfilling job was being an oncology nurse for seven years.