Ohio Living

Tuesday Tip: Meal Planning for busy nights–Reader Ideas!

Tuesday Tip: Meal Planning for busy nights–Reader Ideas!

meal planning

A Facebook discussion a while back had tons of great tips for how to get a meal on the table when your schedule is busy.  Meal planning can really help, but actually getting the planned meal on the table can be a challenge when your family is headed in different directions for activities.  Between baseball, soccer, track, dance, band, play practice, swim team, scouting, church activities, and so much more…dinner can be tricky!

Lots of our Facebook friends suggested using a crock pot to have a hot meal waiting, but there were tons of other great mom-tested hints to help avoid the drive-thru temptation for dinner time.  See if some of these could work for you:

  • After school it is a quick snack, fruit and a cheese roll up or a half of a sandwich, then when home we have dinner ready in the crock pot. The web site Allrecipes.com has some wonderful crock pot and slow cooker recipes.  -Pam
  • Pick up the entree from the grocery store deli counter and add quick sides at home, and the occasional picnic dinner at the park after practice is fun too! I used to freeze meat in baggies w/ marinade, then pull them out in the morning before work. By the time I got home, they were defrosted and ready for the grill. Had dinner on the table in ten minutes!  -Kat
  • You can always marinate chicken legs, steak, wings, etc. in the morning and just pop it in the oven or throw it on the grill. Also, invest in a pressure cooker! Pressure Cooker Recipes – Allrecipes.com You can cook whole chickens in there, veal chops, lamb chops, beans, etc. Try to cut salads and veggies beforehand, and just pop them in the fridge. You can always make sides ahead of time and just heat them up. If you have time to cook enough for two days, try to do that. I love roast chicken because you can stretch that to go for different meals (soups, salads, pasta, stirfry, sandwiches, etc.)  -Amara
  • We eat small before & after. Save the big dinners for the night when you can actually sit down & enjoy it!  -Missy
  • I like to make extra casseroles like lasagna that I can freeze and then pop in the oven before we leave for soccer and when we come home supper is ready!  -Sherri
  • I also use the timer feature on my oven. (as long as it’s not so hot out that I have to worry the meat will spoil) I put lasagna or chicken or any other dishes that I bake into the oven before I leave the house and set the oven to come on at a certain time, certain degree. Then we are walking in the door to a cooked meal.  -Jenny
  • Crock pot and freezer meals have worked great for us. It takes me about 3 hours to make 10 to 13 meals to put in the freezer. I pull them out the night before, and then that day I just have to throw them in the oven!  I then have a basket of healthy snacks both in the pantry and fridge that they can choose from for an after practice snack. Sometimes I have them choose a snack before and take it with them so they can eat it in the car on the way home to save time and get to bed quicker.  -Melissa
  • On a “quiet” day (lol) or when you are already grilling or cooking- cook 2 or 3 meals or just the main dish. then all you have to do is heat up main dish, and throw some quick sides together on those busy nights. takes a little extra planning and cooking, but very helpful when eating 8pm dinners 😉  -Nicole
  • Every Soccer/Football/Band “whatever” mom or dad should have the cookbook Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. My family bought this for me years ago and most meals can be prepared in 20 to 30 minutes. I never would have survived 3 kids in soccer and almost every other sport and program available without this cookbook.  -Tish
  • Easy meals as well once in a while, such as grilled cheese and tomato soup, frozen pizza and salad, or just cereal or oatmeal! Crock pot is great as well!  -Jennifer
  • Other than the crockpot on practice/game nights, we also have a big meal the night before so that we have leftovers for after practices the next night. That way when we come home, while she is in the shower I can heat the leftovers.  -Kristine

Thanks so much to all our Facebook friends who joined the discussion (you can see all the comments and suggestions here).  It’s great to hear things that have really worked for people!  If you have any other busy weeknight dinner survival tips, we’d love to hear them in the comments!

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