The “I’ve Got Nothing for Dinner” blues with a chorus of “I’m hungry!” is not a good tune to be singing when you need to fix a weeknight meal.
But you need to put some food on the table. Stop singing and make a plan. We have tips to make those weeknight meals a bit less hectic.
Keep a pantry and freezer stocked with staples
If you’re starting from scratch, having a wide variety of staples in your pantry and freezer will ease the last-minute dinner dilemma.
For example, black beans and corn with salsa can be made into burritos pretty fast, and rice is an easy side dish. Pasta is the epitome of versatility. You can pair it with oil and seasoning or your favorite sauces and mix it with vegetable medleys you keep in your freezer.
Make the process even faster by keeping your go-to seasonings and oils handy, like olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder and your other favorites. If they can’t be displayed nicely on the counter, find a close cupboard and keep them in the front.
Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)
There’s just something about breakfast food that makes having it for dinner a treat. It’s just a bonus that it’s super easy and nutritious, too.
Scrambled eggs and french toast can be whipped up in a jiffy, as can toast, precooked sausages and bacon.
And if you’re in a real pinch, whole grain cereal and oatmeal also come together quickly without sacrificing nutrition.
Keep your grocery list handy
Sure, some people still go the analog route and keep a list stuck to their refrigerator, but it’s very easy to forget the list at home. And if you’re making an unplanned stop, that’s exactly where the list will be instead of conveniently at your fingertips.
Move the list to your smartphone, either through a note-taking function or an app designed for grocery lists, and yours will always be with you. Many apps allow multiple users so anyone in your family can add to the list.
This will help keep your staples stocked. Once you use the last of something, add it to your list.
Prep your meals for the week
Busy families often have a master calendar of everyone’s activities. Take a look at your week in advance and see which nights are going to be the busiest.
Plan your meals accordingly and do as much prep work the weekend before as you can. Many people dedicate an afternoon to prepping meals for the week, using recipes that can be thrown in a crockpot in the morning or a pressure cooker in the evening.
Amazing freezer meals can also be found online, allowing you to plan way ahead. They range from beef and broccoli teriyaki to sesame honey chicken to cube steaks and gravy. Just start searching.
Rotisserie chicken is your friend
Unless you’re a vegetarian, rotisserie chickens are a treasure for busy families. They are inexpensive compared to takeout and offer a hot, meal with lean protein (once you remove the skin).
They can be eaten as the main dish or carved up and easily used for other recipes. Try gyros, for example: Tear the chicken into pieces, add some Greek seasoning and lemon juice and throw it in a pita with lettuce, tomatoes and your other favorite toppings.
And don’t forget to save the remains of the chicken to boil up for homemade broth. Just store it in the freezer until your next meal prep session.
Go for it
If you want to go all in, many people have put together an entire year’s worth of quick and easy dinner ideas, like this one.
And next time, when your kids ask, “What’s for dinner?” you will be singing a different tune.