Keys to Fast & Easy Dinners

Denise_1_FacebookIs there ringing in your ears?  The bells you just might be hearing could be a reminder that school’s back in session!  Along with the approach of the fall season comes a scurry of activities – sports, school, church, personal obligations, etc.  With all of these structured activities the evening meal takes on new importance – we need food quick, healthy and within budget!  Impossible?  Not at all… on!

Have you ever come home from a long day at work, opened the refrigerator door and just stood there – looking – trying to figure out what to fix for dinner?  Just maybe…. some creative thought will jump into your mind as to a wonderful healthy meal you can prepare in the next 5 minutes.  Or not.  Today we’re going to look at some ways to make your evening meal time more organized, easier and fun!

There IS a secret to fast & easy dinners.  It is the biggest time saver and the single most effective tool in eating healthy.  What is it you ask?  Drum roll please…..

it is PLANNING.  Planning allows us to be good stewards of our time, money and health.  It’s when we are caught off guard with nothing in particular in mind for dinner that we bend the rules and grab what’s quick and easy (and not necessarily healthy).  Below I’ve offered many ways to achieve easy meal planning; pick one that works for you!  When you’ve got one under your belt, add another.

Use these time and energy saving suggestions to implement a healthy regime for your family and before you know it the holidays will be upon us and you’ll have more money in your pocket and more time on your hands.

Planning is the key!

1)    Create a 2 week meal schedule to simplify shopping and cooking.  A scheduled meal plan lets you know exactly what’s for dinner each day for 2 weeks, then start over.  This means you’ll fix the same meal twice a month.  (We had a version of this in my family when I was growing up.  Every Monday night was spaghetti night and Friday night was always pizza).

To get a two week menu sample, please visit my website at and see our recent post on 2 week menu plans.

2)    Get the children involved in creating the 2 week meal schedule.  I’m sure they have a favorite meal they’d like to add to the plan and it will make them feel special that they contributed to the process.

3)    Start out the first two weeks meal schedule with very familiar recipes; ones that you are comfortable with.  You’ll get to experiment later.  Make the first 2 weeks as easy as possible.

4)    Print out your 10 recipes (5 days/two weeks)– keep them in a handy place and remember you’ll need them twice in the month.  If you don’t need recipes for your meals, just keep your two week menu plan handy to refer back to

5)    Purchase larger quantities of chicken/beef/turkey when they are on sale and freeze in 1lb and 2lb portions.

6)    Cook chicken/beef/turkey for several meals.  For example have chicken parmesan one evening and chicken tetrazzini the next (saves prep time when chicken is already cooked).

7)    Carve out a few hours on the weekend to cook chicken/turkey/beef, chop and clean vegetables and store in containers in the fridge for the next week’s menu.

8)    Organize your storage containers (I suggest using glass containers to store leftovers and prepared foods) but whatever you are choosing to use make sure you have tops and bottoms matched….it saves on time and frustration later!

9)    Experiment with one new recipe every two weeks; when you prepare a new meal the family really enjoys you’ll be able to add it to the 2 week rotation schedule

10)   Get the children involved in meal time.  Assign smaller jobs (such as setting the table) to the younger children and tasks like peeling carrots or mashing potatoes to older children.  Mothers weren’t meant to be short order cooks and assigning tasks are excellent lessons that teach each member about family responsibilities.

11)  Use whole foods as often as possible.  The less boxed or packaged foods, the higher the nutrient content.  If this is not an area you have concentrated on – start with a simple goal of including one whole food with each dinner. ie. strawberries, fresh salad, broccoli, blueberries, etc.

I hope these ideas get you started toward a quicker, easier and healthier meal time.  If you have some unique family challenge at dinner time, I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure I can suggest ideas to help you manage the occasion with confidence and creativity.

Click here for some recipes.

Here’s to happier and healthier eating!

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