SImple Meal Ideas For Busy Families
A lot of folks do not know what it is like to cook for a large group of people on a daily basis.
As the only person that cooks in my house on most nights, it's just part of my daily routine since I have to set five plates for the kids before I even get started.
There are a few tricks to stretching your time and money to get through the week efficiently. I am not able to eat out a lot with such a large family, so planning ahead to make meals to please picky kids can save you time during the hectic week.
One of the things I love to do is USE MY SLOW COOKER. This has saved me time and again, but only if I remember before leaving at 4:30 AM. Prepping the night before is a great way to go here, making sure your roast or chicken is thawed out or brining for the next day is essential.
In fact, you can slow cook just about anything. I especially love slow cooking meat to make enchiladas or burritos, plus most of your battle to get dinner done is about the meat anyway. A simple recipe I have is slow cooking meat using salsa verde, then just draining the meat and wrapping the tortillas and covering with cheese and green sauce. PRO-TIP: If you're no good at using the rice cooker for Spanish rice, you can cheat and stop by Fiesta Foods and by a large side of rice.
Another way to stretch the budget is to prepare meals without meat altogether. This is easy for some parents, my kids only eat meat a few times a week. Whether it is making cheese pizzas on pitas, mac and cheese casseroles, or salads, you can change your game by excluding the hassle of preparing meat.
A favorite meatless meal at my house is veggie yakisoba and spring rolls. There is a ton of nutrients in the veggies served with Asian dishes, so don't stress if you forgot to take meat out to thaw and got home late. Yakisoba is super fast to make and easy with the right recipe. I always keep a stash of oyster sauce in the pantry, that's your secret flavor enhancer for authentic soba. If you have a person that demands spice at every meal, keeping Sriracha around can keep even the most grumpy teenager happy.
In a lot of busy houses bread is one of the first things that go stale. If you have stale bread, don't feed it to the ducks (that's bad for the ducks) and a complete waste of perfectly good bread. The BEST French Toast comes from stale bread. Breakfast for dinner is fast, popular, and always satisfying.
Eggs and potatoes are cheap, having a ton of those around is always a good idea. You use eggs for a lot of dishes from frying chicken, to making Yakisoba or fried rice and it is so easy to boil some eggs for on-the-go breakfasts the next morning.
There is nothing as easy as some scrambled eggs, toast, and shredded potatoes for dinner when you haven't planned ahead.
I also LOVE quick and easy spaghetti, which is a great fallback or go-to dish for a lot of homes. My children absolutely loathe spaghetti, which to them is a wasted pizza night.
To combat this, I make a lot of my own garlic and butter-based sauces over tortellini or ravioli that you buy in the frozen food section. Out of all the frozen pasta brands however, my kids prefer the Safeway "Signature Selects" brand over any name brand or other store brand. Mine are very picky girls, but if your kids haven't enjoyed frozen pastas in the past you should try them; they taste great.
There is no better pasta sauce base than fresh cut garlic sautéed over olive oil and butter. If you're being healthy, don't add the butter obviously.
Fish can be a great dish for busy schedules, salmon and trout are super easy to prepare and do not take very long to cook.
Pictured is the trout I caught with the kids one weekend. While I prefer just a touch of dill, butter and lemon (with salt and pepper) on my trout, there is no end to the ways you can prepare a quick fish meal.