Do you hate being asked “What’s for dinner?” It can cause stress some days, but let’s plan ahead and use simple tips so we can answer that question Every Monday, as part of my easing back into the week, I scan my fridge, freezer and pantry for an ingredient list of what I have on-hand that could be put together to make meals. I definitely use some simple, basic recipes to help me use up what I have before going shopping for more groceries. This helps maximize our household budget and gives me a little more flexibility with how many times I visit the grocery store. I have needed to use a crock pot since the twins were born, but here are some quick tips for making meals that don’t require you to even use a crock pot to save time.
1) Make condensed soup your friend:
There are so many varieties of condensed soups that you can really make interesting and simple meals.
For example, take one can cream of broccoli soup, pour over one package chicken breasts, and 1-2 heads of chopped broccoli in a 9×13 pan.
You can thin out the soup with some water prior to pouring over the meat so that you get a larger volume of cooking liquid.
Add some chopped onion if you like. I cook some rice in a separate pan while the chicken/soup/broccoli mixture bakes (covered) for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.
This takes you about 10 minutes to prep, and gives you a whole hour to do something other than stay in the kitchen.
Right now I have ‘cream of mushroom and garlic’ in the cupboard that I will use in this way later this week. I may bake or saute some chicken in olive oil, then warm up the soup in the pan, pour over chicken and cook some potatoes for a side with a vegetable.
If you try to steer clear of cream-based soups, there is french onion, tomato, etc. that you can choose. Even chicken noodle poured over some sauteed chicken with some vegetables would be a great easy meal.
You could use Ramen as a start: add some vegetables and chicken, if you really want a meal on the cheap!
2) Keep an eye out for ways to make favorites with shortcuts:
Take a can of stewed tomatoes (or two depending on the amount of sauce you want to make)-there are onions and green pepper in them already. Using your wooden spoon or kitchen scissors, chop up the tomatoes into smaller pieces, or you can whiz the tomatoes up in the blender or food processor before you put them into a saucepan.
So, you already have tomatoes, green pepper, and onion ready. You can saute some garlic in olive oil before you add the tomatoes to the pan, or just season with garlic powder.
I add about a tablespoon of dried oregano, and either dried basil or parsley (about 2 teaspoons of either) as well as some pepper and salt to taste.
Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes. Boil your desired noodle and top with the sauce. Quick and easy Italian.
3) Don’t discount the leftovers!!!
Living on one income demands that we use leftovers as a method of maximizing our groceries, our dollars, and my time. I always make family style meals, because it usually means I get two meals for the price of one. What are you using your freezer for if not to house your ‘free’ meals of leftovers?
In fact, that marinara I just made above, can be sauce for chicken parmesan, eggplant, or soup/gazpacho if it gets pureed in the blender or food processor.
Don’t be bored by your leftovers. You can tweak them just a bit when you re-warm so that the meal is not just ‘left over’:
-Baked chicken can get diced and transformed into chicken salad, or pulled and mixed with BBQ sauce for sandwiches.
-Meat seasoned with taco seasoning can be tacos one night and a big plate of nachos next week, taco salad, or filling for breakfast burritos.
-If you keep fresh vegetables on hand, you can wash and chop; don’t even cook ’em! It’s better for you, anyway.
Start to think about what foods you like to eat or meals you like to make. You can change up recipes very easily using things in your pantry that would normally be forgotten. Meal planning tips are a key to a more organized life as a mom.
Hopefully some of the above tips will help make “What’s for dinner?” a less stressful question to answer. (Get those kids in the kitchen with you too!)
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