7 Easy Dinners You Should Keep in Your Back Pocket

Many parents find putting dinner on the table one of the most daunting daily tasks. Figuring out what to make, shopping, ensuring the meal is healthy, catering to picky eaters, actually making the meal … all of it can be, at the very least, annoying. There are thousands of meals online, so there is plenty to choose from, and still, I often find myself struggling to make a decision. Maybe the choices are overwhelming, like when you go to a diner, and if you don’t have a general idea of what you are craving, it takes a good twenty minutes to read the whole menu. This is when I fallback on the basic categories and take it from there. More often than not, the simplest things I make are the ones for which my kids get the most excited. Cycle through these and in any one week, you’ll have plenty of variety to have your kids one day saying, “My mom or dad was a great cook.” Pick a category, see what you have in your fridge and pantry, and call it a day … or at least a dinner.

  1. Pasta. Jarred sauces have gotten better over the years. Toss some pasta with a decent sauce and heat up some bread. Do you have vegetables that are in danger of rotting, saute them with a little butter and olive oil, add some parmesan cheese, and primavera it is. Feeling the need to add some protein? Precooked chicken or chicken sausage will add texture and flavor. Really in a pinch, I lived on pasta with butter, salt and pepper in medical school, and I turned out just fine. Try this Healthy 5 Ingredient Chicken Pasta

    Try Bibimbap

  2. Rice bowls. I hit the cans in my house for this category. Rice and beans with corn. Rice with tomatoes, garlic, olives, precooked chicken and artichokes — with some hummus on the side if you have it. Rice with chicken or fish, mixed vegetables, ginger, garlic and soy sauce.  Try Heather’s Korean Bibimbap Bowl.

  3. Mexican. I realize I’m only including one ethnic category, but this is because it makes everyone happy. Tacos, quesadillas, and burritos are all crowd pleasers. I always have, at the very least, tortillas and shredded cheese on hand because even the most basic Mexican meal is received with enthusiasm. Try Karen’s Simple Mexican Rice Bowl
  4. Breakfast for dinner. This never fails, and you can get a little creative with it. Pancakes and eggs are wonderful, and if you can put some fruit on the side, you’ll feel like a better parent;) But, a frittata is one of the easiest, quickest, complete meals to make. Saute any vegetable you have left in your fridge in a large skillet, pour scrambled eggs on top, cover and heat on low for just a few minutes. Top with cheese, make some toast, and you have all four food groups in something easy to grab and go and heat up for all the different schedules.

    Sausage, Kale & Lentil Soup

  5. Soup and sandwiches. I used to be intimidated by soup (and risotto, but that’s another story.) I don’t know why, but probably because my mom never made soup. I now know chicken broth and just about anything makes a great meal. Beans, kale and chicken sausage was my last throw together, and got rave reviews. Don’t have the ingredients or the time, break out the can opener. Campbell’s tomato soup has never disappointed. Couple it with grilled cheese, and yum. Actually, anything grilled between two pieces of bread elevates from being lunchbox worthy to being dinner worthy. Tomato, mozzarella and basil or turkey reubens are my go-tos. Try one of our 20+ Favorite Soup Recipes!

    Cranberry & Avocado Salad–add Chicken for some protein.

  6. Salad. It isn’t just a side dish. Hearty salads are an excellent way to serve something healthy, that you can make in advance, and everyone can eat together or in shifts depending on the night. I cycle between spinach salad, mediterranean salad, cobb salad and of course, Mexican. There is no cooking and only a cutting board to clean up. Invest in a gigantic salad bowl, and put leftovers in individual containers for the next day’s lunch. Try one of our 25+ Crispy, Refreshing Salads!
  7. Anything goes. Yes, this is an actual dinner. You are asked, “What’s for dinner?” and your response is, “Anything goes.” You want cereal? Go for it. You want last night’s dinner? Leftovers it is. If it is already in this house, you can have it, just don’t ask me to make it. Bon appetit.

I’m a fan of dinner. It is important (almost always) to me there is something for my family to eat, something to gather around, a meal to mark the end of the day. What I’ve learned is it doesn’t really matter what the meal is. From both a quality family time and a check the box night, easy works just as well as gourmet. As an added benefit, there is never that feeling of disappointment after slaving over a stove, only to be met with rushed intake because of homework, empty chairs due to crazy spring schedules or lukewarm reactions. Less stress, happier me, happier everyone. Not that I don’t break out my inner Julia Child now and then, but those nights are far more satisfying if I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself day after day. In the words of my sister, who also has five kids, “Something has to give, and tonight, that’s dinner.”

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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