Five Easy Ways to Simplify Weeknight Meals for Busy Parents

Five Easy Ways to Simplify Weeknight Meals for Busy Parents

By: Sarah Remmer, Registered Dietician

I’m sure most parents would agree with me when I say time flies! Not only are my kids nearing
 my height (I’m short – but seriously kids – stop growing), but there never seems to be enough
time to make the recipe I’ve been eyeing, or to eat at a sensible dinner time (before 7pm). Even
when I’ve defrosted the meat in advance and have all of the ingredients ready! When we all
arrive home from school and work my house is chaotic. Backpacks on the floor, sibling
squabbles, leftover mess from the rush out the door in the morning and let’s not even mention
the nights we need to head out for hockey practice and dance rehearsals. Yikes!! Although
there is no secret recipe for “doing-it-all perfectly” I’ve learned a few great tips from the not-so-
perfect moments that have been real lifesavers for making mealtime work. Here are my top five
mealtime shortcuts for stress-free weeknight suppers!


1. Ode to the One-Pot Meal.

These are the a life-saver for me, ad quite honestly, some of
our tastiest and most loved (and simplest!) meals! There are so many one-pot or one-
pan meals that you can include every food group needed into - meat, veggies, and
starchy carbohydrate (plus a little healthy fat). Keep veggie prep simple by buying them
in a convenient form – I’m talking pre-sliced mushrooms, mini cucumbers, shredded
carrots, bagged salad, and raw veggie trays. These are great to throw into those one-pot
meals, or toss into a salad, stir-fry or omelet and you’re good to go. Here are some of
my favourite one-pot meals: One-Pot Southwestern Quinoa Skillet, One-Pan Thai Peanut
Noodles, Easy One-Pan Green Curry With Prawns

 2. Go plant-based more often.

Too often we get stuck in the chicken, fish, pork, or beef

rotation. But when you open your meal planning to plant-based protein options, there
are so many quick and easy meals to explore (here are a whole bunch to try). If you
want to save on money, time and add some plant-based nutrition to meat-contric
dishes, try tossing a can of lentils into spaghetti sauce or taco meat (this adds texture,
nutrition and flavour!). I find canned lentils and beans to be the easiest and best protein
option if you’re in a rush and don’t have meat prepared. You can also add beans and
lentils to things like frittatas, soup, salads, macaroni and cheese and much more!


3. Make a schedule.

Having a predictable rotation of meals is a sure-fire way to keep on
track of key ingredients and makes planning way easier. Meatless Monday, taco Tuesday
or family favourite Friday are all days that my kids have come to expect. For Friday I love
having a family favourite recipe. I love to keep my favourite recipes together for easy
access, but to be honest, the best ones can be without a recipe. Each of my kids are
allowed to choose what meal to make on a Friday! They pull up a stool and help cut
veggies or pour ingredients, all the while keeping the rest of the house disaster-free
(well, mostly)! Getting kids involved in meal prep has both short-term and long-term
benefits. If they prepared it, they’re more likely to eat it (hooray!) and learning to
prepare a meal helps develop their confidence, cooking skills and helps them develop a
healthy relationship with food.

 4. Prepare food in bulk.

We’ve all had exhausting days where the thought of cooking
anything will immediately result in overwhelm and tears. This is where the cooking in
bulk really becomes a lifesaver. So, buy the club size pack of chicken at the grocery store
and cook it all! Baked chicken one night is tomorrows chicken salad or chicken pizza.
And guess what – you can freeze cooked meat! Because preparing and cooking the meat
portion of a meal is often the most time consuming, why not help yourself out by
freezing already cooked food! Spaghetti sauce, soup, stew and chilli also make for great
freezer friendly meals when in a pinch.


5. Have a back-up.

When all else fails, what is the meal that you reach for? For my family,
our go-to last minute supper is always breakfast! Whether it’s French toast, whole grain
pancakes with all the fixings, or a simple omelette, breakfast for dinner is super quick
and easy to prepare!


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