Eating well on weeknights can sometimes seem like an impossible task. Sometimes work obligations keep us away from home longer than expected – and that’s before we jump on the train or in the car to make our way home with the rest of the crowds. Once we make it back home there may be kids to pick up, homework to do, and sometimes even practices, events, and community meetings to attend. Squeezing in a healthy dinner between all that can be a challenge.
But dinnertime is such an important time for families. It’s a chance to sit down together, decompress, share your triumphs and challenges from the day, and enjoy the company of those you love most in the world. So it’s worth making the sometimes seemingly impossible effort to make it happen – even on the craziest of weeknights.
We have some tips to help make a healthy dinner part of every weeknight, and some recipes to get you inspired.
Tips for quick and easy dinners
- Write down a list of family favorites. Sometimes the hardest part of mealtime is figuring out what to make, so have a list of all your family’s favorite, quick meals that you can refer to when you’re stuck for inspiration.
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait until Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. to start thinking about dinner. Whenever you have time – be it on the weekend or on a less buy weeknight – plan and shop for at least a week’s worth of meals in advance. Use your grocery store flyers to help inspire you and save money, and shop for all the items you need to make each of those meals all at once. Having everything on hand makes it a lot less tempting to reach for the phone to order pizza.
- Make freezer meals in advance. Whenever you have spare time, make large batches of freezable meals that you can store away and simply pull out to reheat during the week. BBC Good Food has 40 recipes for delicious freezer meals. Betty Crocker has some fantastic tips for making make-ahead meals, and a month’s worth of freezer meal recipes for you to choose from.
- Used frozen or canned ingredients. Frozen and canned vegetables that have already been cleaned and prepped can cut down on your cooking time. The same goes for things like canned beans or lentils, or pre-washed spinach and other salad greens.
- Get everyone involved. Dinner doesn’t have to be the sole responsibility of just one person. Get your kids involved in planning and prep, have your spouse set the table and clean up after, and make sure to swap responsibilities on a regular basis so no one ever feels overburdened. For tips on how to get your kids involved in cooking and to find out more about age appropriate tasks read our “Get your kid in the kitchen” article.
Quick and healthy weeknight meal resources
- Eating Well is a great source for quick, healthy dinners. Check out their list of 20-minute recipes including classic sesame noodles with chicken, southwestern steak salad, and chicken and spiced apples.
- Cooking Light also has a list of delicious 20-minute meals including quick chicken curry, taco salad, and crispy chicken, ham, and Swiss roll-ups.
- Better Homes and Gardens has a collection of 36, 30-minute meals designed to appeal to everyone in the family. Recipes include lemon-thyme roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes, chicken meatball noodle bowl, and Asian pork skillet.
One final bit of advice: if you make a new recipe and it gets rave reviews, make sure to save it in a binder or a recipe box labeled “tried and tested” so you always have a collection of go-to recipes to choose from when you’re planning your meals. It may also help to record the meals you make each night in a notebook so you can see how long it’s been since you made something, or use past recipes as inspiration when you’re planning a new week of meals.
For more great tips on making weeknight meals as simple as possible, check out our article on easier eats.