Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas for Busy Parents

The last thing you want to do after working all day is come home and spend hours preparing dinner. In Save Time and Money with Menu Planning we showed you how with a little fun planning and prep on the weekend can take the guesswork out of dinner and save those hours throughout your busy week. Here we are expanding on your awesome meal planning skills, and giving you some family friendly ideas for quick and easy meals to add to your week.

Toasty Sandwiches and Veggie Sticks

Plain pbj for dinner can be uninspiring, but a toasted sandwich can be a real dinner winner. Gather your favourite bread and sandwich fillings, construct your sandwiches as you normally would, then pop them in the oven or grill them on the stovetop.

If you are using veggies that you don’t want to wilt, make sure you add them in AFTER your sandwich has been toastified. If I’m baking my sandwiches, I typically bake them for 5-10 minutes on 350 F. On the stove top in a big pan I just keep an eye on them and flip when they look toasty. You can also use a Panini press, your outside grill, or a griddle indoors. Unlike with your traditional grilled cheese, you DO NOT need butter, which saves you added fat and grease.

The options are endless for toasted sandwich, because pretty much everything goes well on toasted bread! Your classic pbj, your fav luncheon meats, leftover or pre-cooked meats, or your favourite cheeses all taste better warmed up and served on toasted bread. I adult-up the classic grilled cheese sandwich by skipping the processed American cheese slices and opting for real mozzarella. You can also add dipping sauces to your meal. My kiddos LOVE dipping ANYTHING in marina sauce.

Now what to serve on the side that you can whip up in a flash? Veggies cut into sticks make a great side, as does yogurt, applesauce, or fresh fruit. Wash and cut your fruits and veggies over the weekend to save even more time. You’ll just need to pull them out and serve with your sandwiches at dinnertime.

Photo courtesy of BrandyMaeD on Flickr

Anything in the Slow Cooker

Do you have a slow cooker, aka a crockpot? These nifty dinner helpers allow you to put food in them in the morning, and eat your dish at night without doing any additional work. Load it up in the morning, go to work, and come home hours later to a yummy smelling house and a meal ready to be eaten. All you will have to do is plate it, eat it, and clean up after.

What can you make in the slow cooker? Soups, stews, roasts, poultry, casseroles, desserts, and more! There are even recipes out there to make BREAD in the slow cooker.

Do you have 5 free minutes before work? Try the 3 ingredient Chicken and Gravy recipe from Ciao Chow Bambina. Throw chicken breasts and chicken broth in, and let them cook on low while you’re at work. When you get home, whip up gravy in less than 5 minutes using chicken gravy mix and juice from the slow cooker. See the recipe for full details and to see how easy it really is.


Freezer Meals or OAMC

Some busy parents save time throughout the month by taking one day and preparing meals for the entire month. This is called freezer meals or OAMC (once a month cooking). You can prepare meals one day a week for an entire week, or jump on the once a month wagon and make a month of meals at once. Be warned though that you will need many freezer/heat safe containers and enough freezer space to house your delicious dishes.

Why would you want to cook for the entire month? Doing so allows you to always have dinner ready. The day before, or the morning of, pull the meal out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to defrost. At the end of your day you can pop it in the oven and play with the kiddos while dinner reheats itself.

Start by gathering recipes that freeze and reheat well. Save time and money by picking recipes that use the same ingredients, so that you can buy in bulk and cook the same main ingredient for several meals. Set aside a day (or two) to buy and prep ingredients, cook, assemble, and then freeze your meals. If you’re new to freezer cooking, you may want to find recipes suggested for OAMC and follow the directions carefully so that you don’t have any odd tasting surprises when you re-heat them.

Still need more dinner inspiration? Be sure to check out our Pinterest boards Food for Family Dinners, Make it Vegan, and Kid Fun & Friendly Foods! If you have a fabulous and easy dinner idea be sure to leave a comment. We LOVE comments and yours could help dinner go a little smoothly for other busy parents and grandparents.

Photos courtesy of Vigilant20, BrandyMaeD, and Pearl Pirie on Flickr.

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