For many American families, this is back to school season. While it’s exciting to be taking all those cute pictures of kids getting ready to start classes again, and restarting a structured schedule might be a welcome change after a summer of endless fun and free time, it also means that meal times can feel more hectic and frantic.
Kids and adults rush into the kitchen at the end of the day, famished and ready to eat, all asking at once the dreaded question, “What’s for supper?” Well, the answer can be simplified, and with some simple preparations and planning even be enjoyable. Meal times are inevitable, so there’s no use dreading them. These tips will help make them as pain-free as possible.
Rather than blindly staring into the fridge or pantry when supper is five minutes away, hoping that something leaps out at you, see if any of these tried and true suggestions are appealing, and pull together a family-friendly meal plan that will make you happy at the end of the day.
If there’s anything I love when I’m short on motivation at the end of the day, it’s my slow cooker. I know that insta-pots are all the rage right now, but the magic of a slow cooker is dumping things into it in the morning, when you’re not facing down hungry children and homework, and knowing that hot food will be waiting for you. It’s magic.
I really like this ridiculously easy General Tso’s crockpot recipe because I live in a town with no delivery. None! When I want Chinese, it’s takeout or make it at home. My kids will all happily eat this, and it’s beyond easy to adapt the vegetables to what’s in the freezer.
I also have a rice cooker with a timer, so I can preset the whole meal to be ready at supper. Fantastic! If you’d rather, the same website also offers a gluten-free home version of Panda Express’s Orange Chicken. It’s really, really good.
If you’re not always up for planning, quick meals can also be tasty and filling. Bonus here is that you can use leftover rice from the previous day!
Black bean burritos are a staple in my home. Beans and rice are a complete protein, and you can do these as spicy as your family likes. I make mine similar to this, but with corn tortillas. Think about adding cumin, green chiles, and Rotel. If you’ve made a massive amount of rice, turn the rest into rice pudding.
Sometimes a burger is just satisfying, right? I prefer black bean patties to beef ones, typically, but the meat eaters in my family would be sad if we never ate red meat. Pair with oven-roasted veggies, or fries, or both. My kids like anything roasted in the oven with some salt and pepper, especially if there’s dip involved.
Here’s a yummy black bean burgers recipe. A wise mother I know once explained that burgers play an important part in her meal plan, because they’re simple and adaptable. It’s true. You can top them with anything, and different tastes can make them work. If you’re on the low-carb trend, you can even make them as a cheeseburger salad!
Breakfast for supper will never stop being wonderful, because breakfast foods are some of the best foods. Pancakes, crepes, quiches, and frittatas, and the whole wide world of breakfast meats. If you’re not a morning person—and I’m notoriously not—you might not want to make this all in the morning. Embrace the muffins and bacon at night, instead.
Let the kids have oatmeal or cereal for breakfast and leave the more intensive cooking for nighttime. You’ll be happier, and so will they. Try this Six-Ingredient Sausage Potato Pie, or Bell-Pepper Egg in a Hole with delicious blueberry whole-grain muffins.
Look at you, here at the end of the work and school week. You’ve been feeding yourself and these little people, and it’s almost the weekend! Celebration time. You know what that means, right? Pizza. It means pizza.
If you like making homemade pizza, surrounded by adoring little faces who want to add toppings with you, do that. Here’s a good recipe for the easiest homemade pizza ever. If you’re more of a frozen pizza family, there’s no judgement here.
There’s no reason meal planning needs to be intimidating, and sometimes just sticking with a simple framework makes things happen. Every Monday do a chicken dish, Tuesday do Mexican food (or Italian, etc.), Wednesday is grill night, Thursday is breakfast for dinner, and Fridays are pizza. Add soup and salad for Saturday night, and Sundays are leftovers.
Pick types of foods your family likes, assign those foods to a day, and then explore options within those genres. Here’s another Federalist article all about distilling your meals into a simple, workable plan to fill out the rest of your school year.
May your suppers be simple and filling, and filled with minimal complaints!