The week has been a busy one at my house. There have been meetings on top of kids' activities on top of more meetings. Every single night this week, we have somewhere to be and something to do.
And when everything ends around 5:30 p.m. or starts around 6:30 p.m., that doesn't leave an awful lot of time to get dinner on the table. Still, I try my hardest to make something at home and not rely on pizza or Chinese or the salad bar at Whole Foods (which can get pretty pricey when you're feeding four people!).
When we don't have a lot of time, we'll often throw together some sandwiches, have breakfast for dinner or mix up some spaghetti. But here are three other meals that I rely on when it's time to get dinner on the table in a hurry.
1. Bean burritos
- What you need: A can of beans (we use black beans), a jar of salsa, cooked rice, shredded cheese and tortillas. I try to have these things on hand at all times.
- What to do: Drain and rinse a can of beans and heat it up with about half of a 16-ounce jar of salsa. Cook the rice, according to the package. Fill the tortilla with rice, beans, cheese and more salsa. Even better if you have tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, sour cream and other burrito fixings. In a pinch, we'll eat it without the tortillas and just top the beans and other items on rice. I sometimes make the rice during the day when I have a bit more time and then heat it up for dinner.
2. Dinner salads
- What you need: I always try to keep salad fixings on hand so I usually have the basics for this - lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, carrots. Maybe some mushrooms and green pepper. Then I pull out whatever I have in the refrigerator and pantry. Some examples: Cheese; leftover meat; cooked vegetables; pasta salad; roasted potatoes; boiled eggs; apples; grapes; pears; dried cranberries; raisins; canned tuna or chicken; and nuts.
- What to do: Make a salad bar on your own table, setting out what you have. Let your family choose what they want.
3. Eaters' Choice Night
- What you need: At least some food in the refrigerator and pantry. Your cupboards can't be bare for this one.
- Let your kids go wild, letting them pick whatever they want to eat for dinner within whatever guidelines you set. I require a protein and at least one vegetable. I let my six-year-old open the refrigerator, pick her foods and make her own plate. I don't cook anything on these nights, but I will heat up leftovers or make some toast, for instance, if that's what she wants. My husband and I usually eat leftovers or have an appetizer night with cheese and crackers, hummus, veggies and fruit. This is a good way to empty the refrigerator. You just can't do it too often or the novelty wears off (at least for my kid).
So that's how I get dinner on the table quickly? How do you do it?