Life is crazy and busy. This is nothing new really, with 2 kids in school & extracurricular activities and 3 toddlers. However, I’m learning an all new kind of crazy and busy now that our daughter is in middle school sports. She has practice or a game five nights a week and our son is playing soccer with a game at least one night a week. They also have homework and play instruments in band and they want to go to the high school football games too. Then there is youth group on Sundays and going to see grandparents and…the list goes on and on not to mention how busy the three little boys are just being boys. Dinner time needs to be easy a lot of nights and I need good foods that will make my life easier and save me time. These tips for saving time on dinner during busy weeknights make my crazy, busy days seem much more manageable.
Use a Slow Cooker
The slow cooker can save you so much time! Whether you’re home all day or gone, the slow cooker can be working all day while you are busy doing other things. Putting whole meals in the slow cooker in the morning while the kids are getting ready for school or before you leave for the day is a great way to save time. You can also prep meals in advance and freeze them so all you have to do is drop them in the slow cooker and turn them on in the morning.
One of my favorite things to make in the slow cooker is a whole chicken. It’s easy and it’s also a really inexpensive meat. Whole chickens can often be picked up for less than $1 per pound. To cook it in the slow cooker rinse it, coat it with coconut oil and your favorite spices, and place it in the slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours. No need to add any liquid or anything! When you’re ready to eat, serve it with your favorite sides for an easy and fast meal. That brings me to my next time saving tip…
Keep Easy to Prepare Sides on Hand
Everyone loves homemade mashed potatoes or fresh green beans slow cooked. The truth is though that these things take time to prepare and there are products available that can save you time without sacrificing taste or nutrition. We will buy frozen veggies when they are on sale and steam them for dinner lots of nights or when we have time we like to buy fresh and freeze our own. However, when it comes to potatoes, our only substitute for homemade is Idahoan Signature Russets. No one ever suspects I didn’t make these from scratch!
Unlike homemade mashed potatoes, these are ready in minutes. So when my slow cooker chicken is ready and I walk in the door from a busy day, I can quickly toss frozen veggies in my microwave steamer, boil water and have great tasting mashed potatoes on the table with the rest of dinner in less than 10 minutes! That is a quick and easy weeknight dinner for our family of 7.
The Idahoan Signature Russets come in 3 different size pouches – enough to serve 4, 12, or 20. They can be cooked with milk and butter or with just water and once your water has boiled are ready in just 1 minute. They are so easy to prep that we not only make them as a side but my older kids enjoy them as a snack sometimes and can make prepare them easily. You can pick up these re-sealable pouches at your local Walmart and Kroger stores.
Whether it’s buying fresh veggies when they are on sale and cleaning, cutting, and freezing them to have on hand for the weeks and months ahead or prepping full meals, prepping ahead is a huge time saver. You can buy ground beef in large packages and brown it in large batches, seasoning it for different dishes and freezing it in individual packages for chili, tacos, spaghetti and other meals throughout the month. This makes meal prep those nights go so much faster. This is also a money saver as you can often find better deals on bigger packages of meats or buy produce and other foods when they are nearing the end of their shelf life.
When we make slow cooker chicken there is always enough left over to make soup one night too. When we make chili there is usually some left over and we add noodles to make a chili-mac or what my family call goulash. Leftovers mean quick and easy dinner night. Sometimes there isn’t enough of one leftover for all of us but there are several things and we have “leftover night” where everyone picks their favorite. This is a great way to make sure food gets eaten and not thrown away! It’s also about the quickest way to feed everyone.
What are some of your favorite tips for saving time on dinner during busy weeknights?
To support my blogging efforts and site expenses, I do share relevant affiliate links in my posts. Thank you for your support.