Let’s face it, our weekday dinners need to be nourishing and tasty but just as importantly, quick and convenient. Many families have extra-curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, meetings) that go well beyond school finish time and into the early evening. Often, there are multiple activities with multiple children on multiple nights. Feeling tired and hungry at the end of the day can lead to takeaway food choices that may not meet the needs of your active and growing children or indeed yourself. Life is busy, parents are time poor – and nourishing dinners need to be provided for everyone on your “shuttle bus” or waiting at home. A little pre-planning and organisation is the key to your dinner success. This will ensure happier eaters, nutritious food choices, better digestion and more timely bed routines.
Often simply thinking about what to cook at the end of a busy day can feel more arduous than the preparation and cooking of the meal – particularly, if you start prepping at 8.00pm. Make a weekly Family Food and Activities Planner that tracks the afternoon/nightly whereabouts of family members, the times people will get home, and whether the dinner is ready at home or the home-made dinner needs to travel to the night-time activity.
Cook around your family commitments, such as a cook-off on the weekend; or putting on a slow pot cooker in the morning or buddy up with some like-minded parents for a shared meal.
- Adopt the motto, “cook once, eat twice” or cook double the recipe for some meals that work well to re-heat or freeze (e.g. bolognaise, ragu, curries, soups, stews).
- Cook a slow-cooked meat or make an extra roast meat and vegetables on the weekend that can easily turn into multiple dinners during the week.
- If the cooked protein is done, you can quickly balance a meal with plentiful steamed vegetables, salads, wholemeal pasta, quinoa or rice.
For families with back-to-back schedules or later nights, having meals on the run may be a better option. Use portable, easy-to-reheat containers or try some new insulated food containers (double insulated, Thermos, Avanti) that keep hot foods hot for up to 7 hours.
- Prepare cauliflower & broccoli macaroni cheese; jacket sweet potato with Mexican mince; chicken, asparagus and pea risotto; satay vegetarian noodles; beef and broccoli udon noodles.
- Nourish bowls are great for dashboard dining – consider burrito bowl, freekah & roasted pumpkin bowl, teriyaki chicken, brown rice & greens, falafel bowl, sushi salmon bowl or chickpea, vegetable and pasta bowl.
- Make warm and nourishing soups such as lentil & vegetable soup, potato & leek soup, minestrone soup, pumpkin soup, lamb & lentil soup
- Take extra jars of vegetable sticks with a dip to boost the fibre and vegetable intake.
- Pack extra roast vegetables and add a tin of tuna or salmon or some extra BBQ chicken or drumsticks.
My tip for families is to aim for weekday dinners that are quick, nourishing and appeal to the masses. Let the weekend be your opportunity to have more time, creativity and fun with your family dinner preparation.