Always Be Prepared for an Easy Last Minute Dinner

Always Be Prepared for an Easy Last Minute Dinner

It is inevitable that at some point we will need an easy last minute dinner. Even if you have mastered the art of menu planning, life happens. When I became a stay at home mom, almost a decade ago, I had aspirations of preparing a beautiful dinner from scratch every night. Ha! Friend, that is not real life. We get tired, forget something at the grocery store, we lose track of time playing with the kids. Sometimes we simply don’t want to cook. All of these are valid reasons for needing a plan B for an easy last minute dinner.

Pantry Staples

Having a stocked pantry makes throwing dinner together really pretty easy. For the record, I view a successful meal as one that includes the main macronutrients of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Also, my picky children have to actually eat the meal for it to be successful. Here is a list of things I always have on hand:

  • brown rice
  • lentil or chickpea pasta
  • instant macaroni and cheese
  • cereal
  • oatmeal
  • jarred marinara sauce
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • ranch dressing
  • hummus
  • frozen chicken nuggets
  • frozen fish sticks
  • frozen salmon filets
  • frozen vegetables (broccoli, peas, whatever you like)

As you can see, cooking with these pantry staples would create a an easy dinner without much forethought. There is nothing wrong with the occasional cereal night with a side of fruit. Or instant mac and cheese with chicken nuggets. I mean, those are probably already your kids’ favorite meals!

Freezer Meals

Another way to be prepared for last minute dinners is to utilize freezer meals. This take more forethought and planning, but that effort has a big return. If your time and budget allows, I would really encourage you to take a Saturday and prepare several meals to immediately freeze. Here is a great list of 51 freezer meals from Imperfectly Happy Home. If stocking the freezer all at once doesn’t work for your family, that’s ok! You can still double recipes and freeze left overs. I tend to keep spaghetti sauce, shepherd’s pie, left over soups, and things like that ready to go in my freezer. I really like using these disposable containers to freeze meals in. They are individual serving size, which prompts me to save even just a lunch portion.

Snack Dinners

Finally, I have saved the best for last. Yes, the art of snack dinners. This is probably my favorite easy last minute dinner idea because it involves zero cooking. And let’s face it, we all have nights when we loathe the idea of cooking. Go to your kids’ snack shelf and start unwrapping. There is no shame, mama. I fully believe you have the snacks available to make a well rounded dinner for your child. A snack dinner for my kids usually looks like this: a Larabar, whatever fruit we have, carrots with hummus, and some sort of chip or cracker. Boom. Done. Additionally, if you use paper plates, then you actually have zero clean up. It’s literally the best on nights when you just can’t.

Having the expectation that we will always be able to cook from scratch is unrealistic and sets us up for failure. Some days we are extra tired, sick, or maybe we are busy with extracurricular activities. Whatever it is, we don’t have to be caught off guard. Being prepared for the unexpected saves our sanity as well as our budget (take out is expensive!). What are some methods you have used to throw together dinner? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to subscribe and share with your friends!

Intentional Days

Intentional Days

Hey there mama, are you experiencing intentional days? The seasons are changing. Fall and pumpkin spice are in the air. Crunching leaves are beneath your feet. I love fall so much, but any change of seasons is a special time. It’s a time to reflect on the months previous and be grateful for lessons learned. Now, I realize those lessons might have been taught through hard and stressful days, but lessons they were none the less. For example, I learned that I need to include things that I want for lunches during the week into my grocery shopping. I mean, I can only eat a PB&J so many times, unlike my children who are content to relish it daily.

A Time for Change

Fall not only brings about a change in the weather, it almost always brings a change to schedules and routines. Kids are returning to school (however new and odd that looks this year #2020). Even if you homeschool, days are able to be filled with more time outside and seasonal experiences. Last week, I shared about how to plan and live intentionally with the big things in life, whatever that is for you. But today, I want to talk about how to plan for and have intentional days with the little mundane things.

Now, I’m not saying I am perfect by any means, but when I intentionally plan for my week, my day to day life is much less stressful. I’m not talking about big abstract things, I am talking about things like menu planning, lesson planning, and schedule planning. Yep, it seems simple, right? It is. But this is something I have found takes a real discipline to stay committed to. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of waking up Monday morning and thinking, “Oh, shoot! What do I have going on this week?”. Then having to quickly spend rushed mental energy trying to remember all.the.things. It is much easier to take some time on Friday afternoon and peacefully make a game plan (plan of attack) for the following week. Warm up that left over cup of coffee you never finished and stick the kids in front of the tv (no shame!) and let’s make a plan!

Gathering the Right Tools

Here’s a random fact about me. I love office supplies. Put me in an Office Depot, and I will be content for hours. However, as much as I love paper planners and stickers and pretty pens, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to have the perfect tools to plan your week well. You don’t. Also, don’t think the way you plan for your family has to look like the way I plan for my family. We all have different needs and focuses. This year, I have been using a daily planner. It has been okay, but I really miss having a weekly set up. So, I’ll be switching back to the Erin Condren Life Planner next year. You might prefer to use a monthly calendar. Or just recycle the back of that mile long CVS receipt. What ever works for you!

Forming an Intentional Habit

So, what does the process look like for me? Well, when I am really on top of my game, hubby and I have a “calendar meeting,” where we take fifteen minutes to discuss any appointments we having coming up and who is taking who to various sports activities. Then, I write out any other commitments I have with the kids. Do we have a play date this week? Are we going to have a movie night? Write it down. All of it. Next comes menu planning. This is best done at home, before you are actually at the the grocery store, ha.

Typically, I will look over our nights and decide which nights I need to prepare dinner early (sports’ practice night), which nights need to be a quick and easy dinner (nights when I’m working), and which nights I can cook a full meal. Next, I will go to the pantry and freezer and see what we already have on hand, and I will try to form my weekly dinner menu around that. This helps our grocery budget as well. I do all of this on Fridays. That is what is working for us now in this season.

At this point, I have schedules, activities, and meals planned. The only thing left for me to do is do our homeschool lesson plans. If I am being transparent, this is something I am still trying to hone in on. This is our first full semester homeschooling, and I feel like our lessons are a lot of trial and error. And that is ok! It took time for me to develop a weekly planning method that worked well for schedules, activities, and meals. It takes practice, and it’s okay if it takes you time as well. But the reward is so great. Six days a week, I don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what we are going to have for dinner. It’s not a surprise when I get a reminder text about an upcoming appointment, and my kids feel valued because I didn’t forget that I told them they could stay up late one night and watch a movie. Totally worth it.

What about you? Do you have a method for planning your days? Tell me about it in the comments below.