Being a working parent and still getting dinner on the table can be a feat in itself. While lots of food companies have answered the call with easy meals (you know, those ones in the frozen section that you just toss in the oven, or those all-in-one box meals?), we all know that they can be lacking in the health, flavor and variety categories. And it is common knowledge that the drive-thru window should not know your order by heart.
So what’s a busy parent to do? Step one is to realize that you aren’t the only person dealing with this struggle of being a good parent AND a good worker. That’s not to reduce the anguish or the accomplishment; it’s just so you know you are not alone (as this article demonstrates). It just means there are resources out there to help you really do it all and do it well.
Here are our suggestions for how to have a full-time job and still get dinner on the table with your family. Pair these quick tips with our database of recipes for some great menu ideas.
Keep it Simple – Grilled cheese, hot dogs, and soups are all on the list of easy main courses. It’s ok to rely on these for a few dinners a week. Kids love the simpler foods, and these things are quick to make with things you can keep on hand easily. My mom would make steamed polish kielbasa for a quick main course. And it wasn’t until years later that I understood that baked potato dinner (one of my favorite meals) was my mom’s emergency meal.
Make Meals Ahead – If you don’t have time to make one meal, how would you have the time to make more than one? The answer is something I do myself. One day a week, I plan a meal that needs to bake for about 30 minutes. While the one meal is baking, I do all the prep work for the dinner the next day and pop it in the fridge. The next night, just pull it out and do the final prep work (usually just straight into the oven). Also, there are times I’ll prep three main dishes on a Saturday or Sunday and just label them with cooking temperature and time.
Set a Routine – In our house, it’s Thursday night tacos. No matter who gets home first, everyone knows to chop lettuce, tomatoes, onion and pepper. This helps keep things moving forward but keeps the actual mealtime flexible for when everyone is home.
Double What You Cook – This can work a few ways. First is just to double any recipe, and either freeze half or cook it all for great leftovers. You can also cook twice the amount of chicken or ground beef than you will use, and make that the basis of another meal. So as long as you are prepping and baking 4 chicken breasts, bake 8 and use half in the next night’s chicken and biscuits casserole or chicken salad or chicken fajitas.