In an ideal world, dinner would always be planned and in the oven early in the day. There would be several courses, all healthy and tasty and everyone’s favorites would be incorporated into the meal. Let’s face it. A meal like that only comes along every once in a great while. In today’s hectic world, it is far more likely that dinner is last minute.
When life happens, it is good to have some quick meals that you can go to without spending a fortune or eating unhealthy fast food. While drive throughs might be okay occasionally, it is best not to eat them any more often than you absolutely have to. Here are some quick and easy tried and trues that our family uses in a pinch:
- Soup and Sandwiches – Although canned soup can work, it is quite high in sodium. I really like to control the ingredients in my soups and they almost always taste better than the canned variety. About once every two or three months, I will get out a huge stock pot and make a big pot of chicken noodle soup. I use chicken stock, boil real chicken, and add veggies, parsely and some whole grain egg noodles. Once the soup has cooked, I let it cool, add it to freezer bags, label and store flat in the freezer. When we need a quick meal, I run some warm water in the sink and float the bag of soup. It takes about 15 minutes for it to begin to thaw enough to come out of the bag and be put into a pot on the stove for reheating. I can have a quick and healthy soup (everyone makes their own sandwich) on the table in under 30 minutes. There is no way I could go to the drive through and return home in that time. This is also a comfort food for my family.
- Chicken Kabobs and Brown Rice – Although frozen foods sometimes have more sodium than I’d like, there are a few healthy options. One is chicken kabobs combined with brown rice. The little steamable bags of brown rice can be found in the freezer section of any big grocery store (they also have white and chicken rice, but I feel brown is a tiny bit healthier) near the frozen steamable veggies. You can usually get a small bag for about $1.50. The bag will feed three, so if you have a family of four (us) or more, you’ll need to adjust accordingly. I also like to have enough leftovers for my husband to take to lunch the next day. My other discover is chicken kabobs from Aldi’s. A box runs about $4.99. A box will feed our family, giving us about 3 skewers each. If you have a larger family or teen boys, you may need to purchase two boxes. I can have this meal on the table in under 30 minutes. In fact, the skewers only take 15 to 20 minutes to bake and the rice 3 minutes in the microwave. Costs for a family o f three is around $6.50. Definitely cheaper than eating out.
- Skillet Lasagna – Probably one of the best investments I’ve ever made is in my Pampered Chef cookware, which I got from my wonderful consultant Candy Fox (yes, I am shamelessly plugging her, because she is fabulous!). She also gives me quick and easy recipes that just happen to be tasty and budget friendly. Skillet lasagna is a recipe I got from Candy that I love. You can get the recipe from the Pampered Chef book 29 Minutes to Dinner. I suppose you could cook it in any large skillet, but why would you want to? My PC skillet is so easy to use and the perfect size (family size skillet). Okay, so you start the ingredients in your skillet and pop some frozen garlic bread in the oven. Another less than 30 minutes meal. Almost everyone in the family will eat this one too! Make it a little healthier with Dreamfield’s Pasta and a ready to go salad.
These are just a few of the meals I do that are quick and simple. I also do a lot of other things like pre-cooking and freezing things like Chili. I have found that many items do not work well frozen, but having the chili and the soups on hand is a definite benefit. I will let you know as I find others. Happy cooking!