Even if you are a typically busy mom, you may recall an earlier era when your own mother worked to make a mouthwatering meal from scratch and called everyone in to sit down together and enjoy it. In a different world of work inside and outside the home, such traditions may go begging. Still, "even in the face of a busy lifestyle, I refuse to give up the family dinner tradition," writes editor Elizabeth Taliaferro in "Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites." The solution is incredibly easy weeknight meals that gather the family -- just like in the days of more elaborate preparations.
Easy weeknight meals start with a pantry, refrigerator and freezer stocked with the items you most commonly use. Buy bulk quantities of available items to avoid running out. Keep shelf-stable creamy salad dressings and dried dip mixes on hand. Alphabetize your spices and keep a dry-erase board on the side of the fridge to list things as you run out. Do the bulk of your shopping once a week, with additional brief trips for perishables.
A binder can hold the dozen or so recipes your family loves best. The more often you repeat a meal, the less time it takes and the easier it becomes. Eventually you won't be consulting your written menu and you'll be able to improvise, find shortcuts and effortlessly start the water boiling for pasta so it's ready by the time the sauce and vegetables have heated. Pick one main dish for each weeknight so that you only repeat twice a month and add simple sides. These side dishes can have more variation than the main menu items so the kids learn about new foods and avoid boredom, notes "Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites."
Recipes abound designed for the busy parent wondering how to provide a nutritional, at-home meal instead of carryout or fast food. "Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites" recommends golden macaroni and cheese from scratch, with a milk and cheddar cheese sauce stirred into drained macaroni, topped with breadcrumbs or crushed croutons and baked uncovered in the oven. Or a cheeseburger meatloaf, mixing lean ground beef, cheddar, uncooked oats, milk, an egg and seasonings including chili sauce, baked in a meatloaf pan. In Reader's Digest "Weeknight Meals Made Easy," the editors find baked salmon a luscious base for an easy honey-and-mustard marinade or avocado salsa. In "Express Lane Meals," celebrity chef Rachel Ray votes for seared tuna steaks on white beans with grape tomatoes or flavored tortellini tossed with spinach, artichoke hearts and creamy Parmesan dressing.
Make the meal as easy as possible by stocking your kitchen with frozen vegetables, microwaveable mashed potatoes, microwaveable rice, precut fruits and vegetables, salad kits and ready-made side dishes from the grocery store deli. Taliaferro recommends. Have the kids help with age-appropriate tasks. Three-year-olds can wash fruits and vegetables and stir ingredients. Once your kids are 5, they can measure ingredients, and 9- to 12-year-olds can follow an easy recipe beginning to end.
Like This Article? Let Us Know!
- "Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites"; Elizabeth Taliaferro; 2006
- "Reader's Digest Weeknight Meals Made Easy"; 2010
- "Express Lane Meals"; Rachel Ray; 2006
- Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images