It’s back to school time again, and for many families, that means back to the hustle and bustle of school, work and extra-curricular activities. Transitioning from slower-paced summer evenings to busy school nights can be a challenge. Especially when it comes to making sure everyone gets a healthy dinner. It can be all too tempting to blow the budget by picking up take-out or heading out to a restaurant. But, with a little planning, you can have a delicious meal on the table in no time without breaking the bank.
My routine is to use Saturday morning as a planning period. I spend a little time planning my family’s menu for the week, then make a grocery list from that. I usually plan meals based on my local grocery store’s weekly sale paper. That alone can be a big money-saver. Then, I hit the store, coupons and shopping list in hand. (Another money-saving tip: stick to your list!).
Sunday afternoon or evening I spend an hour or so prepping ingredients for the upcoming week’s dinners. This makes the weeknights run much more smoothly, and dinner can usually be on the table in 30 minutes or less! With a little effort and planning, weeknight dinners can be fun instead of panic-inducing. Here is a sample week, with 5 nights of cheap and quick recipes.
On Sunday, fire up the grill, and throw on some extra chicken. You can use that for meals later in the week. Shred some of it and throw it in the freezer for Wednesday’s dinner.
Monday: Grilled Chicken Salad
Pull out that grilled chicken from the day before, slice it up and serve on top of a bed of romaine lettuce, piled high with fresh veggies and your salad dressing of choice. Delicious served with a side of garlic bread. The veggies can be sliced during your Sunday afternoon prep time, and this meal comes together in less than 20 minutes!
Tuesday: Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas
These yummy quesadillas are sure to pass the kid test. Adults love them, too!
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (may omit if you don’t like things too spicy)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
Sour cream and salsa for serving
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in beans and corn, then add salsa and pepper flakes; mix well. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.
2. Melt 2 teaspoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet, sprinkle evenly with cheese, then top with some of the bean mixture. Place another tortilla on top, cook until golden, then flip and cook on the other side. Melt more butter as needed, and repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
3. Use a pizza cutter to cut each quesadilla into quarters. Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side.
Recipe courtesy: Allrecipes.com
Wednesday: Slow-Cooker Chicken and Dumplings
There is nothing better than dinner waiting for you when you get home, and the slow-cooker is a great secret weapon for busy weeknights. This is my go-to chicken and dumpling recipe; great for leftover chicken. Remember that grilled chicken you shredded and put into the freezer on Sunday? Here’s where you use it!
3-4 Boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can refrigerated biscuits (10 count)
Place chicken, butter, soup, milk and broth in slow cooker. Cut biscuits into quarters and put in slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
Thursday: Make Your Own Mini-Pizzas
Photo by Kraft
Everyone loves pizza, right? This is a great recipe to get the kids involved. Put all the toppings out, and let everyone create their own pizza! Use your imagination, the topping possibilities are endless. Serve them up with a side salad.
4 English muffins, cut in half, toasted
½ cup pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
24 slices pepperoni
¼ cup black olives
¼ cup diced bell pepper
¼ cup chopped mushrooms
Heat oven to 400ºF.
Place muffin halves on foil-covered baking sheet; spread with pizza sauce.
Top with desired remaining ingredients.
Bake 8 to 10 min. or until cheese is melted.
Recipe courtesy: Kraft
Friday: Breakfast for Dinner
By the time the end of the week rolls around, your cupboards may be getting a little bare. This is a great time to serve up breakfast for dinner! My son loves the novelty of eating pancakes and eggs in the evening. It can be a fun way to celebrate the end of the week. Scramble up some eggs, and serve them with these delicious pancakes from the Pioneer Woman.