For those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking, here’s a list of a week’s worth of quick and easy meals that are super kid-friendly.
I love cooking. I really do…but if my husband is working late…I have about zero motivation to cook a nice dinner for me and my two little boys. Go figure…my four-year-old and two-year-old don’t really appreciate the subtle flavors of chicken and asparagus roulades.
My husband is usually home for dinner (family dinner is something I feel really strongly about), but the first week of the month is busy for him at work, and there are usually a few evenings he has to work late. Sometimes we have leftovers those nights, or occasionally I fall back on macaroni and cheese, but I like to keep the processed stuff to a minimum (I’m not a paleo purist or anything…it’s just that every time I open that packet of “cheese” I wonder what I’m actually feeding my kids).
So, I have developed a list of quick and easy meals that are super kid-friendly (and that I like, too). All of these meals fulfill the following requirements:
- My kids and I both genuinely like them
- They take 15 minutes or less to make
- They involve multiple food groups (always a good idea)
Since my husband left this morning for a weekend horse trip with an old friend (which means I’m flying solo with the kids for the next few days..HELP!), you can bet several of the following meals are on the menu for this weekend!
I hope you’ll find some use for them, too. Enjoy!
Meals to make when you just don’t feel like cooking:
- Breakfast burritos (or any other kind of breakfast for dinner) – This is my favorite go-to meal, probably because these burritos only take about 5 minutes to make. When I was single, if I wasn’t cooking dinner with roommates or going out with friends, there was a good chance I was making myself a breakfast burrito. High in protein, and it’s easy to add spinach and other good-for-you ingredients to up the healthy-factor. Here’s my favorite ham & spinach breakfast burrito recipe.
- Grilled cheese & soup (with a twist) – A classic, but sure to please the kids. And, if you want to make your own a little more gourmet, try making a ham and swiss cheese (I love Jarlsberg) sandwich on sourdough bread. Before you cook the sandwich, slice some green apples REALLY thin and put them in the sandwich. I know it sounds weird, but it’s SOOO good! If your kids aren’t buying the whole apples-in-my-sandwich idea, it’s easy enough to just slice theirs and serve them as a side dish. Add some quality canned soup (or homemade soup if you feel ambitious) and you’ve got a winner of a dinner.
- Pasta salad – Boil some pasta. Rinse and drain. Mix in some diced tomato, cucumber, olives, and avocado (or whatever you want). Add some shredded cheese (we like mozzarella). If you have some leftover grilled chicken, this is another good meal to use it in. Finish it off with a little Italian dressing (my boys like it better without the dressing, so I just put it on mine). Voila! Dinner is done in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
- Mexican casserole – This recipe from my own childhood is a great weeknight meal. The traditional version takes a little longer than 15 minutes, but if you omit the meat and just use chili (or use pre-cooked meat that you keep in your freezer), it comes together in a snap. You can even microwave it instead of baking it to speed up the cooking time, then just pop it under a broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the top.
- Baked potato bar – Wash your potatoes, pierce them with a fork (so they don’t explode), and cook in the microwave for 6-8 minutes until done. If you want to crisp up the outsides, rub with a little olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and throw in the oven (or toaster oven) for a few minutes. We usually top ours with chili, cheese, sour cream, broccoli or peas, and whatever else sounds good at the time.
- Quesadillas/Nachos – I’m lucky enough to have kids who love tomatoes and avocados, so quesadillas and nachos actually end up being a relatively balanced meal for us. Spread out some chips, add dollops of refried beans, sprinkle with cheese, and toast in the oven until the cheese melts. Add your favorite taco toppings, and you’re in business. For quesadillas, sometimes we just use cheese; other times I’ll add leftover grilled chicken or beans if they’re handy. We always have tomatoes and avocados with them.
- French picnic (bread, cheese, fruit) – When I studied abroad in Europe many moons ago, one of my favorite things was to go buy a baguette, some cheese, and a piece of fruit and take it to a park to eat and enjoy “the general splendor” of Europe (can anyone figure out the movie quote there?). I still love to do cheese & bread or crackers paired with whatever fruit I have on hand. Sometimes, when all else fails, I just start pulling things out of the fridge from various food groups until I have enough to constitute a meal..if I call it a French picnic, it makes me feel posh. 🙂
Rounding out the meal:
A lot of these meals need a side dish or two to really make them into a healthy balanced meal. When it’s just me and the little boys, though, you won’t find me doing anything fancy. Here are some of our favorite simple sides to add to these meals.
- sliced fruit (apples, pears, peaches…whatever is in season)
- fruit salad
- simple spinach salad (with apples, grapes, strawberries, etc.)
- diced tomato and avocado
- baby carrots (or, lately, carrot sticks from our own garden!)
- frozen peas (they love that they are little balls)
- apple sauce
And that’s how we keep things simple, but still healthy around here.
What are your go-to meals for when you don’t feel like cooking?
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