Friday, April 5, 2019

Weeknight Meals for Busy Families

Every day when my kids get home from school they ask "What's for dinner?" and every day I want to be like:


But, I don't because kids want to eat all the time (who knew? every mother every where, that's who.) and it's my job to feed them.  I know you're all in the same boat, as it's probably my number one request I get from you guys - to list out some meal ideas that we use to feed a gaggle of kids fast on nights when we are all coming home from work/school and running back out to meetings/church/sports events.  I'll admit, it's a little embarrassing to write out some of these simple meals, but I'm nothing if not honest, so I'll eat the humble pie and let you in on our easy peasy tried and true weeknight meals.

Some rules to start:

1) We always keep fruit and veggies in the house to act as sides to these meals.  Think apple slices, baby carrots, cucumbers, frozen corn, frozen peas, grapes, lettuce, bananas, you get it.

2)  We also keep starchy sides on hand.  I'm talking potatoes, rice, pasta, frozen french fries, and chips (I know, humble city over here!)

3) We do NOT serve milk with dinner.  We have found that some of our kids would fill up on milk and not eat the main course.  So they get water with dinner and a cup of milk later in the evening before bed.

4) We serve what we serve and that's it.  If they do not want to eat it, they don't have to (they'll always eat something on their plate) but they don't get anything else to eat.  There are some items that toddlers just have a hard time eating, and I will make them a turkey hot dog or chicken nuggets instead, but not as a reward for not eating the first meal.  They get that as their first meal.

5) We eat a lot of protein (six growing boys!) and we do not have any food allergies, thank you Baby Jesus, so please don't  be offended by our gluten-dairy-animal-egg-filled choices.  I'm just a basic home cooking mom.

Without further ado, here's our weeknight meal rotations:

Rice Bowls
This is relatively new for us, but has been well received!  I cook a lot of rice using a can of coconut milk and water, roast green beans, then cook ground beef and season it with chile powder, paprika, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  We put the coconut rice in a bowl and top it with the ground beef and green beans and squeeze lime juice on top.  You can literally change this up in so many ways, so experiment!

Burgers with salad and chips
We eat burgers almost every week.  Just keep frozen hamburger patties on hand, either store bought or make your own when the ground beef goes on sale.  We grill right from frozen.

Crockpot Chicken with couscous and broccoli
The chicken cooks all day while you're at work.

Meatball sliders with baby carrots and apple slices
Put frozen meatballs in crockpot with a big jar of sauce on low all day and serve into small rolls or hot dog rolls.

Pasta and meatballs with salad
Homemade the night before, or frozen ones cooked in the crockpot that morning.

Pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and baked beans
In the crockpot, place a pork shoulder/butt with bbq sauce and shred once cooked.

This one is easy if you can prep the chicken the day before, either pulling the meat off of a baked or rotisserie chicken, or just cooking and chopping up some breasts.  Then you make a roux, add chicken broth and milk, cooked veggies (we do peas, carrots, corn, green beans) and season.  I add some sherry at the end and throw in the cooked chicken.  Serve over rice, biscuits, toast, egg noodles, etc.

Taco Pie 
Make two boxes of cornbread mix (we love Trader Joe's) and mix in a small bag of shredded cheese.  Pour that into a big pan that already has cooked and taco-seasoned ground turkey, black beans, canned tomatoes or salsa in there (you can add sauteed onions and peppers or whatever your kids will eat).  Bake until cornbread is cooked and serve.

Grilled chicken with rice and peapods 
We marinate chicken breasts in regular full-fat Italian dressing the night before.  

Steak subs with cut veggies 
The grocery store sells shaved steak, and I cook that with some garlic and onion powder, then add in cheese at the end so it's all gooey and serve into sub rolls.  This is a hard one for the littles to eat, so I would cook turkey dogs for them.

Salad with chicken and toppings
I buy either the perdue grilled chicken strips or the frozen breaded chicken strips and cook them to put on top of the salad.  We put out bowls of toppings - crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, diced apples, croutons, etc for kids to create their own salad.

Taco bar 
I cook ground turkey and season it, add in a can of refried beans or leftover rice to stretch the meat, then put out chopped lettuce and cheese and soft taco shells.  Another easy option is just to throw some frozen chicken breasts and a jar of salsa in the crockpot, let cook all day, and then shred for use in tacos, nachos, etc.  Leftovers make great quesadillas.  

Grilled chicken sausages and turkey kielbasa with oven browned potatoes and veggies
Just buy the chicken sausage/turkey kielbasa from the store and grill, then slice and serve with the potatoes and veggies (potato dicer here).

Homemade mac n cheese 
(Can I admit that most of my kids prefer Annie's mac n cheese to our homemade??  Weirdos.)

Ham or sausage gravy over biscuits with fried eggs and fruit
We make a roux, add milk and season with onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Add the cooked sausage or diced ham.  Phil makes homemade biscuits but when he's not around, I serve over canned biscuits or toast/english muffins.

Breakfast for Dinner
A house favorite and since we don't have much time to make big breakfasts on the weekends, I like making this once every other week.  We scramble eggs, cook bacon or sausage, make pancakes or toast, and cut up fresh fruit.  Y'all know how to make breakfast :)

Shepherd's Pie
This comes together easy using ground beef, leftover gravy from a pot roast on the weekend, frozen peas/carrots, and pre-made mashed potatoes, if you don't have the time to make your own.  Just layer and bake!

Ham and cheese baked sandwiches with chips and carrot sticks

Soup and Bread!  
I will cook a big pot of soup the night before we are going to eat it.  My kids like cheddar broccoli soup, cheeseburger soup (but real cheese instead of velveeta), chicken noodle soup, ham and potato soup, and zuppa toscana.  I always add extra veggies and blend them so they are not detected!  Stick blender highly recommended for cooking for picky eaters!  We make this easy bread (or bake rolls from the freezer).

So those are the most popular meals we make during the week, that I can easily remember off the top of my head.  On weekends, we cook things that take longer, like pork roast, roast chicken, pot roast (anything with roast in the title I guess!), meatloaf, lasagna, salisbury steak, etc. 

Even though there are more than seven, I'm still linking up with Kelly's 7 Quick Takes because it's Friday and that's how I roll.  Please feel free to comment below with some of your favorite EASY weeknight meals.  I always love new ideas from fellow moms in the trenches, thanks!


  1. We do breakfast for dinner once a week. Just eggs and cheese and toast and the kids love it... plus it is super easy!

  2. Made the crockpot chicken tonight - so good! Easy to add mashed potatoes and veggies and dinner was done. :)


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