Go-To Meals for Busy Back-to-School Nights
August 31, 2022
Meal Preparation: A Family Affair
Making Mealtime Easy
Adam and Dianne Riveiro
Dinner Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
Meal Preparation: A Family Affair
Who are you? Take a look:
- Daughter of the King
- Faithful Wife
- The Mama
- Heart Holder
- Love Giver
- Hug Dispenser
- Kissy Monster
- Encourager to All (including your friends)
- Activity Director
- Chief Educator
- Party Planner
- Doting Driver
- Grocery Shopper
- Dishwasher, Sweeper, Mopper, Laundry Girl
- Committed Disciplinarian
- Food Factory Service & Quality Control
- And way more than that!
You wear a lot of hats, don’t you? And you do it well. Not perfect, not even close, but you know that already. No one’s perfect but the Lord.
And now that all those back-to-school activities are in full swing, meal preparation may start to feel like a never-ending chore. It seems that between school and sports and music and church, the kids are always hungry, always grabbing snacks, and always asking, “what’s for dinner?” You really do feel like a food factory sometimes. Oh, to have a personal chef.
But since that’s not an option for most of us, how do we meal-plan for those extra busy days? Some people do meal calendars, where they print out a week or even the whole month and write out what they want to cook each day. This can help streamline your shopping list because you know exactly what ingredients you need and when.
Another option is freezer meals. Cook up a bunch of chicken, pork, meatloaf, pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and more on a weekend, and then freeze it to use during the week.
When I lived in California early in my marriage with four little ones underfoot, I joined a Mama dinner-co-op. Every week, several ladies showed up at my house or another central location with seven nights’ worth of dinners in tow, all the same.
For example, one night, I made seven complete family dinners consisting of tacos, rice, beans, corn, brownies and tea or juice. Another mom made seven complete family dinners—all the same—of frozen lasagna, buttered green beans, salad, homemade wheat bread with a jar of honey, and a gallon of chocolate milk. Each of us would share our identical meals in frozen containers along with baskets full of bread and desserts and other yummy things, so that when we all went home, we each had at least seven different dinners ready to go for the coming week. That was fun! Get a committed group of ladies because if even one is doing it half-heartedly, it falls apart fast.
These articles from The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine elaborate on these ideas and have other good suggestions as well:
5 Steps to Meal Planning by Alyssa Hemmer
Creating a 30-Day Meal Plan by Ruth O’Neil
Meal Planning: How to Save Time and Money by Brigitte Brulz
Don’t forget to get the kids to pitch in. Cooking is a life skill, and you can also turn it into a math lesson (measuring, doubling recipes) or a science lesson (convection versus conduction, chemical changes in mixing certain ingredients.)
In addition to chopping veggies or tossing the salad, your kids can also set the table beforehand and load the dishwasher afterward. Meal prep goes much more smoothly when you have help.
Keep walking because you’re doing an amazing job. Your kids may not see it yet, but they will someday, believe me. So stay the course and laugh a lot. In the meantime, His hand is on your head.
Mercy Every Minute
Deborah Wuehler, TOS Senior Editor
Making Mealtime Easy
I always say I am not a gourmet cook, but I can feed a lot of people. I may not even be a particularly healthy cook, per se. But, believe me, with eight kids and all their friends and all the family or neighbors that come over, I have learned to feed a lot of people in bulk, with simple ingredients, and fast preparation. When school is in full swing, I must have easy meals, or the day will end in cereal and milk. These easy meals are often creative; for instance, one day’s meal may begin with the leftovers of the previous day’s meal. And when I make casseroles, I try to make an extra dish either for the next day’s lunch, or to put in the freezer for another busy day. Here is what just one week of recipes might look like:
Monday — Rotisserie Chicken
Rotisserie chicken, herbed rice, and green salad. Use chicken broth in place of the water when cooking rice and season the rice with a variety of herbs before cooking. Your kids can even make easy drop biscuits to go with the meal. Save leftover chicken and rice.
Tuesday — Chicken Casserole
Dice the leftover rotisserie chicken (if no leftovers, use 2 cans of chicken breast), and add leftover rice, a can of creamed soup, and a package of frozen veggies (broccoli is good). Mix all into a casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. For larger batches, use more frozen veggies and more canned soup. Top with shredded cheese or French-fried onions. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Serve with fresh fruit or leftover salad from Monday.
Wednesday — Tacos
Brown ground beef or turkey with diced onions and garlic. (Make enough ground meat like this for three meals.) Season one portion with chili/taco powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. Use this portion for tacos. Warm the corn or flour tortillas, serve with ground meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Make a side of creamy beans using a can of refried beans mixed with a can of black beans, and season with taco seasoning or even a cup of salsa.
Thursday — Fast Chili
Use leftover taco meat (if any) and add with second portion of ground meat. In a soup pot, mix all meat with leftover creamed beans if any. Add a can of red enchilada sauce, a can of corn, a can of pinto beans, a can of black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and a box of chicken broth. (To make a larger batch, use two cans of each and another box of chicken broth to desired consistency.) Season with chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Heat and serve chili with one of these options: baked potatoes, hot dogs, or an easy boxed cornbread mix.
Friday — Shepherd’s Pie
Heat last portion of ground meat and season with thyme, salt and pepper, beef bouillon, and a bit of Worcestershire sauce. Add in frozen vegetables like corn, peas, and carrots. Boil potatoes for mashing or use prepared boxed flakes (no judgment here!) Layer a casserole dish with ground meat and vegetables, and top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese or dot with butter. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes.
Here are some more delectable ideas from our friends at The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine:
Homemade Goodness One Meal at a Time by Elisabeth Van Etten
The Home Cook: Thirty Days of Meals by Keith Mason
Freezer Cooking by Malia Russell
If you are looking for a place to create your own meal planning, try our digital SmartMama™ Planner. Did you know these are FREE for our SchoolhouseTeachers.com members? Only one of the many benefits of a membership. Another benefit is more recipes for members! Also included FREE is a print subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine! Now may be just the time to check out this membership!
Adam and Dianne Riveiro
Dinner Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
How often do we start the school year with plans of grandeur, only to have our first day of school turn into a disaster, where we find ourselves at 5 p.m. exhausted, grumpy, and HANGRY? Does this sound familiar? If it does, then here are a few tips our family uses to get ahead of the 5 p.m. “let’s just grab pizza tonight” conversation (not that there’s anything wrong with grabbing pizza!).
Prep and Cook Ahead
Prep and cook a batch of protein at the beginning of the week that you can turn into other meals quickly when dinner time comes. One of our favorite ideas is cooking up a pork roast in our Instant Pot. Serve it for dinner the first night as pork carnitas with black beans and yellow rice. With the leftovers you can make:
- Rice bowls with lots of salad veggies
- Street tacos with mango salsa and coleslaw.
- Cuban quesadillas (pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles . . . amazing!).
Now you’ve gotten three or four meals out of that one cooking session.
Stash Away Freezer Meals
Consider getting some freezer meals stashed away in the month before school starts. Here are a couple of my family’s favorites.
- Pre-made meatballs (homestyle is our favorite), a bottle of barbecue sauce, a sliced red onion, and canned pineapple pieces. Cook on low for 6 hours and serve with rice and roasted broccoli.
- Chicken breasts, taco seasoning packet, 2 cans of black beans, a can of corn, 2 cups of salsa. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with your favorite taco toppings.
Kitchen Tools Matter
Consider investing in the right kitchen tools to make your life easier. Our family regularly uses our Instant Pot. It makes cooking dinner so easy, and recipes just seem to come out so tasty. One of our favorite Instant Pot meals is Teriyaki chicken. It makes great leftovers too! For the full recipe and slow cooker instructions see: https://kristenboehmer.com/slow-cooker-teriyaki-chicken/
If All Else Fails . . . Order Pizza!
Our homeschooling lives can be complicated at times, as we try to meet all the different needs of the children God has entrusted to us, but dinner doesn’t have to be!
About the author
Pastor Adam and Dianne Riveiro live in Easton, Massachusetts, where Adam leads Liberty Baptist Church. They’re the authors of several books, including Hope from Our Heart to Yours: A 30-Day Devotional Journey for Special Needs Families, available from their family’s publishing label at www.readyscribepublications.com. They have four children: Bethany, Kaylee, AJ, and Peyton. They’re passionate about helping their fellow special needs families find joy and contentment in Christ.
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Not sure what to do for dinner? At SchoolhouseTeachers.com, there is an entire year of great recipes just waiting for you! Check out the Monthly Menu to find recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. Put your mind at ease and check off one more thing on your to-do list when you have SchoolhouseTeachers.com at your fingertips.
Try today’s menu option: Scrambled Eggs with Veggies
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