Stress-Free Dinner Prep

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My clients are busy people, and yet they still carry surprisingly high expectations for themselves when it comes to having a full dinner on the table every night. It can be hard to let go of this notion, but listen to me: A full course dinner is not necessary. All those studies you hear about eating healthfully and eating together and the phenomenal success it’ll bestow upon you and your children? That success will come whether you’re eating gourmet or gas station. Seriously. So let’s let it go and figure out a strategy that leaves you less frazzled. Here’s how:

1. Forget Fancy

Some dinner ideas that can be whipped up in 20 minutes or less:

  • Sandwiches, fresh fruit, veggies and hummus
  • Eggs, toast, fruit and green smoothies
  • Veggie quesadillas (spinach, peppers and mushrooms) with fresh fruit, seasoned pinto beans (from a can, natch) and a fresh green salad
  • Ground turkey or beef tacos (pre-made taco seasoning packets, tortillas, pre-shredded cheese, salsa and any veg you have on hand) with fresh fruit and black beans
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches with fresh fruit and baby carrots

2. Don’t Shy Away From Convenience Foods

Give yourself a break by pairing quick-cooking convenience items with fresh ingredients and go to bed full, relaxed and happy. Here are some combos:

  • 90-second rice or quinoa packets. Add grilled chicken, fresh fruit and a salad.
  • Salad kits: Add quick-seared steak, grilled chicken, black beans, oil-packed tuna or smoked salmon to a kit for an ultra-quick dinner.
  • Tomato sauce: Look for a brand with no added sugar (Rao’s marinara is a fan favorite at my house) and add a quick-cooking pasta like angel hair (4 minutes from dry!?). Thinly slice some chicken breast and add to a sauté pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper while the pasta is cooking.
  • Tuna packets: Whip up a quick tuna salad sandwich or add tuna to a salad or pasta or eat plain alongside a fresh salad and fruit. You don’t even need to drain these. What’s your excuse?

3. Love Up On Your Slow Cooker

This one is a no-brainer. There are many recipes with an 8-hour cook time, perfect if you’re gone all day. Soups, stews and chilis won’t dry out – serve these up with pre-made cornbread or crusty rolls and a salad kit, or venture into meatier territory with a low ‘n’ slow pulled pork butt paired with a quick slaw (pre-chopped cabbage FTW) and fresh fruit.

4. Always Have A Plan B

Make a list of 10 meals to make when you just . . . cannot. Stocking your pantry and freezer with some easy go-to’s means no takeout, a more healthful meal and more time with those you love (or on the couch in front of the TV). Canned beans, frozen veg, frozen chicken and/or turkey/fish burgers, pre-cut vegetables, rice and other quick-cooking grains . . . there you’ve got it – a protein, vegetable and starch in under 30. Not fancy but gets it DONE.