4 Low-Stress Ways to Get Dinner on the Table

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For working adults and parents, or for those who are just plain busy, the expectations to have a full dinner on the table every night are high. For most, those expectations usually are self-inflicted. It can be hard for some to let go of this notion, but try and realize that a full course dinner is not necessary. Here are some ways to make dinnertime easier on everyone. 

Cut Out the 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 smoothie
  • Veggie quesadilla (spinach, peppers and mushrooms) with fresh fruit, seasoned pinto beans and a fresh green salad
  • Scrambled egg tacos (whole-wheat tortillas, salsa and avocado) with fresh fruit and seasoned black beans
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches with fresh fruit and a tomato and mozzarella salad

Prep Four Meals in Advance

It is possible to meal prep four meals in less than two hours. When prepping meals that are not going into the freezer, use the leftovers rule: Make food four days in advance and keep it refrigerated, then reheat on the stovetop, oven or microwave. Not all foods reheat well, so use your best judgment. Rice dishes, chicken, broth-based soups and casseroles usually reheat well and taste just as good or even better than the first day. Here are some ideas for make-ahead meals that can be kept in the fridge:

Tomato and spinach soup. Make ahead and whip up some grilled cheese on whole-wheat bread while the soup is reheating.

Rice and beans. Add a fresh green salad while the rice and beans are reheating.

Jambalaya with brown rice. Add a quick slaw and smoothie.

Get Some Help from Convenience Foods

If you are really short on time, give yourself a break and pair some quick-cooking convenience items with fresh ingredients and go to bed happy and full. Here are some combinations:

90-second rice, farro or quinoa packets. Add grilled chicken, fresh fruit and a salad.

Salad kits. Add quick-seared flank steak, grilled chicken, black beans or smoked salmon to a kit for an ultra-quick dinner. Add a smoothie and a whole-grain roll to round out the meal.

Tomato sauce. Look for a brand with no added sugar and add a quick-cooking pasta like angel hair. Slice chicken very thin 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.

Break Out the Slow Cooker

This one is a no-brainer. If you have a slow cooker, then you probably already know how to use it. Sometimes the options can get a little boring, but it works in a pinch. There are many recipes that are a slow 8-hour cook time, so that’s perfect if you’re gone all day. A couple favorites of mine include a chicken and black bean soup that I serve with already-made cornbread and a salad kit, and pulled pork paired with a quick slaw and fresh fruit.

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Sarah Pflugradt

Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, is a freelance writer, blogger at Salubrious RD. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.