It’s 5:00 and it hits you like a ton of bricks. Your child just said those words that every mom dreads, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” after a day full of booger whiping, diaper changing and overall chaos management, you have had no time to even think about dinner. What now?
You open the cupboard to see a few lonely boxes of macaroni and cheese and a half sleeve of crackers. Oops, grocery shopping slipped through the cracks today. You’ve called the pizza man so many times in the past month that you’re on a first name basis… but the kids can never get enough pizza, right? Healthy tomatoes cancel out the greasy cheese, don’t they?
Hold it right there, sister. Let’s rewrite this scenario. Your life is busy, yes, but there are a few things you can do to get you and your children fed, happy and healthy all while keeping your budget firmly in place.
1. Meatless Mondays
Why it works: Have you seen the price of meat lately? If you’re going with a simple chicken or ground beef meal, it’s easily the most expensive part. If you want to make a hearty pot roast or steak? Forget it. I recommend choosing one day a week to go without meat (it doesn’t have to be monday, but I do love my alliterations.)
Going meatless also has health benefits. Meatless meals generally have less calories and less fat and getting rid of the meat leaves space that you can fill with other delicious nutrients that are too often forgotten. However, you don’t want to lose your protein source. A good cheap way to replace that protein is to combine two “incomplete” proteins such a beans and rice.
Meal Idea: Baked Potatoes with Black Beans and Corn
2. Pick Favorites
Why it works: I know, I know, picking favorites is generally a bad thing, but not here ladies!
You know there are things that your kids love and could eat every night, right? So cook them! Pick your 10 favorite easy meals and have the basic ingredients on hand. This means that when you realize it’s 5:00 and you don’t have a plan, you’re already taken care of. If you want bonus points you can even keep an eye out for sales on the ingredients and stock up.
Meal Idea: Homemade pizza on pre-made biscuits.
3. Plan Ahead
Why it works: Planning ahead allows you to get ahead of the game. Sit down with your planner at the beginning of the week and write down everything from that late meeting at work to Junior’s big football game. Then go back in and fill in what will be for dinner that night. This can be a rotation of the 10 favorites above, or you can even sneak in a few new ones if you’re daring. This makes it so you can plan to make enough for leftovers for a really busy night, or you can plan for a quick easy meal. No more of the 5:00 uncertainty.
Meal Ideas: Taco Soup (It’s easy to make a big batch for leftovers, or to put everything together in the morning and heat it up at night.)
4. Two by Two…
Why it works. I know you’ve done it. I sure have. Your recipe calls for a half cup of cilantro. A half cup?That’s only about half the bushel! What should you do with the rest? Maybe just put it in the fridge and hope the guilt of letting food go to waste doesn’t get you too down… not any more ladies! After you’ve completed step 3 (meal planning) take another look and see if you can’t put meals that use like ingredients together. Especially perishable things like fruits and vegetables. So if you’re dying to try a recipe your sister gave you that contains a quarter cup of green onions, try to plan something the next day that uses the rest of those green onions. Easy enough, right? You’ll be surprised how much this tip saves you by not wasting those expensive fresh goods.
Meal Idea: Baked Chicken Taquitos followed by Spicy chicken tacos (Recipes to come!)
5. Mix and Match
Why it works: You’re absolutely craving a delicious home grilled steak. How can you justify it though? Simply pair it with something that’s cheap and healthier. For example, you could add a half of a baked potato, a simple iceberg lettuce salad (buy it in the pre washed bag for an easier option) or use less of the meat by chopping it up in fajitas and mixing it with peppers and onions.
Meal idea: Fire grilled fajitas
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even have enough time to look in to going back to school (hint, hint) and when you are, Weber State University has the flexible options that work around your busy life.
Do you have a Quick, Healthy Budget dinner tip? Share it with me in the comments!
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