Week night dinners the easy way

We’ve all done it. We’ve angled into that drive-thru lane because we were too tired to cook or, worse, too unprepared. We know fast food isn’t healthy. We cringe as our kids insist on French fries instead of apples or carrots or whatever bone they are throwing out for us parents. Sometimes it is just easier to put on the blinders and hand over the debit card.

Cruising through week night dinners the easy way

But week night dinners do not have to be such a nutritional wasteland. With a little planning, a little restraint and a little determination, you can get through weeknight dinners easily.

Freezer cooking or once a month cooking (OAMC) is a popular idea to take advantage of downtimes to prepare for the busy week nights. It takes planning and stamina but many find it worth it in the long run. The concept is simple enough; plan 30 days' worth of meals, then cook and freeze them. Casserole dishes work great but, really, anything is fair game. During your busy work and school week, the extent of your prep work is to decide which bag or container to get out of the freezer for the next day.

Session cooking is similar to OAMC but not as intense. If you see ground beef on sale, for example, you can buy 10 pounds of it and prep it all in an evening. Patty some up for burgers, cook some meatballs and make a few meatloaves. You can also brown several pounds and store it in zip-top bags for quick meals like tacos, nachos or sloppy Joes.

Scheduled meals take a different approach. You still cook every night but it is the same meal every single Tuesday night so that you can move through the week on autopilot. If you have picky eaters, you can sit down and decide as a family what everyone will agree to eat and when.

Tag team cooking is the idea of having your spouse or an older child cook on designated nights. If you are swamped on Wednesdays with late meetings and picking everyone up from basketball practice, your partner owns the stove. Sometimes knowing that you have a night or two off off is enough to get you through the week without the drive-thru.

Planned pizza is just a way of saying that you can plan a night out every week or once a month. The benefit of planning it is that you can pick a night when kids eat free or pizza is half off. It gives everyone in the family something to look forward to.

An added benefit to the suggestions above is that they all can help save you money. Buying in bulk and on sale, as well as avoiding weekly fast food runs, can trim some of the fat from your food budget.