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Extension > Health and Nutrition News > Quick Meals for Busy Families

Quick Meals for Busy Families

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To do list.jpg

Monday's To Do List:

  • Pick up Josh from football practice
  • Bring Emma to piano lessons
  • Stop at the store to buy more school notebooks
  • Attend a parent volunteer meeting
  • Help children with homework
  • Make dinner???
School is back in session and families are on the go! Having time to prepare an evening meal may seem like an impossible task. However, taking a few minutes now, will make it easier to fit healthy and tasty meals into your family's busy schedule.

Step One: Plan

Writing a week's menu is a great help for busy families. It allows family members to shop ahead of time to ensure the foods needed are in the kitchen at mealtime. It helps prevents the frustration of "what are we going to have for dinner tonight." 

One way to start planning a menu is to write a list of foods your family likes to eat. Take a few minutes and ask family members what foods they would like included on the list. Use your list to complete the Meal Planning Guide (556 K PDF).

Step Two: Shop

Using your menu planning sheet, make a shopping list. Having a shopping list (and sticking to it) will save you time in the grocery store and prevent extra trips to the grocery store for one or two items.

Step Three: Prepare

Look at your weekly menu and see what items you can prepare ahead of time. For example, if you need browned ground beef for several meals during the week, brown it all at once and put the extra in the freezer for later in the week. You can also cut enough fresh vegetables to last a few days. Because recipes such as soup, lasagna, and casseroles freeze well, make a double recipe. Enjoy one recipe now and freeze the other recipe for when it is on your menu again.

Helpful Tips

  • Keep ingredients in your pantry for your favorite quick meals such spaghetti, stir-fry, or tuna salad sandwiches?
  • Use instant rice to save time.
  • Try the Make Your Own Casserole or Make Your Own Salad recipes. These recipes help you to mix and match the ingredients you have in your pantry and refrigerator to make a casserole or salad.
  • Save your weekly menus. You can use them again as is or make revisions.
  • Remember meal preparation doesn't need to be the responsibility of just one person. Involve other family members in planning, shopping, preparing and cleaning up after a meal.


    Goals for this Month (choose one or more):

  • Have each family member write down five entrees and side dishes they enjoy.
  • Make a one week menu
  • Make a list of your family's favorite quick meals. Keep the ingredients for these foods in your pantry/refrigerator so you can have a "meal in minutes" when needed.

    What are your favorite quick meal ideas? Please share in the comment section.

  • 1 Comment

    Hannah Jastram, RD Author Profile Page said:

    My go-to meal in the summer is "Kitchen Salad" - I cook up a grain, use leftover beans (I cook with beans a lot), and prep any vegetables lingering in the fridge. Then I pick an oil/vinegar combination to whip up a dressing, adding herbs, mustard, and/or other condiments to taste. Finally, I mix it all together and serve!

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