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Embrace the Easy Dinners, Keep Your Sanity

easy dinners

If you learn anything with kids, it’s to keep things simple. When it comes to meals, they never eat anything as the chef intended. They either want the sauce on the side, hate one of the three main ingredients, or will deconstruct a sandwich — even PB&J. Or they’ll find an offensive onion or a speck of green oregano and decide the whole meal is terrible. They also preemptively decide to hate things, it seems. I was making taco seasoning the other day when my son walked up and asked what I was making. Tacos, I said. “I don’t like that dinner!” HE. LOVES. TACOS. He agreed when I reminded him of the fact. They just like to be difficult, seriously.

Over on Fit Bottomed Eats, I stumbled across this article on meal planning that Kristen shared a couple of years back. It’s two tips that work well for any mom staring into the fridge, trying to figure out what to make for what feels like the millionth dinner that week: Start with what you know. Work with what you’ve got. I’d add a third: Stick with the easy dinners.

Don’t be too hard on yourself during the busy weeknights when you’ve got young kids. I used to feel bad that I wasn’t trying new recipes more often or giving my kids more of a dining experience to expand their palates. But they are 5 and under. I’m not living on Pinterest here. I’m getting them fed and meeting their basic nutritional needs. I love trying new recipes, but my husband and I tend to save those for more relaxed weekend evenings when we have a little more time and we can split the duties. During the week, when I’m making dinner and keeping the kids out of trouble, it’s a little tougher to get creative. Keep it simple, keep your sanity, is my motto.

Easy Dinner Ideas

A few of my go-to meals the kids can’t complain (too much) about:

Breakfast for dinner. Eggs, turkey sausage, toast, fruit. Plus it’s super fast to make — dinner can be ready in 10 minutes.

Tacos. I love taco night because it’s a great opportunity to get some beans in the kids, as well as avocado and salsa (not so hidden veggies!). Plus, they love it. Even if they do eat the taco shells separately from everything else. Side eye emoji here.

Grilling. Grill some chicken or burgers, throw some veggies on the grill, and maybe make some corn on the cob or a pasta salad. (We love this Eating Well Greek pasta salad. Fun shaped noodles and the kids at least love the feta.)

Pasta. Whether it’s spaghetti with a simple meat sauce (you can sneak in veggies!) or chicken picatta (watching out for pesky capers for the kids) with a veggie side, pasta tends to be a hit with the kiddo crowd.

Stir-fry. The kids complain endlessly about stir-fry, but there is rice, and they’ll usually eat chicken. Tofu is hit or miss, but there are a variety of veggies so they can find their favorites. Simple to make, even if you’re making your own sauce. Make a sauce like this and you’ll never buy a store-bought sauce again.

Pizza. Most kids love pizzas, so make your own. It’s easy to make little English muffin mini pizzas, and your kiddos can customize their toppings.

Rice and protein and vegetable. The other day I was seriously out of everything it seemed. So I seasoned some chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder, made a side of rice and a veggie, and it was my kids’ favorite meal of the month. I can’t explain it, but it just goes to show you that you don’t have to be fancy.

Sandwiches. Whether you make grilled cheese and serve it with a veggie soup or make a turkey sandwich with some avocado and throw a fruit salad and veggies and hummus on the side, sandwiches are a super easy and fast meal for nights when it’s too hot to turn on the oven. Plus kids can easily customize sandwiches to how they like them. Everything separate, hold the sauce, please.

Do you make elaborate meals during the week or do you keep it simple with easy dinners? I seriously haven’t turned on the oven since May, so we have been rotating all of the above except for the pizza! —Erin

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