Cooking Hacks

Healthy Dinners for Busy Nights

Let's see, today is Monday... so that means art class for one child, boxing gym for another and at least one responsible adult needs to get to the school event by 7pm. 

As I look at the rest of the week there is kid yoga, kid fitness classes, language class and a few other things that I am probably forgetting. 

I love that my kids are passionate about so many different things and we try to give them the opportunity to experience as much of the things they are interested in as we can. The tricky part is making it all fit and not derail our healthy lifestyle. Their busy schedule can make healthy dinners a challenge. 

However, with a little creative thinking even the busiest mom can make healthy dinners a reality even on those really busy nights! I wanted to share with you a few ideas I use to make sure that we keep up a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious dinners even when we are busy!

 

Here are 4 creative ways to make healthy dinners work on your busy nights:

  1. Pack an extra lunchbox. Instead of worrying about getting dinner on the table, pack an extra lunchbox when you are preparing lunches for the day. Many families eat on the way to the baseball field or dance studio. Avoid drive-thru's and take-out by packing a second healthy lunchbox.
  2. Eat dinner at 4PM. On night's that we have enough time to sit and eat as a family before activities and extra curriculars, I make a point to definitely do just that. The fact that we do so at 4pm, a little early for what most people think of as "dinner time", but it actually works in our favor. If I have dinner ready at 4PM we can still sit and eat together without the rush. We also get some quality time before the pace picks up! 
  3. Prep dinner in 20-minutes or less. Having a few "go to" recipes and even some "mom hacks" to create quick healthy meals can be a real game changer for busy moms. Leftovers, crockpot and instapot meals as well as simple recipes can all be great ways to create a healthy meal in a snap. Check out this article for more on about dinners in 20 minutes or less! 
  4. Breakfast for dinner. For some reason I have no problem making a big, healthy breakfast quickly. I have a few standard recipes that I use a lot, greens & eggs, zucchini pancakes, pumpkin pancakes, and others. They are easy for me to whip up in no time. So, when I am pressed for a quick meal for dinner I sometimes declare it to be, "Breakfast for dinner night!" and whip up one of my quick and healthy breakfasts! Not only do I still get a healthy meal on the table, but the kids love it!

I know that our kids' after-school schedules can make healthy dinners a challenge but there are ways to have a busy schedule and continue to make eating healthy a priority. Pick one of these simple strategies to try and let us know how it helps you make healthy living a little easier! Join us in our free online community for busy moms, The Real Moms Collaborative, and share more ideas like these! 

 

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time...

 

Eat well, be well, 

Michelle 

 

Leftovers: A Busy Mom's Lifesaver!

Leftovers.

Glorious leftovers! 

I seriously can NOT live without them but I know there are a few of you out there that don't quite cherish leftovers like myself.

The word "leftovers" doesn't always sit well with some folks. 

Or, maybe you are totally cool with leftovers but aren't quite maxing out the potential that they have just yet. (I am going to try to fix that.) 

If you have any blocks when it comes to leftovers, I understand. I have heard my own family, friends and clients all tell me, "Leftovers don't appeal to me," "My husband won't eat leftovers," or even, "Leftover always go to waste..." 

Shake that off. 

Leftovers are a busy mom's lifesaver. In fact, to encourage a little mindset shift, every time you pack up some leftovers, I want you to think to yourself, "Look at this lifesaver! This is going to make my life so much easier in the next day or so!"

And then, make a mental note or even jot down on your calendar when you are going to use that bit of pre-made mealtime GOLD! 

Many a Sunday evening I actually prepare food I have no intention of serving that same day. It is prepared ahead of time so I have something ready to "heat and eat" later in the week. Besides that, I am a big believer in the "cook once, eat twice" rule. I rarely make just enough for dinner. At a minimum I want at least some leftovers for a lunch, but having enough leftover for a second dinner... well, that is a jackpot. 

We live in a society where we seem fine to eat pre-packaged, prepared foods made by someone else possibly 1,000s of miles away but we don't make the most of the already prepared foods made in our own kitchen, with our own ingredients and with the love that only WE can put into the food we cook for our family. If we can make the most of all of the food we prepare and cook we can also reduce waste and save money.  

So, let's embrace those awesome leftovers! 

 

I want to share some recipes to help you see the value in those lifesaving leftovers! 

 

Grains

When it comes to any whole grains that you are cooking, whether it is rice, quinoa (I know it is really a seed but you use it like a grain, right? Work with me!), millet, or anything else, cook twice as much as you need for the meal immediately ahead of you. Then reserve that second half for later in the week or turn it into a salad right away and store it for the next day. 

Here is a delicious recipe you can use with leftover wild rice (although I think it would work just fine with white or brown rice, too!) WILD RICE AND MUSHROOM SALAD. And for quinoa, well, I couldn't pick a favorite from this awesome list. I personally hope to try almost every one of these. 

 

Lentils and other Legumes

Don't skimp when making these either. Cook more than you need because they will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Add leftover lentils or other legumes to your green salads for a protein boost, toss them into the food processor to make hummus or try these easy and nutritious lentil burgers! You can skip ahead a few steps if you are creating these with your leftover lentils! 

 

Crockpot Chicken

If you include meat in your diet, THIS is essential! There is nothing easier than tossing 4 or 5 chicken breasts in the crockpot, coated in a little olive oil, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and simply cooked until they can be shredded.

With simple shredded chicken you can create an endless amount of dishes all week long. Add shredded chicken to your salad, make chicken tacos, chicken wraps, chicken quesadillas, anything. 

My dear friend, Cheryl Bohonyi of Real Life Wellness has a simple and delicious recipe that goes perfectly with your shredded chicken, Buffalo Chicken Salad! Check this out:

 

 

Cheryl's Buffalo Chicken Salad:

 

Toss 1/4 cup of shredded chicken with hot sauce (not wing sauce) and heat through. Place on a bed of mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers (hot if you can handle it!) corn and anything else you love. 

Not a fan of buffalo sauce? Skip the hot sauce and simply use an oil and vinegar dressing instead. So simple! 

Oh, and if you like simple and healthy recipes like this one, you might just want to check out Cheryl's new book. 14 Days of Clean Eating! Just saying. 

 

 

Fish

Ok, I know everyone makes chicken and beef in abundance, but this mom always buys too much and cooks too much fish for one meal. This is mostly due to me getting confused during the purchasing process. I find a fish I want, I ask for two or three pieces, I see the person helping me lift it up and think, "Oh, goodness, I could eat that all myself," and then I go ahead and order two times as much. 

It is usually once I have it all cooked up that I realize I actually have enough fish to feed my entire neighborhood. 

Ah, well. 

Just grateful to have awesome recipes like this to help me deal with all those fish leftovers! 


Real Mom Advice

I asked real moms for the healthy tips they have for making the most out of leftovers, and here are some of the responses I received:

Karen said:

"I cook a big meal on Sunday and then separate the leftovers into multiple containers that I will take for lunch. My goal is to have 4 or 5 small containers full, enough leftovers for the week!"

For the hubby that doesn't like to eat leftovers, Alexis told me.

"I freeze the leftovers and then it is like a whole new meal when we eat it again!" 

I will be posting more of the real life advice from amazing moms just like you in our FREE ONLINE COMMUNITY, The Real Moms Collaborative. Be on the lookout for that!