Weeknight meals are always the hardest to pull together. I feel like time flies from the time the kids get off the bus to bed time, and in that short amount of space there is SO much to fit in! There are a couple of tricks I have to make weeknight meals fast, healthy, exciting, and budget friendly.
I use meal planning every week. It isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds and it really helps. Usually, it goes something like this. Over the weekend, I’ll grab my notebook and a cup of coffee. Sometimes I’ll check in with the kids or my husband and see if they have any special requests for the week ahead. Next, I’ll take a look at the recipes I’ve saved or things I’ve wanted to try and fill those in. Last, I’ll look at the running list of “favorites” I have. This list helps me out a TON when I’m trying to figure out what to make. Basically, I keep a list of any meal I’ve made that the kids loved. I keep it updated and it’s my go-to for inspiration for meal planning. Last, I take a look at our schedule for the week and make note of nights when I need a super-fast meal or a “leftover night” (which we do at least once a week). And that’s it…nothing fancy but a lifesaver for me and my family.
This is a HUGE help for me on especially busy nights. Sometimes I prep for the week on Sunday night by chopping veggies I need for the next few days, or making a batch of muffins for the kids as snacks. At some point during the day I try to find time to prep a little for that night’s dinner. Making rice ahead of time or roasting veggies while the kids eat breakfast is a huge time saver and helps everything come together that much quicker. Crock pot meals are easy to assemble the night before so all you have to do is turn it on in the morning as you head out the door. Any little bit of preparation helps ease the stress of weeknight dinners.
Picking the right Meals
This is kind of an extension of meal planning, but important enough to stand on its own. Picking the right meals for the weeknights is probably the best thing you can do to help pull healthy meals together in no time. My criteria for meals during the week is that they have to come together from start to finish in under 30 minutes. Most of the time, it’s under 20! Tuesday night when my daughter is at dance until 5:15 is not the night for me to experiment and try and super detail oriented crazy recipe. That’s when I turn to my go-to meals…like Vegetable Lo Mein.
There are some flavor profiles we turn to time and time again in our house. I find that Asian inspired meals are my go-to for busy nights because they come together so quickly, are easy to pack with fresh vegetables, and please the whole family. My son absolutely loves take out Lo Mein from our favorite Chinese restaurant. I was a little hesitant to re-create it, thinking that if it wasn’t spot on it would be a huge failure. But, this recipe was a gigantic hit…even though it tasted different, was a LOT healthier, and packed full of fresh vegetables. My son had thirds…safe to say I’ll be making it again 🙂
Here’s the list of veggies I threw in our version, but any combination of your favorites would work in this. I was thrilled that both my kids enjoyed every bite of this dinner that had 10 different vegetables in it!
- red and green cabbage
- brussel sprouts
- green beans
The sauce is kid friendly and not spicy, but both my husband and I like to dress ours up with a little sriracha sauce. Hope you enjoy this recipe and it helps make your weeknights a little less stressful!
- 8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
- Any combination of the following veggies: broccoli, peppers, cabbage, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, green beans, leeks, carrots, celery, kale. Aim for 6-8 cups of veggies.
- olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- For the sauce:
- 4-6 tbs Liquid amino acid (or soy sauce)
- 2 tbs maple syrup (or sugar)
- 1½ tsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp ground ginger (or fresh if you have it)
- salt and pepper to taste
- sriracha sauce to taste
- Mix ingredients for sauce together and set aside. Bring a pot of water to boil for spaghetti and cook according to package instructions.
- Heat a large skillet on high heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Toss all veggies, including garlic in the pan and begin to saute. Depending on how well done you like your veggies, this could take 5 minutes or 10. Sometimes I cover the pan with a large lid to help the broccoli steam a bit while the other veggies are cooking.
- Drain pasta and add to cooked vegetables. Toss entire pan with the sauce. Add more soy sauce if desired, and serve right away.