7 Weeknight Dinner Hacks That Will Take Family Meals to the Next Level

Making dinner doesn't have to be stressful!

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Group of people about to eat dinner. There is spaghetti Bolognese sauce and salad on the table with glasses of wine. There are also olives and tomatoes. There are six place settings.


Group of people about to eat dinner. There is spaghetti Bolognese sauce and salad on the table with glasses of wine. There are also olives and tomatoes. There are six place settings.

Photo by: courtneyk


Having kids can also mean hectic schedules, especially as they get older. Sure, it’s easy to default to the drive-thru, but with a few great hacks, it is possible to get dinner on the table most nights. Keep in mind, not every meal you make has to be social media-worthy. These seven tips will make it easier to have a somewhat healthy meal on the table in minutes without added stress.

Have a Stocked Pantry

The need to grocery shop before every meal can add unnecessary stress. Having a stocked pantry with items that are easy to throw together can avoid some of that stress. Make sure your pantry has dried pastas, canned beans, rice, tinned fish, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, and plenty of spices. This will make it easier to fix any last minute meals. Having quick-to-prepare items like boxed mac and cheese, ramen, etc. will make it easier in a pinch.

Meal Prep

You’ve heard it too many times, I know, but spending the time when you have it (perhaps over the weekend) makes it so much easier to get weeknight meals out. It doesn’t have to be a three-hour prep either. Dice onions if you know you’ll use them in a few recipes later in the week. Have fresh cut fruit and vegetables for a healthy snack or to add to dishes you make. Marinate any proteins you plan to have. You could even cook a few of the proteins for easy use in sandwiches, salads and other dishes.

Buy a Few Grocery Store Short-Cuts

There are some weeks where the schedule just feels impossible and that’s when letting the grocery store help you out is key. Items like rotisserie chicken, pre-cut vegetables and fruit, pre-made guacamole, and already marinated proteins. These items can really help cut down the prep time, even if they are a bit more expensive to purchase.

Breakfast or Lunch for Dinner

We often think of meals for breakfast or lunch that fit our on-the-go lifestyle, so why not take some of those tactics and apply them to dinner? Deli sandwiches, scrambled eggs and toast, and even protein pancakes and smoothies can work for a quick dinner.

Double Batch Cooking

When you do have time to cook, think of recipes that will be easy to reheat in the future, and then double the recipe. Soups, lasagna, and enchiladas are just a few dishes that you can easily freeze to defrost at a later date.

Use Your Freezer

Speaking of your freezer, having a fully stocked freezer is super helpful in a pinch. Frozen vegetables make a great shortcut and keeping things like frozen rice, dumplings, and more can really help get dinner on the table quickly. Of course a few full frozen meals are always a good idea too, and places like Trader Joe’s or Costco make it easy to stock up.

Snack Your Way Through Dinner

Dinner doesn’t have to be formally set. If you have kids, snacking your way through dinner feels like a treat. Think like you would for a charcuterie board. Pull out grapes, crackers, cheese, and meats for a snack tray. Make an easy batch of nachos with whatever is left in your fridge and pantry, pull out a few dips and cut up vegetables, or put a few different items on toast.


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