Preparing Dinner

User - posted on 10/09/2008 ( 37 moms have responded )

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I usually get home from work at around 7 most days. I'm finding it really tough to make dinner for my kids and husband. I hate the idea of ordering take out, though, because it just seems so unhealthy. Does anybody have any tips on how to manage this? Thanks!

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Kathryn - posted on 11/11/2008

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I keep hearing of the glories of the crock pot. Does anybody here use the crock pot more than twice a week? I'm just curious, it feels so daunting to me.

Angela - posted on 11/11/2008

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They even make bags to cover the crock pot dish in to make cleaning up even easier!! I use my crock pot a lot year round for everything from soups to stews, to just tossing in a bunch of veggies a little chicken stock and throwing a whole chicken with homemade stuffing in it and cook it all day. Only takes less than a half hour to prepare.

Beth - posted on 11/11/2008

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There are specific recipes solely for crock pots. They have some really good recipes and they are not all stews. Everything from chicken & rice dishes, chowders, pasta dishes, mac and cheese casseroles, etc. Give it a whirl!

Donna - posted on 11/11/2008

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I don't get home till about 6 - 6.30 in the evenings, so I try to keep weekday meals simple. Things like fresh pasta only take 2-3mins to cook, Creating a cheese sauce only takes 5 mins aswell. Also stirfrys, you can buy the veg ready prepared, all you got to do is cut the meat and sling in a pan or wok, takes about 5 to 10 mins. If you look around in supermarkets, you'll see there are lots of foods which don't need masses amount of preparing and cooking. Just try to plan meals in advance, so when you get in the door, you can more or less put it all in a pan and within 20 mins you and your family will be sitting down to dinner. Also, if you find you have food left over, that can be frozen and used again for another meal, then keep it!

Sonja - posted on 11/10/2008

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I go to "Lets Dish" with some friends, so I get girl time in while preparing oodles of meals. It is a commercial kitchen that has a menu each month that you can choose from and put all the ingredients together in a bag and freeze it. There are other similar chains as well. I like this one because it allows meal splitting, since my kids will only eat the food half the time (if it is shrimp, we don't even offer it)! The website is www.letsdish.com.

Connie - posted on 11/10/2008

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Hi,
I've always worked out of the home when my daughter was growing up. Like others I tried the cook meals ahead & freeze them, but found that to be a lot of work. Here are the 2 things remaining:

1. buy 2.5 - 5 lbs of hamburger - put it in a stock pot & slowly cook it up, stirring it. Drain it & put it family portion sizes in zip lock bags. Freeze them. (for our family of 3 I used 2 cups per bag)

when ready to use - you can thaw in microwave in 5 min's & have spaghetti, tacos, hotdish, etc in 15 min's! (I never liked browning ground beef anyway)

2) make up 2.5 lbs of hamburger into meatballs - bake in oven at 350 for 10 min's (under done). Then pkg in ziplock bags (I put 18 per bag for 3 ppl).

My hubby puts the meatballs in an oven dish with a can of cream of mushroom soup & can of milk. Then bake for hour at 350 degrees & wha-la - meatballs & gravy! I add a dash of kitchen bouquet and stir so color the gravy if you'd like

Those are my must have's in the freezer & huge time savers.

Beth - posted on 11/10/2008

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I spend a lot of time on the weekend looking at recipes from www.allrecipes.com. There is a section for quick and easy recipes. I haven't yet mastered this, but what I've found works best is planning the menu for a week at a time. That way, I have a quick recipe that is ready to go when I get home from work. I've been experimenting with buying a bag of frozen chicken breasts, ground beef, etc. and then finding about 3 easy recipes that I can make with that particular meat throughout the week. It seems to cut down on cost and hassle, and your family just has to get used to eating the same type of meat all week. Oh well. We all have to make compromises :)

Sarah - posted on 11/08/2008

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Crock Pot! Now that its getting colder it is esp. great, nothing better than walking in the house to a warm homemade dinner. If you buy the crock pot liners they are a breeze to clean up, make dinner the night before, throw it in the fridge...in the morning turn it on and go. There are so many great websites dedicated to crock pots here are some of my favorties, try a few easy ones and trust me you will be hooked. :) Without it I am sure my family would be living on frozen pizza and take out :)



http://crockpot.cdkitchen.com/

http://www.familycrockpotrecipes.com/

Tricia - posted on 11/07/2008

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This is a great dish for freezing, thawing and baking later. I love making it every month or so. I divvy into two smaller glass dishes. Bake one then and freeze the other. Or double the batch and make two big 9x13 pans and freeze one or both. This is the dish I make all my new moms too - good comfort food.



MOSTACCIOLI BAKE

1 (16 oz.) pkg. mostaccioli or ziti

1 lb. ground beef

15-16 oz. container Ricotta cheese

3 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 (15 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce (your choice)

1 (8 oz.) pkg. shredded Mozzarella cheese.



Cook pasta and drain.

Fry ground beef until done, drain.

Stir in Ricotta, eggs, seasonings, 1 jar of spaghetti sauce and about 3/4 of shredded cheese. Add pasta and stir to coat well. Spoon into 13 x 9 inch baking dish (or two smaller ones if you wish to freeze one). Pour other jar of sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until hot and bubbly all through.

Christie - posted on 11/07/2008

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Hi there! I understand your ur situation as I have to do deal with myself each day. There a couple of things I do to help with our meal situation.



1) I grocery shop based on a weekly menu. This way I know my options are for dinner each week. My menu ususally has some very simple and adult, but kid friendly, items.

2) I always have extras on hand for when nights are hectic and I need something fast - i.e., pasta and jar sauce (and then I add veggies and meat) or burger and taco mix, etc.

3) Lastly, when I do have time, I will double recipes and then freeze the extras. I have done this with casseroles, lasagnas, meatloafs, soups, etc.



I hope that helps. If you

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The crockpot really is an excellent way to go, but I get kind of sick of the general texture of crock pot food. One thing I do is cook a big enough meal for leftovers either the next night or a couple nights later, so I know I have at least one extra meal. The other thing I LOVE is the Six 'o Clock Scramble. Check it out at http://thescramble.com/

The real problem with getting started on dinner is that everyone is starving, right? So sometimes I just make each girl a few peanut butter/cracker sandwiches then they either help me make dinner or work on homework/coloring. Then no one's keeling over and we still get to eat a decent dinner.

User - posted on 11/07/2008

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Another easy one - though it helps to prepare ahead of time - homemade mac n cheese casserole. I make a big batch one evening after dinner and bedtime. Cook the noodles and thow them in the baking dish with some cheese, butter and milk. Add some slices of ham or bacon or any other meat and cook for about 30 to 45 min. Then, just dish out and warm up in microwave the next night. I have this already made up for the night I just don't feel like cooking after work!

Kathy - posted on 11/06/2008

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CROCK POT!! It is the only way. You can get wonderful seasoning packets in the gravy aisle and just throw in the meat and veggies. Tonight we had Beef Stroganoff, egg noodles with home baked bread. Easy as pie, actually easier. It takes 10 minutes in the morning to take the frozen dough out of the freezer, put it in the pan, cover with plastic and then add all your ingredients to your crock pot, turn it on low for 8 hours, when you get home turn on the oven throw in the bread, put the water on to boil, noodles take 5-7 minutes after the water boils and dinner is ready. Clean up is a breeze. There is always enough for my husband and I to take to work the next day. I couldn't live with out my crock pot. Plus I feel good knowing my family has had a great meal not to mention the money savings.

Angela - posted on 11/04/2008

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I have to say I love and use the idea of simplifying the expectations...but I've also begun having the kids help out. I've got a couple boys, 12 and 11, that are fully capable of opening up a box of Mac & Cheese, add a can of chicken or tuna, pull out the frozen veggie of choice...and they LOVE it. We've even begun adding "recipes" that are easy for them (and safe). At least I'll know they can put together a somewhat healthy meal when they go to college :)

Darlene - posted on 11/04/2008

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If you want to change it up you can also do breakfast for dinner. Have pancakes with fruit salad it doesn't take long to make them or you can use the frozen whole wheat pancakes. Also some old standards like sloppy joe's, that you can use ground turkey instead and grind up some carrots and stir in.

Kathryn - posted on 11/04/2008

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I remember those voila meals. They are a lifesaver. Yummy, cheap, easy and very quick. I've tried to steer away from the packaged processed foods, but that was a good one.

Sadie - posted on 11/04/2008

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We live on frozen Viola meals (by Birdseye, I think) It takes about 15 minutes & has lots of veggies with chicken or shrimp and noodles or rice included. They are not high in calories or fat like many pre-prepared meals (even if you eat two servings!) For about $4 one pack feed me, my husband & our toddler. I know I sound like a commercial, but these have been a life saver for us.

Sudha - posted on 11/04/2008

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I am raising a vegetarian family and so it is twice as hard to make quick meals.I try to shop for groceries on saturday morning and by sunday night I at least get everything chopped and bagged.Then I usually put a stir fry on the stove while my steam cooker makes lentils and rice for my kids.My husband and I make do with stir fry lentils sandwich! I vary the veggies everyday and once every three days I soak some sprouts for a mini salad to go with dinner.

Kathryn - posted on 11/04/2008

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Kerri, I love your moms idea of using hot dog buns for kiddo subs. I will have to steal that!

Tara - posted on 11/04/2008

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I find it easy to prepar everything before I go to work then just have the hubby put in the oven. Leave directions of course so you can relax at home with the kids and enjoy a hot meal :)

Jaimie - posted on 11/03/2008

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I love my slow cooker!! It is so easy, I put it all in in the morning, and it's ready by the time I get home. Especially since it is coming to the winter months, stews, roast, and casseroles are the best. Also, I make larger batches of some easily stored food (like pasta dishes and freeze some for later. I hope this helps some.

Nicole - posted on 11/02/2008

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okay. it sounds crazy besides all the dishes for the crock pot which I do, also there is the microwave. I promise this works! I have cooked greenbean casserole in there, meatloaf, of course bake pots. Just make it as you normally would and pop it in.It takes half the time because it is cooking from the inside out. Also all the frozen steamed veggies. Pop in microwave done in 4 to 6 mins. Corn, mixed veggies,rice,broccoli anything. It is called simply steamed(i think?) George Foreman is awesome as well. We do chicken,pork chops, hamburger patties(frozen premade kind in a box) a meal....put boneless pork chops on the George Foreman (season anyway you want), pack of steamed veggies in the microwave, rolls in toaster oven. Done 15 mins. Dinner is served.

Kerry - posted on 10/29/2008

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One thing that is a favorite in my house is Tacos. We use Ground Chicken or Turkey instead of ground beef If you start to cook the meat when you walk in the door and take the 5-10 min to chop veggies (lettuce and tomatos) grate some cheese; it is ready in less than a half hour. It is fun for kids to put their own tacos together. Also, when I was little my mom (who was a single mom with 4 kids) would have a sub night. She'd buy hotdog buns and a few kinds of meat and cheese, have tomatos, gr. pepper and lettuce and mayo, mustard and honey mustard. Just put everything on the table and let everyone make their own subs.

Tricia - posted on 10/29/2008

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I'm a big crockpot user. My favorite is boneless chicken or boneless pork chops (4-5), one can flavored chili beans and 8oz salsa. Put the meat in, cover with the chili beans (do not rinse they should be the flavored ones) and the salsa. Cook on low for 8+ hours. It's great with rice or in tortillas. My kids LOVE this (as long as I pick out the beans).

Patricia - posted on 10/27/2008

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CROCK POT!!!
There are bag meals you can get in the frozen food section that are healthy. Pour it in the pot in the AM and smell it as soon as you walk in!

Stephanie - posted on 10/27/2008

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I'm a Pampered Chef consultant on top of my regular full time job on top of having a one year old and a husband that I have to pick up at 7 o'clock 20 minutes away. I have to have a quick dinner. One dish things are key.

Monday- fish sticks, salad and tater tots; bake for what 30 minutes?

Tuesday -microwave enchiladas (a pamperedchef recipe) 15 minutes prep 5 minutes in microwave

Wednesday- baked chicken w/carrots onions and potatoes (another pc cooked in the microwave) 10 minutes to prep and 35 minutes in microwave

Thursday- homemade pizza- pizza crust from fridge section and whatever you have in the fridge.

Friday-super dinner cause I have more time....

Saturday- same

Sunday- eat out : )

Melanie.Manuel - posted on 10/27/2008

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I HEAR YOU. I AM IN THE SAME POSITION. MY HUSBAND IS HOME MUCH EARLIER THAN I AM HOWEVER HE HAS OUR KIDS. IT IS HARD TO PREPARE A MEAL FOR ALL OF US WHEN WE HAVE A ONE YEAR OLD WHO IS TEETHING AND LOVES TO BE HELD. BY THE TIME I GET HOME, I AM WIPED OUT FROM A 10 HOUR DAY. I WISH I COULD HELP BUT MOST OF THE TIME, WE COOK SOMETHING THAT IS QUICK AND EASY AND MAKE THE BIGGER DINNERS ON THE WEEKENDS.

Anna - posted on 10/26/2008

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I get home around 6:30 pm so too had to come up with quick 30 minute meals (I sound like Rachel Ray, I know). I learned a few from her too :)

First of all, invest in a bamboo steamer and a wok. Fill up the wok with water, place the bamboo steamer on top and place fresh cut up veggies in it and steam for 5-10 minutes until the veggies are soft but still green and crispy.

Second, learn a few techniques and a few signature dishes. You can improve and change a few ingredients to make different dishes.

This is what I make during the week.

Frozen tilapia fillet, thawed, dipped in egg mixture and then in bread crumbs, fried in canola oil. I serve with rice (white or brown) and steamed veggies (broccolli, string beans, cauliflower, etc.)

Hungarian goulash (look up some recipes on foodnetwork.com)

Whole wheat spagetti and meatballs (yes, homemade) - ground beef + finely chopped onion + salt and other spices + Italian bread crumbs + 1 egg, brown meatballs and add to the pot with tomato sause, cook for additional 10 minutes.

Brown ground turkey meat, add caned beans, bells peppers, tomatoes, etc. Serve over pasta or rice.

I have a few cookbooks that I use all the time plus I utilize foodnetwork.com. Before I go home, I look up the recipes online from work. Hope this helps.

Aleisha - posted on 10/25/2008

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slow cookers are great, i have a friend who makes pretty much all their dinners in one. and im not just talking stews n casseroles etc, she makes lasagne's and stuff. the great thing is, you have a home-made, warm dish to come home too. so really, all you have to do is put in some microwaveable steam veggies, n your good to go.

Kathryn - posted on 10/25/2008

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I'm more of a fan of the quick dinners to the crock pot or the advanced prep (I agree with Jennifer about cooking the weekend away). What I have found works is to lower my standards. I mean if my kids get pasta and microwaved frozen veggies with nothing else it is still WAY healthier than Mc'D's as well as most take-out. Here are some stand by's:

Grilled chicken, cous cous and peas - 15 minutes

steak, instant mashed pototoes and frozen carrots - 20 minutes

pasta with ricotta, garlic, broccoli and parm - 20 minutes

I could post more, but I'm sure you get the point. Simple is good.

OR, if you don't want to cook the weekend away, you can cook AFTER dinner, and then put the cooked food in the fridge (you could even portion it out) and just microwave the next day. Dinner in 5 minutes. I'm too tired after dinner to do this, but it is an idea.

Tricia - posted on 10/25/2008

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I googled crockpot recipes and came up with a nice variety - from the classics to jambalaya and nacho chicken wraps. I also have gone to SupperThyme type places in the past and made a bunch of meals in one night that I then freeze.

Mary - posted on 10/25/2008

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I do the crock pot a lot, too. I have 3 and usually get home around 7. I save meals that are more time consuming to prepare for the weekends. During the week, I keep meals as simple as possible. Believe me, we only order takeout like once every 2 weeks. It is too unhealthy.

Heather - posted on 10/25/2008

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I've found some quick bag-meals in the freezer section. You just open the bag, and everything is in there, heat, and stir. In 10 minutes your meal is ready! They don't taste bad either. :)

Sara - posted on 10/23/2008

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does the hubby get home sooner? delegate to him! My husband is the sole cook in our house.

Veronica - posted on 10/12/2008

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Jennifer you are right..You can only eat so much stew...Nobody wants to eat the same thing over and over. We sometimes get stuck on a few recipies and don't try new ones. Here is a crockpot recipie I found..It sounds great..I'm going to try it.



CROCKPOT CHICKEN W/ DIJON MUSTARD



4 to 6 boneless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup

2 teaspoons cornstarch

dash black pepper

Preparation:

Wash chicken and pat dry; place in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients and spoon over the chicken. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours.

Crockpot chicken Dijon serves 4.

Jennifer - posted on 10/09/2008

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Ok, so if you figure this one out, let me in on the secret. I've tried the whole freezing food on the weekends to 'pop' in the microwave or oven when you get home, but I end up cooking my entire weekend away. So that doesn't seem to be practical for me. I do the crockpot thing more in the winter months, but you can only eat stew so many times. I have found only a few simple recipies that I can make in 30 mins or less...one is short cut chicken divan (cut up raw boneless chicken, put in pan with a little oil and cook up really good. Meanwhile, put 2 of those microwave steamed bags of broccoli in the microwave instead of trying to boil them on the oven. Cooks them quick and saves you the cleanup time. Spray cooking oil in a long baking pan, I use a glass one, throw the cooked broccoli in, throw the cooked chicken in. Mix up 2 cans of cream of chicken, 1 cup miracle whip, a splash of lemon juice, a little curry powder in a bowl. Pour over your broccoli/chicken dish, add some shredded cheddar cheese, and put in oven for 30mins to finish heating up. Makes a mean dish and doesn't take too much time to prepare. If you have any other suggestions...I'm all ears! Hope this helps.

Veronica - posted on 10/09/2008

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You could prepare your meals on the weekend and freeze them. Then just go take out the meal you want for the day and set it in the refrigerator to thaw a bit. Then when you get home everything will be ready to put in oven. You could also cook things in a crock pot. I like to put a roast in our crock pot the night before on low. Let it cook all night then add you vegetables in the morning. When you get home from work your meal is done. Their are many other recipes you could use You could look them up on the internet....

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