This week the ‘keep it simple’ series is tackling the tricky task of feeding our families.
“Why do they want dinner every, single, night?”
Right up there with the never ending monotony of laundry is the constant job of feeding a family.
Even those people who enjoy cooking can find themselves totally demoralized as they try to fit cooking and cleaning into a busy schedule, stick within a budget, cook something reasonably healthy and, the hardest of all things… make a meal that everyone in the family likes!
On the best of days it is tricky, and on the worst of days you’ll find me sitting rocking in a corner muttering “cereal… you can all eat cereal for dinner!”
I have gotten better at cooking and managing family meals over the years and I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks to make managing family meals just a little bit easier.
Tips for Making Simple Family Meals
What Will You Eat?
Sometimes the hardest part of feeding a family is deciding what to cook!
I am a big advocate for meal planning, and I’ll be covering that (as well as sharing a new set of meal planning printables) next week because I have a lot to say on the subject and I need an entire post to say it, but even if meal planning is not your thing, spending some time thinking about what your family likes to eat is a worthwhile exercise. After all, there is no point cooking something that no one will eat!
Come up with a list of meals your family loves and use this free printable ‘Meal Ideas’ planner to write them all down and put it somewhere safe. Now when you can’t think what to cook for dinner you have a list of ideas ready to go.
You can download the free printable ‘Meal Ideas’ planner here.
This is an A4 sized pdf, if you are printing on US ‘letter sized’ paper be sure to select ‘fit’ or ‘shrink to fit’ from your printer options.
This free printable is for personal use only, you may not sell, share, or link directly to this file.
Even if you loathe the monotony of meal planning and like to be totally spontaneous, looking at the bigger picture and thinking ahead will make things easier in the long run, I promise!
- Think about the ingredients you use over and over – if you have enough storage space work on stockpiling common ingredients so you’ll always have some on hand.
- If you see an item on sale, or have grown a glut of fresh produce in your garden, store it for later. I find freezing the easiest way to do this, capsicum, corn, zucchini and berries from our garden all freeze well.
- Label everything that you freeze or store – you’ll thank me when you don’t defrost chili thinking it is spag bol! Masking tape and a sharpie will label pretty much everything.
- If something is getting past it’s prime think about whether you can freeze it for later – old bread makes great breadcrumbs and if you freeze them you won’t have to worry about drying it out first.
- Six Figures Under shares lots of freezing ideas and tips here, and Design Mom shares all their secrets for freezing fresh produce here.
I’ve never been game to spend hours and hours attempting to cook up a months worth of meals for the freezer, but I have learned that pre-preparing when I can saves me a lot of time and stress so it is worth the effort.
- Make a double batch of meals that freeze well – one for tonights dinner and one for later in the month. (See below for a list of freezer meal ideas)
- Make a bulk batch of something that can be used in lots of different ways. We cook up a huge batch of chili to use in tacos, mexi bake, burritos, enchiladas and more.
- Pre-prepare items when you buy them so half your meal prep is already done – freeze diced and marinate chicken, chopped onions (only cry once!), logs of cookie dough, pizza dough in individual rounds, pancakes for breakfast.
- You can also pre-prepare ingredients for the week and put them in the fridge – cooked rice, diced veggies etc.
- Make your own pre-made mixes. Our simple muffin mix makes making fresh muffins quick and easy.
Get the Kids Invovled
If you think ahead about tasks the kids can manage on their own, they can actually be really helpful when it comes to cooking meals, and they might even eat the things they help prepare!
- Kids can chop many veggies with a butter knife as long as you don’t care what the pieces look like – mushrooms, brocoli, and cauli are all easy ones to start with.
- Older kids can learn to cook entire meals and mine are way more happy to cook an entire meal that help with single ‘boring tasks’
- Getting the kids to set and clear the table means I am not wasting time walking back and forth to the kitchen and can concentrate on cooking or cleaning up.
- Get the kids to suggest meal ideas – hopefully if they are involved in the planning of meals they might actually eat them!
- Find your zen about what your kids eat – there is nothing that pushes my buttons more than dishing up a meal that is met with ‘that’s disgusting’, ‘I’m not eating that!’ So the rule in our house is ‘you don’t have to eat it, but you may not be rude about it.’ That means the kids need to respect my efforts, and I also need to respect their likes and dislikes. Once I started to let go of the worry about whether or not they were eating, meals became a lot less stressful for me!
- Find some more cooking with kids tips here.
Our Favourite Simple Family Meals
- Falafel Style Veggie Burgers.
- Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese
- Pizza Pockets (Calzones)
- Freezer Friendly Meatballs
- Kid-made Chili – We use this as a base for lots of mexi meals.
- Beef and Spinach Burgers
- Meat and Veggie Pasties
- Veggie Nuggets
- Apple and Oat Pancakes
- Thousands of Biscuits (Cookies)
Super Quick and Easy Meals
- Pizza Pasta Bake
- Crust-less Quiche Four ways
- Chocolate Mug Pudding
- Homemade Muffin Mix
- For easy dinner ideas for days when cooking dinner just sucks
- Pita Chips
These are the best SIMPLE tips I know for getting a meal on the table with minimum fuss and hassle, now I’d like to hear your tips!
Do you prepare meals ahead?
Have you got a favourtie recipes to share?
What would you add to this list of simple tips for family meals?
Remember to keep an eye out for next’s weeks post on meal planning, with a new set of meal planning printables!
If you are looking for more simple cleaning and organising ideas you can check out the Keep It Simple series where we share our best simple tips for everything from laundry, cleaning, meals, kids and parenting.
And check out my ‘Clean and Organise Everything’ board on pinterest too.