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Busy parent Meals

I work part time and have three active kids. They play multiple sports, etc. I find my self out of the house from 5-8 most nights of the week. I am home for time inbetween after dropping someone off/picking them up. So, it works out usually that two kids will eat at 6 and when the other gets home will eat at 7. Then it flips around the next day.
So, I am looking for meals that I can make ahead when I get home from work around 2pm. I make a lot of soups, casseroles, sandwiches, things like that which can be made ahead. I'll make a pot of turkey and white bean soup to eat later on, so things like that. I do own a crockpot and have mixed feelings about it. I probably only use it once a month.
Anyone have some good recipes to share? I am getting tired of my regular rotation! Thanks CHownders!

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  1. If you do a little searching using relevant terms, you'll find the multiple threads on this topic.
    Here's what "make-ahead meals" yields: http://www.chow.com/search?query=make...

    1. The crockpot can be a great help if you allow it. I make chicken tortilla soup, chili, beef stew, and braised meats for pulled-protein sliders, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, etc.
      I also marinate proteins during the weekends, so it's ready to grill or cook the day I want. I make large family dinners during weekends, so that there's plenty of leftovers for during the week.

      1. We have a similar household with evening activities several times a week. My kids don't really eat casseroles so we don't usually use the slowcooker, but I do use my oven timer. We do some make ahead things like lasagna in individual baking dishes so they can go in the oven at different times and chicken legs which they eat hot or room temp. Or some short order things like omelets, panninis (love the pannini maker, also for quesadillas) and occasionally some quick fried beef strips.

        2 Replies
        1. re: waver

          I've had a pannini maker on my wish list for a while! Glad to hear you use it. Unfortunately, my oven does not have a timer! That would be great if it did! I think I will finally buy the pannini press. Just hated adding another appliance to my myriad of appliances!

          1. re: master815k

            I hesitated for quite some time before getting one but then saw one that had interchangeable plates for making waffles and decided to go for it! We use it several times a week. I keep meaning to make an extra batch of waffles for the freezer for quick toaster meals but that hasn't happened yet...

        2. I like to do a lot of the prep work for salads ahead of time, so that I can just throw them together when I get home. Washed greens and sliced veggies can keep for a quite awhile in the fridge, as long as you don't dress them first. I usually just dress them with olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Cooked sausage keeps well in the fridge, and gives some body to the salad.

          Making a big pot of rice is pretty easy (especially if you have a rice cooker) and reheats well in the microwave.

          A roast chicken (or rotisserie, if you're too busy to roast) can be shredded and used for tacos and salads. Boil the carcass when you're done and throw in any veggies that are starting to look sad, and you've got a soup that should keep pretty well. Pairs well with a salad. You can turn it into chicken noodle soup by reheating as much as you need on the stove along with some noodles (make sure to add the noodles right before you eat the soup, otherwise they get soggy. But you can do this on a per-serving basis).

          Most soups and stews taste better after they've sat for awhile. If you've got polenta, rice, or mashed potatoes in the fridge, you have a meal. If you don't have something to put the stew over, noodles cook really quickly.

          Can the kids be in charge of dinner for the family one night a week each? That cuts your days of work from 7 to 4, plus the kids get some cooking experience. I don't have kids, but my mom had me doing simple things like topping pizza at around age 9 or so. If you've already got the dough and sauce made (which you can easily do ahead), it just needs to be topped with mozzarella and toppings and baked. If the kids are too young to slice toppings, they can be done ahead of time too. My brother and I both loved the responsibility of cooking dinner for the family in high school: he made (and still makes) the most fantastic steaks, while my go-to was poaching a chicken and shredding for tacos or homemade chicken pot pie.

          1. defrosted meat, chicken, fish really don't take very long to cook - try dumping salsa or duck sauce or some other prepared sauce over a protein and stick in the oven. macaroni is also a magical ingredient - one night's side dish of mac is tomorrow night's main with some chicken bits thrown in.