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May 8, 2012 10:44 AM

Exhausted mom needs cook ahead meals for family or quick suppers for grab and go sports crazy kidss

Situation 1: From time to time, I am out in the evenings. I love to cook, but if I am not there to put it on the table, I need something that my DH can take out of the oven to serve to the family, or leave on the counter for room temperature. Problem is: DH complains about stews (claims not to like braised food) and while he'll eat a casserole from time to time, it's not his favorite. In addition, his dislikes include cooked fruit, eggplant, cilantro, mint and dill. Need ideas for cook ahead and leave in the oven/serve at room temperature.

Situation 2: 3 nights a week, my children have sports and scouts which are scheduled at my usual meal time and I am often driving a hour round trip when I need to cook dinner. I am reduced to feeding them at from 5 - 5:30 p.m. when our family dinner time is usually 7 p.m. when DH arrives home. On these nights, I need a grab and go meal to serve 11 yo son and 8 yo daughter.

I am exhausted from trying to come up with new ideas. I'd appreciate any suggestions!

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  1. Feed your kids and let your husband cope for himself -- if he doesn't like stews or casseroles, then show him where the bread and ham are kept....

    ...but he needs to understand that you are under a huge time constraint, you have kids who need healthy, balanced meals, and that he simply cannot hold the entire family hostage because of his pickiness.

    I would heartily suggest you get a crockpot for the crazy nights -- it's the best solution out there for feeding a family in shifts -- even better than the oven, because stuff doesn't get dried out and tough in a crockpot.

    He's the adult, therefore he needs to cope or be quiet.

    6 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      I totally agree sunshine and I also think the OP should just stick with the basics for grab and go. Sandwiches, fruit, oatmeal cookies--is that so bad?

      1. re: sunshine842

        I was going to say the same thing. Husband's limited palate shouldn't affect the entire family. Crockpots & braised meats are an easy solution for the OP.

        I often have homemade meatballs & sauce in the freezer. These can easily be warmed in the crockpot in the morning and then Husband can boil pasta in 10 mins. You can also have meatball hoagies w/ melted provolone cheese. Pair it with a salad and there ya go.

        I also have this recipe for southerwestern braised brisket. It requires some up front work, but you can shred it and put half of it in the crockpot (and freeze the other half for later). My kids love this brisket served on soft corn tortillas w/ a little raw onion and shredded cabbage and avocado.

        My kids have practice at dinner time too. They have a good snack after school and then we usually don't have dinner until after practice at 8:30pm (when we can sit down together). They don't like eating dinner beforehand and then having to run around on a soccer field w/ a full belly for an hour and a half. But different strokes for different folks.

        Escondido is right though, as long as the sum of the parts equals healthy,satisfying choices, it doesn't matter what you have for dinner. Sandwiches and salads and fruit - it's all good.

        1. re: lynnlato

          fried-egg sandwiches were a favorite for us when we had 3-5 football practices a week. Easily digestible protein on wholegrain bread for some long-burning carbs.

          So that before practice, then some yogurt and fruit when we got home -- it was a balanced meal, just not all at one time!

        2. re: sunshine842

          I totally agree, and I have rarely liked anything I've made in a crockpot! Still, it is the best solution for multiple mealtimes and I use mine frequently during busy weeks.

          1. re: sunshine842

            I agree. Feed your kids and have food in the house for your DH. It won't kill him to make himself a sandwich or warm up a bowl of chili. You can have a talk with him; he needs to hear your point of view. He needs to understand that you can't do it all. Nor should you have to try. On the days when you aren't rushed, you can make a nice family meal. And, these days of frantic activity don't last forever. Someday, you will really miss those kids running around your house leaving sports equipment all over the place.

            I also agree that you could come up with a couple of reliable slow cooker meals. Good meals from the slow cooker should be prepped ahead of time though. I didn't use the slow cooker because I didn't have time to do that kind of prep work in the morning. If you can make it work, then I'd try that.

            Otherwise, egg dishes are generally fast. Omelets, frittatas, fried eggs come to mind. Toasted cheese sandwiches with fresh veggies. Potatoes that bake all day in the slow cooker, and are eaten as baked for supper. Soup made on the weekend and stashed in the fridge. Hamburger patties on the stovetop grill. Also, Trident makes a good salmon burger which can be grilled the same. Tuna melts served with raw baby carrots and celery sticks. Sauteed chicken breasts are fast, and can be served on a plate with a salad and whole grain chips, or they can be served sandwich style.

            1. re: sueatmo

              on really, really crunched weeks, I sometimes prep the crockpot the night before and stick it in the fridge. The next morning I drag it out and put it in the heating compartment -- not optimal, but better than dinner that came through a window.

          2. Oh jwg, I do sympathize. The husband is pickier even than the kids, and while I would love to tell him 'just cope', not only would I feel like I wasn't keeping up my part of the bargain...he'd be, um, displeased, and probably want to share his displeasure with me. A lot. Not sure which I prefer, guilt on my part, or grumbling on his...
            My method right now is to prep the heck out of dinner and then go into overdrive the minute I walk through the door (right now the fridge contains blanched green beans, cubes of pork, chopped onions, and some sliced mushrooms and I have rice rinsed & ready in the pan on the stove & a packet of green curry paste with the scissors next to it on the counter...the kids will get a stir-fry of the pork & a few of the veg with rice, and then I'll add the curry to the rest of the meat/veg mixture for the grown-ups. Since the rice is going to take 20-30 minutes, I'll be cutting it close, but if we get back through the door by 6:30 I'll make it). Anybody got any ideas, I'd love to hear them, too. I DO use a crockpot, but the kids don't like stew, the husband doesn't care for casseroles, and we all get sick of chili & pulled pork after a while.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tonifi

              We'll assume that you don't have the crazy schedule 7 nights a week...

              ...go for sandwiches as escondido mention -- one or two sandwich nights a week isn't going to kill anyone -- and you could even have hot sandwiches...pre-prep, then wrap in plastic. When you get home, preheat the George Foreman and fire 'em up.

              ...Cook ahead -- lasagna, chili, something that can be microwaved and is sometimes even better the next day

     least cook the rice ahead! Precook the rice so all you have to do is warm it up -- use minute rice -- use the microwave rice --

     this and other boards for crockpot recipes -- there's a whole lot of food out there after you take chili and pulled pork off the list

              ...quesadillas -- cooked, sliced chicken breast, shredded cheese, and some veggies -- drop those in the George Foreman, too -- kids **love** these.

              and while it's unfortunate that hubby is pickier than the kids -- for one or two nights week, he needs to suck it up and be the dad....or learn to cook so he can help you out. Parenting is a 110% partnership -- not a "I don't like what you're making to try to keep our kids healthy and well, so I'm going to crab and moan until you find an extra hour to add to the 24 you're already using to keep my house, raise my children, do YOUR job, and feed me."

              Because it's just not fair that you're already stressing over having so little time to get everyone fed, and that you have to dance around his picky in the process. Or say fine -- I'll make something you like, but YOU do the driving for the evening.

            2. First.. in situation 1 , I wouldn’t worry too much about your husband’s complaints. It’s what we do. He just wants to go to work and then come home and live like a king. What?... it could happen. It’s right there on page 37 of the “Man Club” manual. He will whine and then he will eat what you left him.
              You need to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer with the following:
              Canned soups
              Boxed rice kits
              Pot pies (for the freezer)
              Smoked fully cooked sausage (for the fridge)

              For emergencies, you can always get the soup and bread out or you can nuke some pot pies. The canned soups and bread are a good option for when you come home from scouting or whatever and the hooligans have the nerve to want to eat again. Your DH will, begrudgingly, want to join too. The other thing you can do is slice some sausage and throw it in with the boxed rice kit and make a salad. Hey, your husband may even eat the salad. Even if he doesn’t eat the salad, he gets the nutritional benefit from it because it was there (as quoted from page 40, paragraph 2 of the “Man Club” manual.
              On the days that you can cook, make a huge casserole to make sure you have leftovers. You may have to only serve half the casserole to ensure this. Store the leftovers in single serving sizes so they can be reheated in the microwave. You will probably have to do this twice to make it through the week.
              Here are a few suggestions:
              Some kind of meat and rice casserole
              Swiss Steak (he can’t mean he doesn’t like Swiss Steak)
              A chicken and pasta casserole
              Make a batch of spaghetti with sauce just for the fridge
              Make a batch of chili and just put it in individual serving containers.
              Make a salad bar in containers for the fridge. You can always get the containers out on the table and remove the lids.
              Oh baked potatoes with chili or some soups poured on top are great.

              1. Remember that your oven has a delay timer - they all do, even mine which is 30 years old and from Montgomery Ward. So you can set up something like meatloaf or chicken parts to bake and tell him when to take them out. I'm a single mom and used to use this for baked potato night.

                But, as others have said, you're in a partnership and he needs to take some of this responsibility. Ask him to cook one or two nights of the week, and pick the nights that are best for you. If he doesn't lilke casseroles and the kids don't like stews, then he can make hamburgers. Add some sliced fruit and veggies and you have an easy acceptable meal.

                1. Some of these posts are reminding me to be thankful that 1) my husband isn't a picky eater and 2) he helps (although "help" is not the best word choice because I'm not "helping" when it comes to taking care of the family so when he does, it's not either. It's responsibility). Whew, got that off my chest. Now as the question goes...

                  1) sandwiches are great. Even better get a panini maker. Add soup and frozen vegetables and you have a meal. Along the same idea--quesadillas are also good. Don't just think bread--waffles can be made savory.

                  2) Make dough on weekends (or buy frozen dough). The night before, wrap up roasted veg, eggs, assorted cold cuts, etc in it and refrigerate. Bake the next morning, or the night before.

                  3) Make up big batches of things like chili, curry, pasta sauce and meatballs on the weekends and freeze. Put in crockpot in the morning and let it heat up. Get a rice cooker and make rice in the morning. Or microwave potatoes and serve sauce over potatoes. Pasta and meatballs over rolls.

                  4) Do breakfast for dinner. It's so quick to put together breakfast.

                  5) For my completely lazy dinner, I put rice and stock in a rice cooker w/ vegetables. Top w/ sausage. Cook. Everyone gets a hot meal when they come home.

                  6) Host a casserole party. My friends and I would make enough casserole (small 9x9 pans, so they fit in the freezer) to exchange. We'd get together and have a party and exchange casseroles so wed all end up w/ a bunch of different casseroles. Directions are written on top, along w/ what to serve it with (rice, bread, etc.). Great way to try something new and out of the box.

                  I thought I'd take that idea one further and had everyone e-mail me what they needed for their dish. I combined them all into one and everyone took a group, eg. xxx pounds of cooked ground beef, yyyy pounds of cooked chicken, zzzz cups of cooked onions, etc. The less labor intensive were the most costly so it was fair. We got together and had a party and assembled our casseroles, based on the recipe but also on what our families would like. It was like a Dinner Done, only cheaper. It was really fun but I have to say, pretty exhausting for me.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    chowser, I'm stealing idea #6. Also, it reminds me: I have a friend who does a weekly dinner swap with a neighbor where one night she prepares twice as much food and takes half over to her neighbor's house. And one night a week, her neighbor brings dinner over to her. I think real simple mag did a blurb on this. Let me see if I can find it.

                    Aha! Here it is:


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I love that there are recipes for that. We did it with my son's playgroup when they were babies. They're now heading for college in a couple of years! It was really nice having all those meals frozen and knowing we were set for a couple of weeks. Plus, we all have regular go-to dishes so it was nice to have something different.