These five tips will help you and your family get out and enjoy the beauty of Spring - without going hungry.
The days are getting longer and the weather's turning warmer. And that means one thing: Spring is officially here! You and the kids are itching to spend more time out in the sun and air, soaking in the vitamin D, and getting in some much needed exercise and fun. The only problem: the more time you spend outside playing, the less time you have to be inside making dinner. And as much of a damper that idea is, everyone knows that when dinner is late getting to the table, extremely grumpy things can happen.
But there's good news. You can absolutely have it both ways: all the fun plus all the grump-staving food. Whether you're swinging over to the park after picking up the kids from school, or thinking of extending your family's weekend outing to make the most of the lingering sunlight, here are five ways to be prepared for the night's looming dinner, so you don't get caught with a "hangry" mob on your hand.
1. Double up on dinners.
You're probably going to be cooking at least one night during the week or weekend. Make the most of your time in the kitchen by cooking lots of extra. For example, are you making chili on Sunday night? Simply double, or even triple, your recipe. That way, you'll have plenty of leftovers you can store for when you really need them. If you make enough to freeze, be sure to divvy up the leftovers into microwavable containers, and make sure each container is filled with just enough for one meal — so there's no waste. Other great double-up dishes include chicken pot pie, quiche, soups like split pea or chicken vegetable, even a four-ingredient beef stew made with onions, beef, carrots, and stock.
2. Load up the pantry.
You can't put together a quick meal if there are no quick-cooking provisions in the house. So, when you make your weekly trip to the grocery store, make sure you stock up on a few of your family's favorite pre-made entrees. Frozen and freezable items like tamales, lasagna, and rice bowls are all a good bet. Heck, throw in a frozen steak, which, once thawed, can be broiled to perfection in about 12 minutes. But Also perfectly satisfying on a rushed night are boxed organic mac and cheese, spaghetti, and jars of your favorite jarred sauce, even hearty canned soups. You can whip any of these items up nice and quick, and while they're in the oven or on the stove, you can also take a few minutes to toss up a salad or sauté some fresh vegetables to make a complete and nutritious meal. You got this!
Nothing makes for an unpleasant end to the day like hunger — and nothing makes dinner less pleasant to cook than total family meltdown. But you know what helps kids and grownups alike make it through to mealtime? Snacks. When you're in a hurry to get outside and play, though, you might not take the time to get a few noshes together to toss in your tote bag. An oh-so-easy solution: Have pre-made snack bags ready and waiting in the fridge, all packed up all ready for you to grab and go. Reusable and washable cloth lunch bags containing little containers of cubed cheese, crackers, berries, water bottles or juice boxes are the answer to making the most of those warm evening breezes and golden late-afternoon sunbeams.
4. Don't get hung up on routine.
Is Friday night usually pizza night at your house? As Spring rolls in, be prepared to be flexible about which night is the night you'll order take-out. That way, you can dial in for a pie after making the most of a sunny Wednesday. Come on, it's Spring and who knows — Friday might be rainy and you'll be perfectly content to hunker down in the living room, watching Cartoon Network while a roast is sizzling in the oven! More than that, this kind of routine busting can make any night of the week feel extra special. Why should that Friday feeling be reserved just for Friday?
5. Two words: rotisserie chicken.
A pre-cooked chicken that someone else has seasoned and spit-roasted for you is the best thing that's ever happened to working parents. It's inexpensive, delicious, packed with protein — and the perfect thing to serve to the picky eater in your life. Even if you're feeling too lazy to make an accompanying side salad, or a pot of rice (both of which are super quick and easy, by the way — we're just saying), you can end your day knowing you got something hot and healthful into your tired, hungry brood. Scoring this meal is as easy as stopping at the grocery store on the way home from an afternoon of adventure; if you hurry, you might even get it home in time to eat it while it's still hot!