When I don't have a slow cooker freezer meal (recipes here, here, and here) handy in the freezer, I often find myself scrambling to throw together a meal. We usually get home from work and daycare pickup at 5:30pm and the kids go to bed around 6:30pm. Usually Lil Miss Wagon comes through the door and immediately makes a beeline for her high chair, screeching for her dinner, it's become necessary to always have something on hand to be able to throw together a very quick dinner.
Here are some items we try to keep on hand each week.
A Rotisserie Chicken. The kids love eating the drumsticks, and the meat can be used in so many ways. Above you'll see how we've packed the chicken with half a croissant and some cheese, grapes (sliced in half for younger kids), a clementine, and applesauce for lunch the next day after eating the drumsticks for dinner.
Cheese and Bread. If your kid refuses to eat their dinner, cheese and bread are always a quick add-on to any meal. Or you can combine them into a quick grilled cheese like you see above. I usually add a slice or two of cold cuts, and sometimes sliced tomato.
Fruit. We usually have at least two types of fruit ready to go. We buy whatever looks good and/or is on sale at the market or at Costco. Usually we rotate between: bananas, grapes (again, don't forget to slice in half for younger kids), blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and clementines. I'm allergic to a lot of fresh fruits and veggies so I avoid buying fruits like melons because even if I don't eat them, I'm afraid I'll touch my face after cutting them up.
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes. Until kids are a bit older, other raw veggies can be a little tough to eat, but little juicy tomatoes go down very easily. All we have to do is rinse and slice them. Wagon Jr. can now eat them whole, as seen in the plate on top.
Annie's Mac and Cheese. Costco sells a variety pack, and above I believe are the cheddar shells. The boxed mix is relatively quick to throw together (the most time consuming part being boiling the water for the pasta) and it's always a hit for lunch the next day as well. We like to mix in either rotisserie chicken or cubed ham steak.
Frozen Turkey Meatballs. One weekly meal we have is pasta with meatballs, which just requires one pot to boil pasta and one pot to heat sauce and meatballs. This meal is always a big hit in our house. Above is from the day after I had served the pasta and meatball dish... to make it a little different, I sliced the meatballs thinly and served the pasta tossed in olive oil. The kids loved it!
Pasta. We love rotini because it holds a lot of sauce and it's easy for kids to spear onto their fork. We also love pastas that contain vegetable powders! I usually cook an entire box of pasta and whatever we don't eat that evening, I'll toss in olive oil and keep it in the fridge.
Frozen Vegetables (in steam bags). These steam-in-the-microwave bags are the best invention ever. I stock up when my store has a 10 for $10 sale and I can easily throw a bag in to steam in the microwave while I prep dinner. I like to have a variety on hand, but the big winners in our house are broccoli, peas, corn, carrots, green beans, and any mix of those. LMW loves cauliflower as well, but WJ is reluctant to eat it along with broccoli.
Some other items I like to keep on hand that aren't pictured above:
Frozen Dumplings. They are super quick to pan fry and are great for the next day's lunches as well.
Ham Steak. I like to cut these up and pan fry with rice, eggs, and mixed veggies for a quick fried rice.
Rice. We have a rice cooker and almost always have cooked rice keeping warm in there. When we don't eat it quickly enough and it gets dried out after a couple of days, I use it for fried rice.
Frozen Chicken Nuggets and Fishsticks. Because sometimes, life. And kids love finger food.
I didn't mention eggs or other traditionally breakfast foods because Wagon Sr. has taken over breakfast and prepares eggs every morning, so we stay away from them for other meals. Usually breakfasts are pretty standard, but one morning he presented a delighted Wagon Jr. with this:
What are your staples and secret weapons to get dinner onto the table quickly?