If you’re looking for quick family meals ideas you probably also want to save money and feed your kids nutritious food. Whether it’s dinner or breakfast, I find that these two meals are always rushed in our family. If you’re trying to get everyone off to school or work on time in the morning and the kids to bed on time in the evening, you’ll understand what I mean. Deadlines plague all of us but here are some neat tips to help you get through the week smoothly…
🍽️ 4 Quick and Healthy Dinner Ideas
When it comes time to make a healthy meal for your family, you don’t need to spend a lot of time or energy. There are ways to make nutritious meals that are well-balanced, delicious, and won’t take all day and night to prepare.
Even on the busiest nights, the following healthy dinner ideas will be easy for you to accomplish.
1. Rotisserie Chicken
This meal has a lot of room for customizing it, based on your family’s needs and preferences. The basis of the meal is picking up a rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket. This is definitely one of the best things you can use for healthy and quick meals.
You don’t have to spend time roasting a chicken yourself, but you are also not driving through KFC for an unhealthy chicken dinner.
Pick up a rotisserie chicken and combine it with any nutritious side dishes you like, whether you have it with a salad, mashed potatoes, or perhaps some coleslaw. You can also tear up the chicken into pieces for soup or salad.
2. Salmon and Veggies
While salmon might seem like something that takes a long time, it is actually very quick and easy to make in a pan. If you’re looking for quick family meals ideas, salmon is perfect.
All you need to do is add a little olive oil to the pan, season your salmon and place it on the pan for a few minutes, then flip it over for another few minutes. It really does cook very quickly.
You can combine your pan-seared salmon with some veggies cooked in whichever way you like.
You can add the veggies to the pan or roast them while the salmon is cooking. Perhaps you have some left over roast vegetables from dinner the night before. These can be quickly heated in a few minutes and added to your meal. Add lemon juice and herbs to complete the meal.
3. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Here is a simple meal that you can make in record time. It’s so simple you may not even think about using it for dinner.
It is a great meal you can make on nights when it is a little chilly outside, and also when your family wants some comfort food.
While you can buy jarred tomato soup to make it even easier to prepare, making your own tomato soup doesn’t take too long.
It is something you can make in your slow cooker while at work or running errands during the day, then it’s ready to go by dinner time. You can either combine the healthy tomato soup with regular grilled cheese or make grilled cheese croutons to add to your soup.
To make fast grilled cheese get yourself a mini toaster oven like this one (pictured). They are so convenient and you don’t need to bend down to your regular oven grill if it is under your counter (like mine).
If salad sounds boring for a meal, you haven’t considered the many different ways to make a salad! Salad is the perfect meal since it is easy to prepare and can be as healthy as you want. It’s perfect to put on your list of quick family meals ideas.
You can customize each salad with your family in mind, thinking about what your spouse and kids would enjoy the most.
There are typical chef’s salads, Greek salads and Caesar salads, as well as salads that you make yourself simply by adding in all your favorite veggies. If it is the summer season, make a salad with strawberries and pecans with poppy seed dressing, or combine greens with cooked pasta for a pasta salad.
Think about what will appeal to your kids. Do they like a salad with the ingredients tossed together in a bowl or do they like a deconstructed salad with all the items separately next to each other on a plate? You can also make pictures or funny faces with salad on a plate for younger kids.
🥣 5 Grab-and-Go Breakfast Ideas
A meal that is often forgotten about is breakfast. You and your family need to eat a nutritious breakfast, even on your busiest morning.
These days there are lots of kitchen appliances to help you get a fast breakfast in the morning, just take a look at this breakfast maker (shown on the left), you can check the price here.
And if you want to make a breakfast with what you already have in the kitchen… the following grab-and-go breakfast ideas are both easy to prepare and can be very healthy.
Even as a busy mom, you can prepare the following grab-and-go breakfasts.
Make a decision based on what foods suit your family and how much time you have to prepare.
1. Fruit and Nut Loaf
An easy way to have breakfast ready for the entire week is by making a healthy bread loaf that has lots of fruit and nuts in it. You can make it with fresh fruit like berries or used dried fruit like apricots.
This is a lot healthier than making a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, which might be delicious, but doesn’t contain as many nutrients.
You can try a loaf with fig and almonds, or go for a multi-berry loaf with applesauce and walnuts.
2. Protein or Breakfast Bars
Breakfast bars are great when you are really low on time, but you don’t want to hand your children a Pop-Tart when they leave the house.
Breakfast bars and protein bars tend to have more vitamins and minerals, plus extra protein to keep your family energized for the day. You can also make your own with just a few simple ingredients.
Smoothies are not only healthy and easy to make, but with the right travel cup or bottle, can be something anyone in your family can bring with them on a busy morning. Some bullet blenders like the Nutribullet (shown) come with smoothie cups.
Even kids can drink a smoothie in the car without spilling it because the cups usually come with a sealed top and drink spout.
My kids like banana smoothies but I’m more of a berry smoothie fan. If you want to add extra protein to your smoothie try adding almond meal or another nut flour. Smoothies are great as quick family meals ideas because you can choose your own flavor.
You can even prepare some of the ingredients the night before, such as chopping up and freezing fruit and putting them in serving-size baggies.
In the morning, all you have to do is grab those baggies and add them to the blender with milk and yogurt, and you have yourself a healthy smoothie. Your kids will know which bag is theirs, by the color of the fruit, so they can get their own frozen fruit out of the freezer for you to make their smoothie.
4. Breakfast Sandwiches
Believe it or not, it is actually quite easy to have healthier versions of the breakfast sandwiches you usually get from a fast food drive-thru.
You can prepare them ahead of time as well, which saves you even more time on busy mornings.
Make the eggs ahead of time by putting an egg into individual muffin tins, then baking them until the eggs are cooked.
Now get out whole wheat or whole grain English muffins and put the egg on top, with a slice of cheese and anything else you like.
Wrap up each sandwich individually and pop it in the freezer.
In the morning, you can hand one to each family member to heat up or let defrost until they are ready to eat breakfast.
Of course, it is even more tasty if you make it in the morning ready to eat. By using a breakfast sandwich maker like the one pictured you can make them quite easily and quickly. You get faster, the more you make!
5. Homemade Granola
Finally, don’t forget about granola! This is a healthy snack or breakfast to make for your family and is easy for them to bring along on busy mornings.
You can make the granola with your choice of nuts, grains, dried fruit, and other ingredients, then put it in individual baggies. In the morning, they can grab a bag of granola to munch on or add it to some yogurt. You can also add granola on top of a smoothie bowl to eat for breakfast.
🍅 3 Ingredients You Can Buy and Cook in Bulk
If you are looking to cook healthier, but also with your extra-busy schedule, buying and cooking in bulk is highly recommended. While you do need to find some time during at least one day of the week, this helps you prepare meals for the rest of the week.
Here are just a few ideas of ingredients to cook in bulk and save for meals throughout the week.
This is by far one of the best ingredients you can buy in bulk and cook to prepare for future meals.
In meal planning, chicken breast can be used for many different meals. You can make chicken sandwiches, soup or stew, chili, and salads.
The chicken breast can be added to casseroles, enchiladas, casseroles, or saved as a main dish.
It can even be used for snacks or a high-protein breakfast. If you have an indoor grill (for the price on the one shown, click here) you can easily grill chicken for breakfast or lunch along with some vegetables like zucchini or bell peppers.
In order to save money, you can buy your chicken breast in bulk and cook it all in the same manner, such as baking all of the breasts, boiling them, or putting them all in the slow cooker.
Remember to create different recipes with your chicken so your family don’t become bored with it.
One of the food items that tends to take a lot of time is tomato sauce. You can prepare a lot of different meals with your tomato sauce, cooking a wide range of different pastas and lasagnas. Unfortunately, the jarred sauce isn’t always good for you, and not very convenient.
You can make some large batches of tomato sauce, put them in mason jars, and save them for the pasta meals during the week. Some ingredients needed for basic tomato sauce include tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red wine, and seasonings of your choice.
For your vegetable side dishes, main dishes, and snacks, you might want to roast some vegetables in bulk. You can purchase the vegetables for less money at farmer’s markets and health food stores.
Chop up all the veggies you want to use and add some olive oil and seasonings to them. Turn on your oven and roast them for several minutes. Some vegetables that are good for roasting include carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, bell peppers, onions, and zucchini.
With just these few ingredients, you can make a lot of different healthy meals during the week. By spending a few hours on a day off cooking these ingredients in bulk, you will be able to save plenty of time during the week on meals without having to get take-out every time you have a busy day.
If you live in an apartment and you don’t have an oven, consider buying a mini oven. These mini ovens do more than the good old toaster oven. They can roast and bake just like a large oven. And they save a lot of energy by roasting in a smaller space. You’ll be using less electricity.
🍳 Cooking Appliances to Help Simplify the Cooking Process
In order to cook healthy meals with your busy schedule, you need to have the right tools in the kitchen. This includes using a variety of different tools, gadgets, and appliances. Most of them are on the budget-friendly side, so don’t worry about having to spend too much money.
Just start buying them one at a time, starting with the ones you believe you would get the most use out of. Here are some excellent appliances to have at home for fast, healthy cooking for your family.
You can chop, dice, slice, and puree just about anything in your handy little food processor.
To see the best top-rated food processors with free delivery included, click here.
From making homemade baby food for your baby to chopping up vegetables for a salad or casserole, a food processor does just about everything.
When you want to combine a lot of vegetables, such as for a homemade salsa, it is very easy to do with this handy tool.
I like to use my food processor to chop up a lot of vegetables all at once on the weekend and then I put a combination of those different vegetables in zip lock bags and freeze them. During the week I pull out a bag of frozen veg and toss it into the pan for dinner. This is so easy, especially if you combine it with the bulk chicken breasts you’ve cooked. It saves so much time for quick family meals ideas on the go.
Blender or Juicer
Both of these appliances (a blender and a juicer) come in handy, though you don’t always have to buy both of them at once. If you don’t want to spend the money on a juicer, you can always use a blender for the same purpose.
However, if your family loves fresh orange juice you should get an electric citrus juicer.
We love making fresh juice with breakfast in our family and now we can’t live without this type of juicer (the one pictured is a citrus juicer, check the price and features here). It keeps us all healthy with lots of fresh orange juice.
An all round blender is great for making homemade and all-natural juice and smoothies, as well as milkshakes when you want to offer your family a little treat.
The blender can also be used to make banana ice cream, which is healthy but also a fun frozen treat for the kids.
A steamer is another great tool to have, with many options available. One of the better options is to get a two-tiered microwavable steamer, as this lets you steam all your vegetables in one shot right in the microwave. You don’t have to dirty a pan on the stove that needs to be washed, and you can easily get your veggies ready for dinner.
Another option is to get an electric steamer which is a stand alone appliance and doesn’t rely on your stove top. This gives you more options and provides a compact cooking appliance.
Many people swear by slow cookers since it cooks just about everything while you are busy doing other things. Leave it on at night to make a breakfast casserole that is ready when everyone wakes up, or have dinner cooking in the slow cooker while you are taking the kids to school, running errands, or working during the day. By the time everyone gets home, you are ready to put the finishing touches on a healthy and nutritious meal.
🍌 Have Your Kids Help With Meals
Instead of just doing all the meal prep and cooking on your own, consider involving your children in the process. They can help with everything from chopping vegetables to actually cooking parts of the meals. This also reduces how much you have to do on your own.
Have Kids Help With Meal Prep
To start with, have your kids help you prepare meals. Depending on their ages and abilities, this can be anything from chopping vegetables, mixing ingredients, or actually doing some of the cooking.
Teaching your kids at a young age to begin helping with dinner is a great lesson for them so that they can become more independent, but also lets them help you a little more around the house. Also, when your kids start helping with meals, they become more interested in healthy cooking and eating. They will even give you some of their own recommendations.
One of the best ways I get my kids to help is by getting all of the ingredients out of the fridge and pantry for me and then putting it all away again after I’ve used it.
In the morning this saves a lot of time. I ask my kids to get the cereal out of the pantry, the milk from the fridge, the spoons from the drawer. And then they put the cereal and milk back again.
In the evening I do similar. I ask them for specific vegetables out of the crisper in the fridge along with pasta from the pantry and other items like olive oil. This is both entertaining and educational. You’ll smile when you ask for an eggplant and your child brings you an avocado. Or a tomato and you get a peach.
Let Your Kids Choose Their Healthy Food Choices
Another way to get more help from your kids when meal time arrives is by having them choose some of their own healthy food choices. This gets them more involved and interested, but can also take some of the meal planning work out of what you need to do yourself.
When you are getting ready to work on meal planning, ask your kids what they would like in their lunches for the week.
Choose the healthiest options from their choices, and use that to guide your meal planning list in the right direction.
Make Cooking a Family Event
You can also turn cooking dinner into a complete family event. Gather everyone together each evening to put together your meal, with one kid chopping veggies, the younger kids mixing ingredients or setting the table, and the older kids or teenagers helping with the cooking.
This is another thing that gets you some help in the kitchen, while also teaching your kids a valuable tool they can use in their life.
Try New Things Together
When you have your kids help more with meals and meal planning, you can also get their input on trying new things. Perhaps your middle schooler has a friend who often has a certain type of meal each week and talks about it at school, and they want to try it out.
Go ahead and take these suggestions to heart and really think about how you can turn them into new family meals to try out. You can also sit down as a family and discuss new recipes you want to try, looking through sites like Pinterest together to find delicious and fun meals.
🍮 Meal Planning 101: How to Plan a Week’s Worth of Meals in One Day
If you are short on time and still want to make nutritious food for your family, you should start meal planning. This involves getting ingredients and meals ready to cook for each day, minimizing how much needs to be done when it’s time to prepare dinner.
Here are some things to know about meal planning and what is involved.
Marinate Your Meat Beforehand
One great way to start planning and prepping your meals for the next week is to buy your meat in bulk, then marinate it ahead of time.
Marinating does take quite a bit of time, so it helps if you can start cooking right after returning home from work or after picking up your kids from school.
Choose different types of marinades for different meats, based on what meals you want to use them for. Some meats that work great as marinating ahead of time include flank steak, pork chops, lamb chops, ribs, and chicken breasts.
Be Detailed With Your Meal Plan
When you are planning your meals for the week, try to be as detailed as possible. Get out a pen and paper and start by writing down what you already have on hand as a way to start your meals.
Include any grains, seasonings, condiments, meat, veggies, and other items that you have. This will help to put meals together and also reduce how much you need to buy. With those ingredients, make a list of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts.
Use that list to write down ingredients you need for each meal, trying to remember to leave room for leftovers and choose items that can be used for multiple meals.
Prep Components of Your Meals
Instead of cooking entire meals, just take some time on your day off each week to prep components of your meals.
This makes it a lot easier when cooking time comes each day. For example, when you are planning your meals, you can also consider some items that would be easy to prep together.
For example, plan to have a lot of the same veggies in a single week, that can all be baked together.
Roasting veggies together and putting them in the same Tupperware containers is a lot easier than trying to have different veggies every night of the week.
If you use clear containers in your fridge you can easily see the ones you want and grab them when you want quick family meals ideas during the week.
Take a look at the Rubbermaid set of containers pictured if you’re needing new ones.
Involve Your Kids
If you are stuck on ideas, don’t be afraid to ask your kids for help! They might have some suggestions for their own lunches that are not only healthy, but help you put a varied list together for the following weeks’ meals.
🌿 Keep Your Pantry Stocked With the Essentials
A good way to motivate you to cook more healthy meals at home is by keeping your kitchen stocked with the essentials. That way, you always have ingredients at home to make a home-cooked meal and avoid having to order pizza or drive through a local fast food restaurant.
Here are some of the essential pantry items to be sure you have on hand.
Oil and Dressing
By having these in your kitchen already, you can prepare a lot of meals with other ingredients you have and not have to worry about picking up extra items every time you go to the grocery store.
Have a variety of oils based on your needs, including vegetable, olive, canola, sesame, and peanut oil. Also have some non-stick oil spray for the pans.
Have different types of vinegar, such as red wine and rice vinegar, and sauces like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.
Don’t forget basic condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, honey, and any others your family enjoys.
Rice, Pasta and Grains
These items can be made with nothing more than boiling water and some basic ingredients.
You should have a combination of different beans and grains, such as kidney beans, chili beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, along with quinoa and couscous.
For rice, choose your favorites, but also have a variety, such as wild rice, jasmine rice, white rice, and brown rice.
Have different forms of pasta, including bowtie, spaghetti noodles, and lasagna noodles. This will cover a lot of your basic meal options. Quick family meals ideas often start with what you have in the pantry, so stock it well.
Seasonings and Herbs
Include a wide range of seasonings and herbs in your pantry, both fresh and dried herbs. Choose the basics like rosemary, basil, oregano, and mint. These herbs combined with seasonings like salt, pepper, and garlic salt will take you far in your different meals.
Also consider things like all-spice and multiple seasoning bottles, such as a bottle of Italian seasoning to make the cooking process even easier.
Other Dry Goods
In addition to these items, you should have some other staples in the pantry. This includes items that help you bake things from scratch, such as bread, biscuits, and muffins.
Have plenty of salt, sugar, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and other items that help you prepare your different baked items or treats.
🍲 Tips For Cooking Healthy Meals in the Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is one of the best appliances you can have when you want to cook healthy meals without spending too much extra time. You can get other things done while you’re cooking dinner. This is important if you want quick family meals ideals. You can create so many varieties of meals without needing a lot of time.
You can often buy cheaper cuts of meat which will tenderize when cooked in a slow cooker. This can save you money as well as helping you prepare family meals for the week.
There are different types of slow cookers to choose from, from compact ones to larger varieties.
Some slow cookers also have timers, so that you set for when it should be turned on and off, so your meals can be done at the right time. Quick family meals ideas are never easier than when you’re using a slow cooker.
But if you want an original manual slow cooker, the one pictured is very affordable and very popular (it has an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars for more than 3,800 reviews on Amazon).
Here are some tips for using the slow cooker to cook healthy meals.
Trim the Fat From Meat
If you are going to cook meat in the slow cooker, trim the fat first. This will keep the lean meat as healthy as possible, and will also reduce the amount of oil that is sitting in the slow cooker.
You don’t want all that extra oil and fat as it isn’t necessary for cooking your meat. You will still get plenty of seasoning and natural oils from the meat itself, so take a few minutes to trim the fat and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Don’t Open the Lid Too Much
It is tempting to keep opening the lid of the slow cooker when you have a meal cooking in there, but this is going to increase how long it takes for your meal to cook thoroughly. Every time you open the lid, add a few minutes to the overall cooking time.
In most cases, you don’t need to do any excessive stirring of the ingredients like you would in a pan. The ingredients shouldn’t stick and should mix together naturally, so only open the lid when absolutely necessary.
Be Careful When Filling the Appliance
While you can fit a good amount of ingredients in a slow cooker, you don’t want to fill it up too much. If you fill it too much ,it might overflow when you aren’t at home, and you come home to a complete mess.
Try to keep it to half full or 2/3 full at the most. Some of your ingredients might increase in size while they are cooking, so keep that in mind when deciding how much to stuff in the slow cooker. Filling it up too much also increases the overall cooking time.
Add Your Dairy Last
When filling up a slow cooker for your next meal, your dairy should be added to the appliance last. The dairy is going to break down in the slow cooker, so if you are adding yogurt, milk, or sour cream to your meal, do it near the end of the cooking process. They should be added in the last 15-20 minutes unless you are cooking a cream-based meal, such as clam chowder.
🍱 Tips For Packing Healthy Lunches For Your Kids
One of the biggest struggles with feeding your family healthier foods is knowing what to have your kids bring for lunches.
Instead of just giving them the generic sandwiches and chips each day, follow these tips to pack them healthy lunches each day without spending too much time and effort.
Use Bento Boxes For Different Lunch Components
An easy way to put your kids’ lunches together in a way that keeps them interesting and varied is by using Bento boxes (to see the top-rated bento boxes, click here). I am slightly obsessed with bento boxes. They’re such a great way to pack lunch.These lunch boxes have a lot of different compartments that let you put portion-size items together.
Instead of making a wrap and putting it in a typical lunch box, you can have a deconstructed wrap that your child can put together on their own. These boxes also work great when you want them to have different types of items together, such as nuts, fruit, veggies with dip, lean meat, and any other options they like.
Make Healthier PB&J Sandwiches
Just because your kid likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches doesn’t mean they can’t have a healthy meal. There are plenty of ways to make them healthier. To start with, use whole wheat or whole grain bread instead of regular white bread.
Choose a low-sugar version of jam or jelly instead of regular jarred jelly. For the peanut butter, go with a low-salt, natural version or make it completely on your own.
Include Leftovers in the Lunch
You don’t have to give your kids traditional meal items like sandwiches, chips, and pudding. You can make them meals that don’t take very long by taking some of your leftovers and putting them together in the Bento box or regular lunch box.
Many kids enjoy their dinners so much that they are more than willing to have some of the same items for lunch. You don’t have to make it exactly the same either. For example, if you prepared steak the night before, cut it into strips and include it in their lunch box with whole-wheat tortillas and veggies so they can make their own fajitas for lunch.
Have Kids Help With Lunches
Just as you do with dinners during the week, it helps to have your kids help with their lunches. Let them choose different healthy components for their meals to simplify the entire process. They will give you more ideas and help put their lunch boxes together. You will also know they will enjoy their lunch and eat it all since they helped to put it together. Quick family meals ideas only work if they get eaten.
🥡 Eat Out the Right Way
Sometimes quick family meals ideas mean you need to get someone else to prepare the meal. There are going to be times when you need to eat out with your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to choose fried chicken or fattening cheeseburgers.
Here are some tips for eating out the right way, eating healthy options that don’t derail from your new lifestyle.
Know What to Order Beforehand
To start with, try to find out what the restaurant has before you even go. This can help you decide what restaurants are best, based on your dietary needs. You might want to ease up on cooking for a night, but not have fried chicken and French fries for your family.
In this case, you should try looking up local fast food or sit-down restaurants online and take a look at their menu. Most restaurants will list all of their menu items, the basic ingredients, and often times the nutritional facts as well.
Many restaurants also have some type of light fit menu, which is definitely something to look for.
Rely on Grilled Chicken and Veggies
When you’re using quick family meals ideas at home you can keep them healthy but when you’re out it’s harder. When you are looking at a restaurant menu and having a hard time choosing a healthy meal option, going with grilled chicken and veggies is usually a safe bet. Make sure the chicken is grilled and not breaded and fried. This even goes for fast food restaurants, as many chicken sandwiches offer the option between breaded or grilled.
With a sandwich, have just the grilled chicken with veggies, leaving off all condiments and cheese. In a restaurant, you can usually get your chicken with a salad or side of veggies.
Depending on your dietary needs, you might be able to have rice or a roll with butter, though that depends if you are on a low-carb diet or not.
Order Everything A La Carte
Another easy option for eating out in a health way is by not necessarily going with the meal options available. Instead, order each item for your meal a la carte, where you basically build the meal yourself.
This lets you have full control over what you are eating so you’re not stuck wasting money since you can’t eat some of the food items that come with your meal.
For example, you can ask for salmon, a side of steamed vegetables, and a cup of wild rice, since this meal doesn’t exist on the menu.
Know How Food is Prepared
Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter or waitress how the food is prepared. Sometimes, the way the food items are worded in the menu don’t always describe the ingredients used to make them.
You should know what oils, sauces, cheese, and other ingredients are used for certain food items so you can best determine what the healthiest choice would be.
Finding quick family meals ideas doesn’t need to be difficult. There are plenty of good options for every meal of the day. Usually you benefit from planning ahead. So, if you can set the time aside, do some meal planning or even some meal prepping and see how much easier it makes your life.
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