11 Minutes to a Peaceful Mealtime

11 Minutes to a Peaceful Mealtime

A peaceful mealtime-does it really exist? Yes, it does, and not only in dreams. Better yet, you don’t have to wait until your kids are grown to achieve it. With how busy life can get, it’s so helpful to have a plan.  Sitting down for a few minutes to recognize the nights that may be difficult to prep and cook a meal (like the nights with back to back sports practice) gives you an opportunity to still serve delicious, nutritious meals while keeping the atmosphere in your home peaceful.


What are some strategies that you can use on those “too busy to think” days?

  • Crock pot. Take the time in the morning to throw the ingredients into the crock pot so that dinner is ready when you need it. 
  • Freezer meals. Make your own freezer meals that are tastier and healthier than store-bought frozen dinners. Make sure you remove them from the freezer in time for them to properly defrost prior to cooking or reheating.
    • Make “freezer bag” meals. This is when you assemble most or all of the ingredients you need for a meal, freeze it, and defrost for quick cooking or for putting into the crock pot. With this method, you have already done your grocery shopping and most or all of the prep and assembly. 
    • When you cook, double your recipe and freeze, then defrost for a busy night. Lots of recipes freeze well to provide you with a future meal. Pasta sauce, meatballs, pulled pork, and many others meals can be frozen to enjoy at a later date.
    • Make-ahead casseroles. You can make casseroles ahead of time and freeze them, then defrost and warm for a quick meal. This vegetable chicken casserole is cooked in the microwave after you thaw it. 
  • Leftovers/clean out the refrigerator. You’ll need to plan in advance for this one too. For instance, if you cook on Sunday and Monday knowing that Tuesday evening will be busy, you can serve the leftovers from Sunday and Monday on Tuesday night.
  • Make your own sandwich or mini pizza. Set out the sandwich fixings, and with some supervision (depending on the age(s) of your child/children), let them create. Encourage them to find ways to use vegetables in their creations. In our home, one child loves a breadless ham roll up with a slice of cheese, pickle slices, roasted red bell peppers, and spinach leaves rolled into his ham. Peanut butter and jelly is a great treat for kids, especially if they aren’t allowed to have it at school. Maybe offer honey, banana slices, and/or granola to make it a bit different. Use a rolling pin to roll out the bread, then once the toppings are on, roll it up and slice to make fun sandwich pinwheels. For the adults, dress up a cheese sandwich with pesto, spinach or arugula, and fresh mozzarella heated in a skillet to make a quick and delicious meal. 

    Use the same concept with mini pizzas. No pizza crust in the house? Not a problem. You can use a whole wheat hamburger bun, English muffin, or pita, set out the toppings, and let everyone create their personal pizzas, then bake until the cheese melts. Of course, if you are low on time, you can assemble the mini pizzas yourself earlier in the day to bake when needed.
  • Breakfast for dinner. So many kids (and adults alike) look forward to this kind of a night. Whip up some scrambled eggs or wrap your scrambled eggs in a tortilla with some cheese and salsa for a burrito. You can premake, freeze, and defrost pancakes or waffles to serve on breakfast for dinner night too.

A few other tips include the following:

  • Have steam in the bag or frozen vegetables that you can steam stocked so that you can effortlessly serve a vegetable.
  • When you are at the grocery store, stock up on apples, grapes, and other fruits to serve as a side with your meals.
  • Have staples handy, like whole wheat noodles, brown rice, or anything else your family regularly uses to accompany meals.
  • Place a list the meals that you have in your freezer, along with the date prepared, so that you know what’s in there and you can scratch it off as it’s used. This way you won’t forget about a wonderful meal that is hiding in the freezer. Try to use a “first in, first used” approach so that you don’t let meals just sit in the freezer.

    And if you have tips to a peaceful mealtime, please share them. Your tip could be just what a family needs to enjoy their food and each other during their home-cooked meal.

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