In the fall of 2021, 45% of full-time employees worked remotely in the United States. However, just because more people are working from home during the pandemic doesn’t mean the heavy load of individual responsibilities has gotten lighter.
Parents have had to get creative when balancing their professional and personal lives, including making time for household chores, ensuring the kids’ homework is complete, taking them to and from extracurricular activities, and making dinner for everyone.
After a long day of work and childcare, the last thing parents want to do is stand over a cooktop for hours, so here are five quick and easy dinners to make for your family during the week.
1. Sheet Pan Meals
Sheet pan meals are some of the simplest dinners to make after wracking your brain over that big work project. It may sound too good to be true, but they’re also a very nutritious option that requires little effort on your part.
Chop up your favorite vegetables, such as carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, and mushrooms. You can even prepare your veggies in advance and stick them in the refrigerator in Ziploc bags.
On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, toss your vegetables with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other herbs you like.
Then, add your choice of meat. Great options include marinated chicken or sliced hot or sweet Italian peppers.
Feel free to serve your sheet pan meal as is, or quickly whip up a side dish of rice or potatoes. You can find ultra-convenient 90-second microwaveable rice packets at the grocery store.
2. Stir Fry
If you’re not in the mood to heat the oven for a sheet pan meal, toss your vegetables and meat into a large skillet for a tasty stir fry.
Stir fry dinners are delicious, no-frills dinners that can also be prepared in advance. Have your vegetables chopped and your meat marinating overnight so that it’s ready by the time you make dinner. You can even use rotisserie chicken instead.
Always keep a variety of traditional stir fry, Korean barbecue, or teriyaki sauces on hand for those evenings you’re too tired to make anything complicated.
Stir fry meals go great with rice side dishes or ramen noodles. You can also sprinkle sesame seeds on top for a bit of crunch.
3. Fresh Salad
Even though salads are some of the quickest, easiest meals to prepare, they also deliver the most versatility.
Think of the endless options you have for making the perfect salad—from the types of lettuce you use to the vegetables you toss in, as well as the many topping and dressing selections.
Consider using shredded coleslaw for an Asian salad with peanut dressing or adding corn salsa for a zesty Mexican taste. Harvest salads topped with dried cranberries, sliced pear, pistachios, and crumbled goat cheese are jam-packed with flavor, as well.
If you visit the frozen section at the grocery store, you can find other neat ideas to throw into your salad, too. For example, make a blue cheese and buffalo chicken salad by heating a bag of buffalo chicken poppers in the oven. It’ll be something different for a change, and your kids won’t argue with you for having to eat more vegetables.
4. Savory Pasta
Pasta is a family favorite for many reasons, mainly because it’s so quick and easy to make and feeds many people. Like salads, you can make pasta in a million different ways with a wide variety of ingredients.
When you’re in a pinch for time, boiling pasta requires zero effort. Transfer your pasta to a skillet when it’s done cooking and toss with a couple of tablespoons of jarred pesto sauce. Add some diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and your choice of protein, as well. Chicken and shrimp are excellent options for this meal.
If you want to cut back on calories, zoodles—or zucchini noodles—are the perfect alternative. To make zoodles yourself, use a mandolin or spiralizer; or, you can now find zoodles already cut in the frozen foods section of the grocery store.
One cup of zucchini is only about 17 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates. Compared to 220 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates for one cup of regular pasta, zoodles are a much healthier choice for a yummy Italian meal.
5. Loaded Nachos
Revamp your Taco Tuesday nights with loaded nachos instead. To do this, first cook your ground beef, turkey, or chicken in a skillet with taco seasoning.
Layer nacho chips, cooked ground meat, and your favorite toppings on a large sheet pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Popular nacho toppings include diced tomatoes, scallions, refried or black beans, corn, olives, chopped onions, peppers, and shredded cheese.
Pop the tray in the oven for about ten minutes and bake until the cheese melts and it’s hot all the way through. Make sure you have some guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and enchilada sauce to throw on afterward.
This is one family-style meal everyone will love.
Quick Meals the Whole Family Will Love
Finding the time to make dinner for your family when you’re juggling a hectic schedule can be challenging. With these quick and easy meals, you can still sit down together over delicious dinners that will become your household’s new favorites.