Think one-pot meals. This is where the slow cooker or big cast-iron Le Creuset Dutch oven come in handy. Just make a double batch of that Bolognese, beef stew, or even lamb pot pie one night, and you will have two nights worth of nutritious meals. All you have to do come Tuesday is defrost the second portion and throw together a salad.
You spend Saturday mornings at the farmers market, purchasing whatever fruits and vegetables catch your eye. Instead of letting those greens and vibrant root vegetables lose their luster come Thursday, take a couple of hours over the weekend to clean, chop, and even cook up your loot so that you have a fridge stocked with all sorts of ingredients, making whipping up a vegetable curry, sweet potato frittata, or even pasta tossed with kale and white beans easy when you're too tired to spend a long time cooking.
Making soup from scratch doesn't take a lot of effort, allows you to use up all sorts of odds and ends (chopped vegetables, pasta, beans, and perhaps some sautéed sausage), fills you up, and it's easy to make multiple batches. And with a loaf of bread and a simple salad, a bowl of soup makes for a well-rounded meal suitable for any night of the week.
If you love eggs, then you know they're not just for breakfast. When you're too tired to cook an entire meal from scratch, pull out a case of eggs, some cheese, and some chopped vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, or even that leftover roasted zucchini) and make up omelettes or scrambled eggs to order. Then, round out the meal with some toasted bread or savory scones.
When you've got a cupboard stocked with dried pasta, tomato sauce, pesto, and cans of prepared vegetables, and some frozen chicken sausages in the freezer, all you need is 30 minutes to set up a make-your-own pasta bar where every member of the family can top their bowl of spaghetti with whatever they choose. Kids will love "preparing" their own dinner, whether they choose just cheese or sausage, or load it all on top. And you'll rest easy knowing whatever you choose to put out is healthy.
Making dinner at home doesn't mean that every part of the meal has to be made from scratch — shortcuts are OK! Pick up a rotisserie chicken from Boston Market, and then supplement it with a side of mac and cheese and green beans almondine from the freezer. Or shop the antipasto bar area of your market. Sauté some shrimp together with roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, then toss with pasta or rice. Easy!
Many hands make light work — the same is true when it comes to cooking for the family. Instead of making seven different meals for your family over the week, team up with friends so everyone cooks one or two meals. Consider dishes that are great for potlucks, such as lasagna, enchiladas, or a stew, and give the extra portions to everyone else. Or turn girls wine night into a soup exchange.
When kids help prepare a meal, they're more apt to enjoy whatever they make. One great way to get the kids in the kitchen (without lifting a knife) is to set up a self-serve bar. Perhaps it's a baked potato station, with toppings like sautéed ground beef, sour cream, chopped vegetables, and salsa, or maybe it's pizzas made from pitas. Getting your dining companions to lend a hand will save time and make meal prep more enjoyable.