Have you ever wished you had an extra hour every day, or an extra day every week? As parents, we’re constantly struggling to find time to do all the things we need to do. In the clinic, parents tell me their biggest hurdle is the time to prepare and serve healthy dishes, especially dinners. So I’ve pulled together my favourite quick dinner ideas, along with other time-saving tricks.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about my best time-saving tricks in the kitchen.
Quick Dinner Ideas & Other Time-Saving Tricks For Busy Parents
When you’re shopping
I love going to the farmers market to get a lot of our food. But I’m a big fan of online shopping when it comes to dry pantry goods! If you have to run to the supermarket every time you run out of almonds or spelt flour, the time adds up. But shopping online also works out to be cheaper and requires less packaging.
Have a look at the options available in your local area. Wholefood Collective is a good Australian option to check out.
Quick Dinner Ideas
When it comes to quick dinner ideas, batch-cooking is my saviour! As a busy mum who runs a full-time business while juggling two kids, I’m not someone who can cook every night. So I choose a few nights that suit my schedule, and I batch-cook.
To batch your cooking, start with 3 nights that you’re home for a fair bit of the evening. For me, that’s Sunday, Monday and Wednesday nights. The goal is to prepare something that lasts 2, 4 or more meals.
Batch-cook friendly meals include:
- Bolognaise sauce – add plenty of veggies to make it stretch further!
- Kangaroo chilli – kangaroo is a great nutrient-dense and environmentally friendly meat, but you can use beef or lamb if you prefer
- Butter chicken
- Slow-cooked meals
- Meat patties
Even if you don’t prepare the entire meal, you can prep parts of it. One of my favourite quick dinner ideas for the warmer weather is chicken. You can marinate it in advance, then pop it on the barbeque and serve with a side salad.
You can prep salads and sides as another way to save time. Potato salad, carrot and pistachio salad, cous cous salad, broccoli slaw and quinoa salads can be prepared and kept for a few days each.
The best part is that the dishes are already dirty, and you’re already chopping things up. So it saves you doing more cooking and washing up later in the week!
My batch-cooking schedule
Every week is a little different, but this gives you an idea of how I make batch-cooking work for my family and my schedule.
Sunday: I make roast meat, and serve with salad or roast vegetables. This is a big batch – either 2 whole roast chickens, or a big roast lamb. Then I use the leftover meat for lunches and dinners. If I make roast vegetables, I make 2 full trays worth.
Monday: I whip up a big batch of kangaroo chilli, and serve it with rice. As I’m not around to cook tomorrow night, I use the leftover roast veg from Sunday and cook up a frittata.
Tuesday: This is my late night. I use the frittata that was cooked last night, and serve it with some salad.
Wednesday: We pull out some batch cooking from the week before, which was in the freezer.
Thursday: This is a busy night, so I use another serve of the kangaroo chilli. To mix it up, I serve it on a baked sweet potato with avocado and sour cream.
Friday: This is usually a simple night, so I might make fish and salad.
Saturday: My favourite night! On Saturday, my hubby might cook, or we might eat out.
As you can see, quick dinner ideas don’t have to be about grabbing takeaway. Healthy dinner ideas don’t have to mean slaving in the kitchen for hours. You can find a balance between the two.
A tip about using leftovers
Husbands and partners tend to be the ones complaining about eating the same thing every night. Here are some ideas about how to reuse leftovers so they won’t even notice it’s the same dish!
Kangaroo chilli – serve with rice, on a baked potato or sweet potato, or make into a Mexican burrito bowl with avocado and corn chips.
Curries – serve with rice, cauliflower or broccoli rice, soba noodles, or serve over a baked sweet potato.
Roasts – add as a homemade pizza topping, serve with quinoa or cous cous salad, mix in with leftover roast vegetables, or slice and add to a mountain wrap bread with salad.
What about breakfasts?
Often, pre-made breakfasts are the way to go if you’re short on time. So what can you make the night before to make it easier in the morning?
Some of my favourite picks for breakfast include:
- Bircher muesli with oats and nuts soaked in your milk or yoghurt of choice
- Chia pudding
- Pumpkin and date loaf – make this ahead of time, and slice up for breakfast!
- Frittata with vegetables and leftover meat – just pour eggs over the top and sprinkle with fetta!
- Make-you-own granola for kids – let them choose their nuts and seeds, add some oats and chopped fruit
It can feel tricky when you’re not just pouring cereal straight out of the box. But wholefood options can be just as quick if you’re prepared.
Looking for more tips around a healthy breakfast for kids? Make sure you check out this article.
Preparing healthy, balanced lunchboxes
When it comes to packing lunches, I have two tips.
The first is batch-baking. I want to make sure that the treats going into their lunchboxes are homemade, so I know what is going into it!
Once every 4-8 weeks, I set aside a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and go crazy in the kitchen! I will make a quadruple batch of 3-4 different recipes, and pop them into the freezer. The treats are stored in a pyrex glass container with baking paper in between. That way, the kids can pick their treat out of the freezer in the morning.
Some good treats to prepare and freeze include biscuits, cakes, slices and muffins. You can even sneak in some extra vegetables with sweet potato brownies or choc-beetroot muffins. Batch-baking like this can last me up to a full term, but most batches last for at least 5 weeks.
My other hot tip is to have their lunchboxes clean and open in the evening while you’re cooking. That way, when you’re whipping up one of the quick dinner ideas from above, you can pack as you go.
Chopping up vegetables? Chuck some vegetable sticks into the lunchbox. Made a batch of roast meat and veggies on a Sunday night? Add it to the lunchbox. That way, all the kids have to do in the morning is add their snack and a piece of fruit.
If you’re looking for more around time-saving tricks and boosting your child’s nutrition, I have a new training series starting soon. To learn more and sign up, head here.