One kid needs homework help. The other has practice in less than an hour and dinner? Let’s just say it’s not going to make itself. With these quick dinner ideas and tips, you’ve got a fighting chance of feeding the fam and making it through the after-school shuffle without breaking a sweat. So, keep cool and read on!

Prep ahead.

Chop, measure and mix ingredients on the front end to save time on the back end. Yep, it’s that simple. Whether you gather and prep ingredients on the weekend before the rush of the week begins or pull double duty—prepping dinner while you pack kids’ lunches in the morning—you’ll save time by having everything ready to go in the evening.

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Embrace pre-made ingredients.

Trust us, learning to love pre-made products will set you free. Using items like rotisserie chicken (simply shred it and throw it on top of a bagged salad for a filling main course) or jarred pasta sauce (you can customize it with fresh veggies and spices) is a busy parent’s best-kept secret for easy, healthy dinners. Also, don’t think about shying away from frozen foods when you’re short on time. You’re welcome.

Enlist the kids to help.

It’s true. Many hands do make light work. So put the fam to the task as you work to get dinner on the table. Want to know just what they can handle? Read up on age-appropriate kitchen tasks to get started.

Serve breakfast for dinner.

Serve dinner in the Upside Down. It doesn’t get easier (or faster) than a big egg scramble packed with veggies, served alongside a protein (did someone say bacon?) and fruit to make dinner complete. Fancy it up with pancakes or waffles, and you’ll still be done in record time. Why didn’t we think of this sooner?

photo: courtesy Hello, Fresh

Farm it out.

If you haven’t tried a meal delivery service, now’s the time. Each meal includes everything you need to get food on the table—stat! Use them in a pinch or make this easy option part of your weekly meal plan agenda.

Stock up on make-ahead meals.

Spend your spare weekend hours prepping dinners for the week. With these kid-friendly recipes, meals are made ahead of time, frozen and then heated up in no time when they’re needed.

 

Keep ingredients simple.

Fewer ingredients mean less prep time. Which means your family eats in less time too. The best part? Our favorite 3-ingredient meals meals boast bold flavors and creative twists on the familiar you and the kids will love.

Pull out the pots.

That Instant Pot you bought on Amazon during Prime Days? The slow cooker you’ve got tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? Put them to work so you can focus on something else. Throw together one of these slow cooker recipes in the morning, and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home. Or rock some of our Instapot faves in the dinner rush to save time.

 

photo: iStock

Learn to love leftovers.

Capitalize on all that work you do making dinner the rest of the week when you repurpose leftover dinner items on a busy night. Heat ‘em up and set ‘em out so everyone can choose their favorites. Or get creative by transforming bit and pieces into a whole new dish. Kudos to you, chef!

Know your recipes.

When it comes to quick dinners, having a deep recipe bench is the name of the game, and filling it with recipes that clock in around 15 minutes, prep-to-table, is how you win. Put these heavy-hitters in your lineup for easy weeknight cooking.

—Allison Sutcliffe

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