This post was sponsored by Eat Smart as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
I caught a glimpse of teachers returning to their classrooms here last week. My daughter is attending summer camp at the school she also attends during the school year, so while her days are all swimming at the public pool, playing games in the field and being among the first to try out the new school jungle gym, it’s hard to miss the fact that in a few short week she’ll trade the sunscreen and towel in her backpack for a binder and planner.
So will my son, for that matter.
And when they do, our evenings will take on an added layer of pressure as homework resumes, extracurricular activities begin again and my own work schedule gets more complicated with the addition of teaching two college courses. And don’t tell my boyfriend, but I also volunteered to coach soccer again.
Yes, dear readers, I am really strategizing about ways to streamline all aspects of our back-to-school life — including school night dinners. And I wanted to share some with you. Our family certainly can’t be the only one comprised of folks who really like to be involved in lots of things, right?
Ways to Make School Night Dinners Easier This Year
Make Your Meal Plan Visible and Viable
When I tried to meal plan years ago, it never quite worked out. Somehow I’d either forget or deliberately ignore what I had planned, making something else entirely. These days, I have a wipe-board on our fridge that I aim to fill out each week. Then I put together a plan — super easy meals for the busiest nights and more relaxed (but still quick and easy) ones for other nights.
By keeping my meal plan where everyone can see it, it helps keep me organized and accountable.
Stock Your Pantry and Freezer with Easy Proteins
Ever have a night where everything gets tossed so far off course that you don’t know if you can recover? Those are nights for emergency meals. And it’s always a good idea to keep ingredients on hand for those as well. For those tough nights, having easy, quick proteins is key to a nourishing, satisfying meal.
Hint: keep canned beans the pantry (black beans, garbanzo beans, etc), shrimp in the freezer (cooked and raw) and eggs in the fridge. All are good, cheap, quick cooking proteins.
Keep Easy Side Dishes at Hand
You planned ahead, cooked the bulk of dinner in the slow cooker, but when it’s time to serve you realize you totally forgot a side dish. Has that happened to anyone else? Because that was last week for me. Seriously. Fortunately, I keep easy side dishes stocked too. That means frozen veggies (which can be dressed up with different cooking methods and serving ideas) and also things like salad kits, which can add so much oomph to a meal.
Speaking of Salad Kits …
My go-to salad kits are the ones by Eat Smart, which my kids and I have enjoyed for years. The Eat Smart Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Kit in particular is a favorite of mine. It combines kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and more with sweet dried cranberries, roasted pumpkin seeds and a poppyseed dressing. Just perfect. (Psst: If you love Eat Smart too, you should sign up for their newsletter!)
What’s even more perfect is how quick and easy it is to make — just add the greens to a bowl. Sprinkle with the toppings. Drizzle with the dressing. And then mix. I always let mine sit a few minutes and mix again before serving — it helps the dressing to really evenly distribute.
And when I’m doing this, I am glad to be serving something from a company with a commitment to better food. Did you know that Eat Smart was the first brand within the salad kit market to commit to clean ingredients and labeling? The company has plans for all products to contain a “100% Clean Label” by the end of 2018, which will signify that their products are free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
As for that Gourmet Sweet Kale Salad Kit? It already carries the 100% Clean Label. These salad are available in Walmart stores nationwide.
And One More Thing!
Hey, moms and dads, give yourself a break. Everyone has tough days now and again. And it’s okay to just make dinner happen however you can when your day is tough.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.