If you have kids in school, you’re probably all too familiar with the feeling that there are simply not enough hours in a day. Between working, shuttling kids to and from school, practices, games and activities, and trying to take care of things at home, it’s not unusual to feel completely wiped out by the time dinnertime rolls around. Although ordering take out is absolutely fine on occasion, being best friends with your local pizza delivery guy is most likely not the best thing for your waistline, wallet or family.
Thankfully, it’s entirely possible to sit down to home-cooked dinners on a regular basis without spending too much money on ingredients or hours on meal prep, cooking or cleanup. Busy parents, meet your new best friends for hectic weeknights: one-dish dinners. If you have a pot, a slow cooker or a casserole dish, you’re halfway there to getting a hearty dinner on the table. Try out the following dinner ideas for stress-free dinner prep:
On chilly fall or winter nights, nothing warms you up like a steaming bowl of soup. The best thing aboutsoup is that you can use essentially whatever ingredients you have on hand. As long as you have broth, stock or milk to use as a base, feel free to experiment with all sorts of vegetables, proteins and pastas. Everything cooks up in one big pot, and stirring is essentially the only work you’ll have to put into making this easy dinner.
Slow Cooked Meat
Slow cookers are hands-down the easiest tool to utilize for making stress-free dinners. The beauty of a slow cooker is that all you need for a filling, delicious dinner is protein and a few cans and spices. Toss everything in the slow cooker in the morning, and by the time you come home at night, you’ll have slow-roasted meats that can be eaten on their own, used on sandwiches or stuffed into tacos. They’re also great tools for making soups and chilies.
Speaking of chili, it’s another great one-pot option for those nights when cooking dinner just doesn’t sound appealing. Pick your protein (beef, turkey and chicken are all commonly used in chilies), add in some beans if you’d like, dump in some tomatoes and sauce and throw in some spices if you like a little kick to your food. Not only is chili the perfect food to warm you up during the cooler months, but it’s also a nice go-to dish to have on hand for tailgates during football season.
Whether it’s lasagna or chicken pot pie , casseroles have a reputation for being excellent weeknight options for a couple of reasons. First of all, there’s an endless variety of casseroles, from tuna noodle to tomato pie, meaning you’re not limited to making the same old recipe over and over. Secondly, casseroles use ingredients that you probably have in your cupboard such as canned soup, shredded cheese, chicken breasts and frozen pie  crust. Making a casserole mainly involves layering basic ingredients, so they are easy ways to consume a variety of foods without requiring too much cleanup.
Once you realize that cooking dinner does not necessarily have to be stressful, messy or time-consuming, you’ll probably find yourself spending more time eating as a family and less time on the phone with the local pizza joint. Happy cooking!