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5 Tips For Simplifying Weeknight Meals + $50 U by Kotex Giveaway!

by Tara Kuczykowski on September 16, 2014 · 50 comments

Cilantro Lime Chicken



Weeknight dinners are my nemesis... Just when I think I've got it all under control, I sometimes find myself getting derailed, and you know what that means -- I'm calling up our local pizzeria for delivery. So what's a mom to do? Get right back in the saddle with an easy recipe like the One Pot Cilantro Lime Chicken With Corn & Black Beans pictured above, of course!

If you often find yourself in the same situation, here are five more tips that will help simplify your weeknight meals:

Meal Planning

Meal planning involves mapping out a plan for your meals on a weekly or monthly basis. It can be as detailed or loose as you'd like, but it allows you to plan meals around sales to save money at the same time. I'll be completely honest, though -- meal planning is not my strength. It definitely works if you're disciplined enough to stick with it, though! I've shared some thoughts on meal planning on Unsophisticook, so you can get more info there.

Have A Go To Plan

I find that a "go to plan" is a better method for my family. We have some basic main dishes and sides that all pair well together, and we keep the ingredients for them stocked at all times. Our plan looks something like this: a main protein (burgers, veggie burgers, grilled chicken, grilled pork chops, etc.), a grilled or roasted veggie side (grilled veggies, roasted asparagus, roasted potatoes, grilled avocado, etc.), and a grain or pasta side like coconut milk rice, quinoa, or a fluffy couscous.

Use Your Slow Cooker

There are a number of tools in my kitchen that I consider essential to getting dinner on the table quickly on busy weeknights -- my immersion blender, kitchen scissors, and Le Creuset French oven to name a few. But my slow cooker tops them all! here are six of my favorite tried and true slow cooker recipes to get you started.

Freezer Meals

I love the concept of preparing meals ahead of time that can be easily frozen and reheated or cooked upon thawing. Not all recipes are conducive to this treatment, but with a few substitutions, most can be adapted to become a freezer meal. The easiest way I've found to stock the freezer is to simply double all of my freezer compatible meals when I make them -- one for that evening and one to be frozen for later use. Or if a freezer cooking day to stock your freezer for a month sounds appealing, check out Once A Month Meals, where my friend Tricia has put together an amazing resource for freezer cooking fanatics!

Healthy Snacks

When all else fails, it pays to have some healthy snacks on hand to tide the family over through homework and sports practices, allowing you more time to figure out the all important dinner menu. Find five of our favorite recipes here, including an amazing recipe for healthy homemade granola bars!

What is your favorite tip for getting dinner on the table in a hurry? Share in the comments and you could win a U by Kotex prize package valued at $50!

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This post is brought to you by Kimberly-Clark. All opinions are 100% mine.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 beth September 16, 2014 at 8:03 am

Enjoy the great deals that you offer :)

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2 Shawnda September 16, 2014 at 8:14 am

Trying to prep for dinner throughout the day so it all doesn't have to happen at dinner time.

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3 shelleyb September 16, 2014 at 9:31 am

Some steps to get the dinner out to table early... I have pots/pans out a little early. Water glasses out- for the kids to help fill.
I have a paper list to add "as I notice" them low or out.

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4 Tara September 16, 2014 at 9:37 am

I also like to double meals sometimes, so I can freeze half of it for a later dinner!

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5 Michelle September 16, 2014 at 9:59 am

Plan ahead and do as much earlier in the day that I can.

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6 Melanie September 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

I put my food in a crock pot in the morning to have dinner ready in a hurry.

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7 Michelle September 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Do as much ahead of time as possible.

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8 Jane September 16, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Make extra so you have leftovers for the next day.

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9 Norb September 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Make meals ahead of time on the weekend.

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10 Sophie September 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Make hamburger patties the night before so you just have to cook them the next day.

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11 Scott September 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Chop up vegetables for potato salad, etc. ahead of time and put them in containers. Then you just have to mix it together before you eat.

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12 Kim September 16, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Have a second freezer in the basement so you can cook in bulk and thaw it out for a meal.

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13 Renee September 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Cooking foods in the crockpot like sweet potatoes and meatloaf.

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14 brittany September 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I try to start making dinner early so im not in such a big hurry when dinner time comes.

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15 Claudia September 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I prepare dinner in the morning and use the crockpot a lot.

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16 One Frugal Girl September 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Get help where you can get it. Bagged, microwaveable rice for example. Just pop it in the microwave and be ready in 90 seconds. Such a time saver.

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17 marcie September 16, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Love the crock pot

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18 Lisa September 16, 2014 at 5:33 pm

I try to always have some lean meat marinating (or frozen in marinade) so that I can quickly broil it when I get home. The ready-to-heat-and-eat pre-cooked brown rice is also a lifesaver. I need to get a slow cooker this winter!!

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19 Bill September 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm

we make big batches of freezer meals!

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20 scott schluter September 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

crockpot, crockpot, crockpot

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21 Mari M. September 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Make a weekly grocery list according to the recipes you decided on for the week, that way, you don't buy random things and waste extra money!

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22 Becca September 16, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I love using the crockpot! That way when you get home, your dinner is ready to go!

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23 HS September 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Freezer cooking on weekends can help.

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24 Lee Broom September 16, 2014 at 7:35 pm

My quick meal is to grab some kind of chicken breast or round steak, season them, cut them in strips and grill them on my electric grill. Then I just do some quick pasta roni noodles (5 min), and a canned veggies or salad. Very easy.

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25 Laura F September 16, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Have some pre-cooked chicken ready to toss into rice, potatoes--anything!

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26 Maralea September 16, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I like to make freezer meals on the weekends to have them ready to pop in the oven during the week.

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27 Vicki Wurgler September 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I plan ahead and know what I will cook that night

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28 theresa September 16, 2014 at 8:40 pm

My tip is to prep food on the weekend that can be used during the week.

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29 Karen September 16, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Buy pre-made healthy foods that just need to be nuked in the microwave. Pre-made chicken, frozen vegetables, and 90 second brown rice is my go-to meal.

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30 Elaine September 16, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Double the meal so I can serve one and freeze one for later.

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31 Kat September 16, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I often use the cook once eat twice method. I make twice as much and freeze what it leftover to be reheated for another meal.

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32 Erika September 16, 2014 at 10:04 pm

I just try to choose quick recipes and have meat defrosted ahead of time.

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33 Rebecca D September 16, 2014 at 10:59 pm

I make dinner in the crockpot earlier in the day when things aren't so busy

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34 Liz September 16, 2014 at 11:40 pm

I prep as much as I can in the morning before everyone else is up. I also write down the menu for the week so I can just make sure I have everything I need and am not scrambling to get something pulled together at the last minute.

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35 Shayna September 17, 2014 at 12:37 am

I use freezer cooking to prepare stuff ahead of time :)

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36 Melissa September 17, 2014 at 1:02 am

I make meals ahead quite often and freeze them for days I know I am going to be too busy to cook.

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37 Nicole Millheim September 17, 2014 at 3:31 am

I prep the night before

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38 Tamara N September 17, 2014 at 8:48 am

My tip to getting dinner on the table quickly is to have things prepped the night before as much as possible. That way when I get home from work I have to assemble and cook.

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39 Rebecca September 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

Try to do some of the prep ahead of time.

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40 Charity Shapiro September 17, 2014 at 9:59 am

I try to double the recipe to have some leftover to freeze.

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41 Patricia Wojnar Crowley September 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

My tip is to grab one of my precooked dinners out of the freezer and just heat it up in the oven! Casseroles are great for a quick dinner!

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42 Katy P September 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

I try to make things ahead of time- like rolls and freeze them. Then, I can pull out sides for my meals quickly.

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43 Kris I. September 17, 2014 at 2:21 pm

If I know I'm not going to have a lot of time to make dinner, I will put my dinner in my crock pot in the morning.

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44 wendy rozema September 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I Like to get as much done the day before ( like chopping up stuff etc)

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45 Serena S. September 17, 2014 at 7:15 pm

heat up something from the freezer

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46 brynne September 17, 2014 at 9:17 pm

we prep as much as we can the night before and make sure we have plenty for leftovers.

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47 Julia September 17, 2014 at 11:16 pm

We often cook meat ahead of time that will be used in casserole type meals

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48 shaunie September 18, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Have it already prepared to go into the oven or heated up (like microwave food, but homemade food instead)

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49 Leigh Anne Borders September 18, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Crockpot and cook what you can over the weekend.

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50 Jill September 20, 2014 at 8:32 am

On busy days, I love coming home to a hot meal in my crock pot.

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