Jan 30, 2013 · 3 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

It’s the middle of the week, and I’m out of ideas for what to make for dinner.

Does this happen to you?

It happens to me every week, sometimes as early as Monday.

Part of living the good life is eating good food. But with a full-time job and a crazy commute (One hour to drive 13 miles? Gnarly.), it’s tough to get the kid and the dog and the mail and get home at a reasonable hour to make a fresh, healthy dinner.

I tend not to keep a fully stocked fridge or freezer since we just can’t get through the food fast enough. So if I have to stop by the grocery store, as I do most nights, fuhgeddaboudit. We get home at 7 o’clock, and I haven’t even started dinner.

I’m a believer in slow food, fresh and healthy food, preferably locally sourced, organic, humane and fair.

I’m also trying to decrease the amount of trash my family sends to the landfill.

All this means that most prepared foods, and the convenience encapsulated in their shiny, plastic packages, aren’t much of an option for me. But neither is cooking from scratch every night.

What is a busy mom to do?

Seriously. Anybody have an answer? I’m open to ideas.

There are those who swear by making a week’s worth of dinners ahead of time and freezing them. But you would have to be in the kitchen All. Day.

I do love to cook, and I relish the time I get to try out new recipes and make something new, but who wants to spend an entire Saturday, every Saturday, slaving away over a hot stove?

I want to spend time with my family and friends, too. Maybe get outside. Walk the dog. Go away for the weekend. So that’s not much of an option either.

I’m still trying to work it out, and here are a couple of my tricks. I’d love to hear how you all make time to make dinner during a busy week.

Beans! Packed with protein and vitamins, a pot of beans can last 3-4 days and serve as the basis for a number of meals, from tacos to plain ol’ beans and rice and steamed veggies. Ahh… comfort food. Also, they’re an excellent vehicle for cheese consumption, and really, that’s what I care about.

They do take some planning, as you have to clean and soak them overnight before cooking for 2-3 hours, but I like to cook them on low in my Crock Pot all day so they’re hot and ready when I come home. This brings us to …

The Slow Cooker! Ah, the glories of the one-pot meal. Ah, the glories of a device that lets you cook while you’re not even home. Clearly, the slow cooker was invented by a harried mother, to whom we owe our profuse thanks.

I use mine to cook the aforementioned beans, as well as the occasional stew or roast. No, it’s not much. Yes, I’m well-aware of the need to broaden my slow-cooker horizons. I got a recipe book for Christmas; it’ll happen.

Pasta! The old standby. It’s quick; it’s easy, and it’s a favorite. If I’m making it from scratch with my shiny new pasta machine, I make a ton of it and dry it, and it lasts for months, so I have it for those nights when I’m out of everything. I usually use jarred sauce, since, like chicken soup, the perfect pasta sauce has eluded my skills. But I feel less bad about that since the glass jars are recyclable.

So that’s it. That’s all I’ve got. What about you?

What are your quick, fresh and healthy meal tricks for those middle-of-the-week dinners? I’ll post recipes here, and I promise to try them all and report back.


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.