Over the years I’ve helped many, many families think about their meals, but it’s clear that food, like money, is something that we have deeply held beliefs and assumptions about. Also, I believe that even though we are all similar, we are also very different, especially when it comes to tastes. But even if you are a foodie, or you expect meat in every dish, or, you know, whatever you think about food, every household should have a few simple meals on tap at all times.
Mac and cheese from scratch is one of my simple meals. Three ingredients. No recipe needed. Boil water, cook and drain the pasta. Add cheese and evaporated milk. Stir. It’s hearty enough to pass for a whole meal for one night. I add frozen peas while I’m boiling the pasta to get my greens in. Simple. Filling. Makes enough for lunch the next day.
We also rely heavily on frozen foods here. Sorry for the fuzzy picture, but lasagna like the one below (or choose a meat version if that’s your thing) is pretty close to minimally processed food, and can be kept in the freezer for a few weeks. I LOVE these all-in-one-pan kinds of freezer meals. Lasagna happens to require about an hour and a half of lead time, but many freezer favorites are dump-pan fry- eat simple. I LOVE fancy frozen vegetables, too. They make a quick and fancy side dish, easily cooked in about 5 minutes in the microwave while I’m fixing the rest of dinner.
Many nights, dinner is simply whatever we’ve got in the fridge, plus a carb of choice. This was grilled veggies and leftover grilled chicken over couscous. Maybe some olive oil and basil, if I’m feeling frisky. I could make this “same meal” 18 different ways, with different combinations of whatever is in the crisper drawer + whatever meat is leftover + whatever box of rice/pasta/lentils/grains cooks the fastest.
If something has a little more structure to it, say hamburgers on a bun, half of my work is done, and we only need to add a side. Most nights we go with steamed broccoli, which thankfully both my kids love.
What’s the point of this post? The point is…dinner doesn’t have to be complex, and it doesn’t have to be from a powder/box/bag/takeout menu. If you are looking to eat more plant-based/healthy/economical/simple foods, don’t overthink it. You don’t need the latest trendy food. You don’t even have to go organic, although you certainly can. And you don’t have to be terribly organized if you can get your meals down to a humble equation…
Veggie + protein + carbs = dinner
By the way…takeout dinners? They are totally fine by me, but they can be a budget buster and belly buster. Try shopping for and preparing this simple dinner equation, and let me know how it goes.