Quick, Plan-Ahead Meals for Busy Nights

Quick, plan-ahead meals can really ease stress, especially at the end of the school year!

Moms and dads, the finish line is in sight. We’re oh-so-close to the end of the school year.

But in the cruel twist of May, we’re not going to get there easily. We’re going to pay for it with end-of-year performances, recitals, programs, tournaments and graduations. We love these things, of course, but the pace can be relentless.

Drive-through and take-out meals are not only tempting, they’re often necessary in our busiest seasons. But with a little planning, we can create a plan for grab-and-go meals that are less expensive and usually healthier than a restaurant.

Grab-and-go meals mean burritos you’ve made and then frozen for busy nights. Pop them in the microwave, serve with brown rice and black beans, and dinner is done. Or, it’s the little basket you have stashed in the pantry with the ingredients for the kids’ favorite chicken pita pizzas.

Taking the time to plan ahead for these quick meals can truly bring some peace to a hectic night.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Super Fast French Dip

Makes 4 sandwiches

1 can condensed French onion soup, undiluted
1/2 pound thinly sliced deli roast beef
1/3 cup water
4 slices provolone cheese
4 sandwich buns

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the soup, roast beef and water. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes or until heated through.

Place a slice of cheese on each bun bottom. Broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat for 1 minute or until the cheese is melted. Using a slotted spoon, place the beef on buns. Replace the tops. Serve with onion soup for dipping.

My kids love olives, so this is a favorite. We like it with bow-tie pasta.

Mediterranean Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
16 pitted Greek or black olives, sliced in half
3 tablespoons capers, drained

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers.

Bake, uncovered, at 475 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until juices run clear.

This makes a lot – enough for 12. So, if you’re not feeding a crowd, freeze half to keep for busy days.

Easy Chile Verde

1 boneless pork shoulder roast (4 to 5 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cans (10 ounces each) green enchilada sauce
1 cup salsa verde
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hot cooked rice
Sour cream

In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine pork, enchilada sauce, salsa verde, green chiles and salt. Cook, covered, on low 5 to 6 hours or until pork is tender. Serve with rice. If desired, top with sour cream and cilantro.

Note: This is great served over rice or in corn tortillas.

Kids will love this fun recipe from the blog Good Cheap Eats. Make these ahead, freeze, thaw and then bake on days when you’re trying to beat the clock.


9 large or 18 small sandwich or club rolls
4 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, mozzarella or a mix)
2 cups favorite spaghetti sauce
1/2 of a 5-ounce package pepperoni, sliced
1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage (1 to 2 links), chilled

Slice the rolls in half, leaving a hinge. Scoop out insides, leaving a shell. Crumble the removed bits into a large bowl.

Add the cheese, pasta sauce, pepperoni and sausage to the bowl. Mix to combine.

Fill the rolls with the mixture. Wrap the closed rolls in foil and bake for 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or place the wrapped rolls in freezer bags and freeze. Thaw the sandwiches before baking for best results.

Categories: Food