This week’s back to school schedule: cross country practice three nights a week, music lessons back to back for two kids on one night, hockey practice and a game two nights, and a school fundraiser on Thursday all while trying to include a workout each day for myself and put a healthy meal on the table. It’s enough to make us parents want to give up on cooking and just order in. Weeks like these require a little planning in the meal department and fast, family meals that can be made in less than 30 minutes. Using a few tips on how to make weeknight meals quick and easy really helps me and my family not give in to the takeout temptation and maintain our healthy eating style.
Saving time in the kitchen to prepare items quickly on weeknights is all about using a few timesaving tricks. Here is a variety of things I do to help speed up meal time for my family on those busy nights:
- Pick a prep day to chop all of the veggies and pre-cook grains (like rice or quinoa) that can stay refrigerated for a few days to limit prep time during the actual meal preparation.
- Purchase some commonly used vegetables already chopped (like peppers, onions, and carrots) so they are ready to add to your recipe on the spot.
- Defrost any frozen meat the day before or purchase it fresh and keep refrigerated for the week so it’s ready to go when you are.
- Some meats can be cooked in advance. Check your recipe for opportunities to cook up any meats on a prep day and keep refrigerated to reheat for the meal. Taco meat or grilled chicken to be reheated and sliced later are great examples of this.
- Some portions of your recipe or meal can be made in advance on a night where you have more time and then refrigerated. In the example below, the black bean succotash can be made up to a few days earlier and reheated to serve.
- Pre-mix or pre-season portions of your recipe the night before or in the morning and keep refrigerated until ready to cook. In the recipe below, you could season the fish in advance and combine the succotash vegetables (not the vinegar or salt) so they are ready to cook when you are. This would save you up to 15 minutes of time during the actual meal preparation bringing the meal making time down to around 15 minutes!
- Make double of a recipe one night and save half for another meal for leftovers later in the week when you won’t have much time or can’t all be at the table at the same time.
Including meals into my weekly meal planning that have easy prep-in-advance items, like this whitefish filet with black bean succotash, is part of how I balance our weeknight rush while still being able to deliver healthy meals to the table. Being high in protein, this meal also provides long lasting energy to sustain you and the kids through all of your weeknight activities.
Whitefish Filets with Black Bean Succotash
Calories 368, Protein 40g, Carbs 36g, Fat 6g
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min
- 4 whitefish filets of any kind (ocean perch, tilapia, walleye, etc.)
- Sprinkle of Cajun seasoning, to taste
- Sprinkle of salt (if Cajun seasoning is unsalted), to taste
- 4 green onions, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 jalepeño (or annaheim pepper for less spice), seeded and finely diced
- 2 cups corn kernels (frozen or fresh cut off the cob)
- 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil for greasing the pan(s)
- Sprinkle fish with Cajun seasoning and salt (if using).
- Heat a sauté pan with a little bit of olive oil and sauté fish turning once until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes for thin filets.
- While fish is cooking, combine all vegetables into a sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil and cook until veggies are tender, 7-10 minutes.
- Stir in vinegar and salt to the vegetable mixture.
- Serve fish with succotash spooned over top.
Notes: Succotash can be made 1-2 days in advance and reheated when ready to eat.