Making mealtime a little easier some nights

Last night I didn’t have time to really put together a “good” (read: not a freshly picked from the garden and sweated over for hours over the stove 5-star) meal for the littles. But thankfully I had a ton of leftovers to heat up. It’s quite a hodge podge of food but I’m pretty sure we’ve covered all of the food groups with this random assortment.

So last night’s menu consisted of (all leftover) pork tenderloin, veggie mac-n-cheese, mixed basmati and brown rice with corn and onions, and steamed broccoli.

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Then we finished it all up with a ton of grapes and blueberry muffins. My kids like to eat.

So we covered a ton of flavors, and all were very non-traditional pairings. The tenderloin ended up on the floor all around my daughters chair but hey, it only ended up there after she put one piece after another into her mouth only to then drop it out over the edge of her chair. But hey, least she was trying it all out to see if she wanted it! Right?

Clean up after EVERY meal is a total bitch.

It’s hard enough trying to get little ones to eat good food and not junk, so I’ve decided that some days it’s not worth the stress of making sure their meals are a proper meat and two vegetables, or proper flavor pairings. And they don’t seem to care one bit!

I’m pretty good about cooking for the little people in my house, but sometimes you just need something easy. And I’ve found that it doesn’t take any extra effort to make a big meal that guarantees leftovers, than it is to cook ideal portions for toddlers. Those leftovers are my saving grace some nights.

I like to follow an 80/20 rule – not a 90/10. As long as I’m feeding my kids freshly cooked meals and organic 80% of the time, then the other 20% of the time I may cut some corners, and I’m not going to sweat it.

Here are some of the ways I simplify dinner some nights:

  • Buy frozen turkey meatballs at the grocery store. These are already cooked through and just need to be heated. My kiddos didn’t like them plain, so I decided to take advantage of the puréed vegetables we still had and used them as a sauce for the meatballs. Protein AND vegetables? SCORE!
  • I never bought puréed apples… I’ve always got the large containers of unsweetened applesauce. I do get organic since apples are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, but it’s so much cheaper this way than all the individually packaged baby food containers.
  • Chop up spinach. I put it in like 80% of the kids dishes. It’s so easy! I do it in their pancakes, omelettes, and any pasta dish.
  • Making a casserole one night? Make two! It’s the same ingredients and cooking method. And barely adds minutes to your process. Freeze the second one for an easy night in the future.
  • I try not to feed the twins regular macaroni and cheese, so I’m sure to buy the organic kinds – Annie’s or Horizon – when they’re on sale and just stock up. Once the pasta is almost cooked through I’ll add a large handful of frozen mixed veggies into the pot and let them cook for a bit, then go finish preparing the mac with organic whole milk, unsalted butter and the cheese.
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