Simplified Pantry

basic weeknight family meals, from the pantry

When no one wants to make dinner…

By Karen Dubarry

It’s 5:00 PM. You’re tired. The kids are cranky. Everyone is starving. There’s no dinner on the table. What now?

I’ve been there. Despite my best intentions to plan every meal and to use my crockpot as often as possible, there are evenings when I’m not sure what’s for supper and I really don’t feel like cooking.

What’s a busy family to do when no one feels like making supper?

What’s a busy family to do when no one feels like making supper?

Repurpose Leftovers

Here’s a hint about leftovers: it’s all in the presentation. If this is how you are going to survive supper time tonight, don’t just call it leftovers. That sounds boring and unappetizing.

Maybe call this your “Bits and Pieces” meal. This works especially well when you don’t have enough of any one thing to serve to everyone. So you have a bit of homemade pizza here, a piece of leftover chicken there, and two slices of lasagna available. Heat them up, put them on pretty dishes, and you have a bits and pieces meal.

Don’t forget the possibilities of frittatas, stir-fries, or tacos made with leftovers. Repurposing what you have is a great way to stretch one meal into two.

SOS: Save our Supper with Soup & Sandwiches

Homemade soup is not complicated. Sure, simmering all day will impart deep, rich flavors in a soup or stew, but if time is short you can make a homemade soup in less than 30 minutes. Here’s how: use stock already on hand (chicken, beef, veggie) and add whatever fillings you have.

A soup that my family loves is one of the easiest things we make. It’s chicken broth, a can of tomatoes (diced or crushed), and some packaged tortellini simmered long enough to cook the pasta. I throw in a bag of frozen veggies and cook until those are soft and warm in the soup. Served in mugs and topped with cheese, everyone is happy.

A quick soup is probably not the most filling thing (although If you have some cooked chicken or beef to throw in you will probably be able to spread it further), but the addition of sandwiches or wraps and some chopped veggies or fruit makes a complete meal.

There is no rule that every dinner needs to be elaborate. Sometimes simple and filling is good enough.

Breakfast for Supper

Our family relies on this every week. We don’t have time to eat before our church’s Sunday evening service. By the time we get home everyone is tired and “starving”. Our Sunday night tradition is breakfast for supper.

Eggs (scrambled, fried, in a frittata); biscuits, muffins, or pancakes; bacon or sausage, etc. do not take long to prepare. Breakfast foods are kid friendly, quick, and filling.

Assist Your Future Self

A little planning ahead goes a long way. When I get home with several dozen eggs I immediately boil a dozen. Boiled eggs make a great addition to a meal. (Chopped on a salad turns the salad from a side into a meal.)

Go ahead and do the prep that you can before you are too tired to think about cooking.
Everyone uses some convenience food. Keeping on hand some pre-made foods just makes sense (things you’ll find on the Simplified Pantry Staples list like packaged tortillas, cans of broth, pasta, etc. and extras you’re comfortable with like canned beans, prepackaged pizza dough, etc.).

These items can make the difference between an almost homemade meal when no one wants to cook and going out for takeout. Sure, 100% homemade is healthiest. But 50% homemade is still better than 100% takeout.

So, before you head for takeout, consider one of these strategies. You might just find it’s faster than loading everyone up for a trip to a restaurant.

Hi! I’m Karen, a homeschool grad and homeschool mom who loves to talk about real life and real books. You can find me at my blog: Living Unabridged. I’m married to the love of my life and we’re raising 6 kids. I’m an INTJ, my love language is chocolate, I cheer for the Cincinnati Reds, I keep a notebook and pen handy at all times, and if I had a million dollars, I’d have a second home in England.

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