My husband often travels out of the country. Being Caribbean missionaries who actually reside in the States will do that. When he is gone I try my best to still make good dinners for my kids (and myself too) but on the days when it’s a serious accomplishment just to keep my children alive I resort to cereal.
Oh yes. I totally feed my kids cereal.
But we can’t do cereal every night, as much as my kids beg for it. I love having my crockpot going but when it’s just me and two kids, a crockpot meal would last us ALL WEEK. Is it easy? You bet. Would my kids like to eat the same thing five days in a row? What’s worse, sticking a fork in my eye or listening to my kids complain about the same leftovers all week?
And to be honest, I can’t count the number of times I remembered I was supposed to make a crockpot meal at four in the afternoon. Oops!
What I need is a week’s worth of what I call “Emergency Meals” that have to be:
Quick (as in under 30 minutes from start to sit at the table and eat)
And they can’t require a lot of cleanup afterwards. I have one in school and one in the throws of toddlerhood. I have to somehow manage helping the oldest with her homework while simultaneously keeping the toddler out of the pantry and fridge, managing the meltdowns because I won’t let her in the pantry and fridge, keep her from destroying her sister’s homework and clean her up when she plays in the toilet because big sister forgot to shut the bathroom door all while trying to cook a decent meal. Did I mention I’m pregnant too?
Here is my personal “Emergency Meals” list that I heavily rely on when my husband is out of town. (Or during any other crazy time when planning and cooking anything more is just too much).
1. 12 Minute Chicken & Broccoli from Gimme Some Oven: I’ve never timed myself making this but I can definitely vouch that I was done in under 20 minutes or less. And it tastes really good… it gets a thumbs up from both kids and my husband.
2. Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas from Cooking Classy: I modify this one for my “Emergency Meals” list. Instead of individually adding the seasonings and garlic I just opt for about 1/2 a packet of taco seasoning. Boom. The hardest part is cutting up the veggies. But it’s still quick, easy and cleanup is minimal. My kids really enjoy anything that goes into a tortilla… so this is a winner for them.
3. The Easiest Fried Rice (no link, it’s my recipe): We are talking super easy here. Normally I do fried rice better but this again isn’t a normal time.
Ingredients: 2 cups frozen diced carrots and peas, cooked minute rice (amount depends on how many you are serving, I do 4 servings worth), 1 egg, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1/3 cup-ish soy sauce, olive oil, rotisserie or canned chicken (amount depends on how many you are serving).
Directions: Saute frozen peas and carrots in 1 tbsp of olive oil (you may need to add more later on) until they are heated through. Slide to one side of the pan. On the other side scramble the egg and then mix with the veggies. Add garlic and onion powder. Stir in cooked rice and chicken. Add soy sauce and saute until heated through. Done and done.
4. Baked Potato Bar (again, this one is mine, no link): I do our potatoes in the microwave. Pierce them several times with a fork, put them on a plate and heat them up. I start at about 3 minutes and then do a minute at a time, turning them over and checking to see how soft they are after each minute. (I just pierce them with a fork again and judge how easily the fork slides through the potato). The kids can choose their toppings which are usually: butter, sour cream, salt, bacon, canadian bacon, cheese, steamed broccoli, or maybe even some leftovers. We sometimes use leftover pulled pork or chicken with BBQ sauce.
5. Spaghetti and Bagged Salad: No fancy homemade sauce here. Just noodles, a jar of spaghetti sauce and one pound of ground beef. For even more convenience I use a ready-to-go bag of salad as a side. I get tired of spaghetti but it’s ALWAYS kid-approved.
6. Sub Sandwiches: Because somehow the same ingredients on a sub make it more exciting than a regular sandwich. Although we go way out and add shredded lettuce, tomatoes and maybe… sometimes… a sliced avocado (at least on mine). I go even more above and beyond by serving them with chips and fruit.
7. English Muffin Pizzas from Simmworks Family Blog: I like doing this because none of us want the same thing on our pizza. I want ALL the veggies, my oldest just wants cheese and pepperoni and my youngest can’t have cheese but wants broccoli, pineapple and pepperoni ON her pizza so she can then take them off one by one and eat them, maybe take a couple of bites of her english muffin and be done. Errrrbody’s happy with this set up. I serve fruit on the side to make me feel better.
There you have it, a week’s worth of emergency dinners!
And when all else fails… serve cereal.
What are your “go-to” emergency meals?