Serving a budget friendly and easy balanced dinner to a busy family is easier said than done. Make family dinners simple again by following a few of my favorite secrets that I love to use for serving a balanced family dinner.
Before I had kids, I thought it was a breeze to cook a balanced dinner at a great value. I really didn’t find it hard to put together a combination of grains, protein, and vegetables every night. In fact, I loved trying new combinations and spending countless hours in the kitchen. I also enjoyed hunting for good deals on all my ingredients.
Now that I have kids, I’m eating every word I ever said about anything in regards to children. You know what? It actually is hard to put together a combination of grains, proteins and vegetables that everyone will eat and that I can put together in a reasonable amount of time while taking care of the kids and getting food on the table by dinner time. Oh, and all this on a budget too.
Over the last few years I have found a few shortcuts that have helped me serve my family an easy balanced dinner that everyone eats and doesn’t stress me out during food prep. We know that everyone wants to eat better but needs inspiration and simple solutions to choose from so they can make it a reality more often. Hopefully my tips will help you make this a reality of your own!
My favorite tips for an easy balanced dinner
Only focus on one involved recipe
While I’d love to have the time to make a main dish, two sides, bread, and a dessert from scratch, that just won’t happen for me for a very long time. I’m assuming 18 years to be exact. In the meantime, I only focus on one “involved” recipe during dinner time. When I say “involved” I mean anything that requires extra attention such as chopping.
For example, I recently made this marinated vegetable salad (get the recipe at the end of this post). It requires a lot of chopping so I made sure to make the rest of my meal extremely simple.
Use prepared food for one side dish
To build a balanced meal, use frozen prepared foods as your base and pair with an easy-to-make side dish made of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and/or low-fat dairy.
Stouffer’s is my go-to for prepared foods. For more than 90 years Stouffer’s has served recipes made with high-quality ingredients and the same love the Stouffer family put into every recipe at the family restaurants decades ago. The Stouffer’s brand started in a small Cleveland restaurant, which later became a chain of restaurants due to the first location’s enormous success. Recognizing the quality of the meals, customers began asking for take-away versions of their favorites, so the Stouffer family began freezing and selling their popular items.
A family member of mine was really big into preservative free foods well before the craze become mainstream. She got me hooked on Stouffer’s because the meals are preservative free and provide delicious food at a great value. I always know that when we buy Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese it will be a hit, not only with the kids, but with the adults too (especially with my pregnancy cravings). It’s also nice to know that I won’t end up wasting any of it!
Prep food early
Don’t wait until everyone is starving to start making dinner. This is a surefire way to serve something that isn’t nutritious. It’s also when most Americans tend to opt for more expensive and less nutritious take out options.
I like to prep my more involved dishes early in the day. Then I start cooking well before I need to. This way I have food ready if the kids get hungry early. No one likes to be hangry, right!? I pop my prepared meals in the oven early to (attempt to) avoid meal time meltdowns.
A balanced meal shouldn’t stress you out, but it should be something you strive to eat each night. Research shows that Americans are only meeting MyPlate recommendations for vegetables, fruit, proteins, dairy and grains seven days out of 365. Can you imagine? Only 7 days!
It is possible to put together an easy balanced family meal without spending a ton of money on high quality ingredients. Try my tips and let me know if it helps!
Don’t forget this delicious recipe for my marinated vegetables and chickpea salad. It’s the perfect side dish to pair with Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese.
- 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 C. red wine vinegar
- 1/2 C. of water
- 1/4 C. sugar
- 1 diced cucumber
- 1/2 red onion diced
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 4 oz. of kalamata olives
- 1/2 C. of matchstick carrots
- 1 can of chickpeas
- Mix first 4 ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk.
- Mix the vegetables and chickpeas together in a large bowl.
- Pour marinade over vegetables and chickpeas.
- Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.