Step One: Don’t panic.
Even when your back is against the wall and everything in life seems to be a whirlwind of chaos, lunch still needs to be packed and dinner has to be cooked. However, the thought of a from-scratch, home-cooked meal is overwhelming, because you already peeked in your refrigerator to find little beyond leftovers that should have been thrown out a week ago and milk that may or may not need to be poured down the drain. Take a deep breathe, and know that it happens to all of us—you are so not alone. Pulling together a meal while in survival mode is a particular cooking skill that you generally acquire only because you have to. Just know that this time period of not being able to “get on top of things” won’t last forever, and that best thing you can do is simply try to keep your cool. When it comes to dinner, keep it simple and lower any extravagant expectations (which, depending on the day, may entail any expectation beyond throwing a frozen pizza in the oven). You’ll make it through, the family will understand, everything will be all-good before you know it.
Here are a few suggestions for feeding yourself/your fam when time is tighter than tight.
Breakfast-for-dinner is a concept everyone welcomes with joy. Eggs are cheap and usually always on-hand so why not bust a few out for dinner? Whether you like your eggs scrambled, fried, or boiled, they cook quick and provide a good source of protein. Flip out a few flapjacks with the help of a store-bought pancake mix, and serve with a side or pre-cut mixed fruits or berries if you have some fresh goodies on hand. Maybe you have a package of bacon kicking around the fridge or freezer; if so, line the strips flat on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake at 375°F for about 15 (or until your desired crispiness is reached). Packaged, frozen biscuits are also a great meal-saver to keep on hand and will make a delightful addition to any breakfast-inspired dinner.
If you can foresee a hectic period coming, it’s a smart idea to stockpile a few meals in the freezer that you can warm up at any given time. The key to easy freezer meals is planning ahead. A little practice at this type of thinking for the future, and soon, planning freezer meals by buying in bulk and catching deals on staple items like meats, dried pastas, and rice will become second nature. All you need are a few family favorite recipes that will taste the same or even better once reheated. These are usually stews, soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to have a few already-made, store-bought freezer meals on hand as well. Here’s a guide to some of the healthiest frozen meal options on the market from our friends at Cooking Light.
Since there is a whole section in most supermarkets dedicated exclusively to tacos, this easy-to-assemble meal requires minimal prep. Cut a few corners and buy the taco seasoning packets, grab a jar of prepared salsa, and chose a protein that is fast and simple to cook. Chicken tenderloin, deveined frozen shrimp, ground turkey, ground beef, or tofu are all great options. Now, grab a bag of cut lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, either soft or hard taco shells, and be on your way. The bulk of what you’ll need to do once you arrive home is cook the protein. Then let your family assemble their tacos as they please.
Rotisserie Chicken is the GOAT (greatest of all time), hands down, because of its convenience factor and incredible ability to transform into so many different kinds of meals. There are countless articles and recipes within the Myrecipes.com database dedicated to harnessing the glories of a rotisserie chicken for dinner tonight. Almost all major grocery store chains have their own signature rotisserie chicken, warm and waiting for you in the deli section. You can shred it up and add it to a bag of mixed leafy greens for a quick salad, mix it with bbq sauce layer into fluffy buns for easy sandwiches, or serve it as-is with a loaded baked potato or rice and a green veggie. Need a little inspiration to get started? Here are over 70 of our favorite ways to make rotisserie chicken into a crowd-pleasing meal.
Ask for Help
Never forget to ask for help when you need it; there’s literally zero shame in leaning a little harder on family and friends during hectic weeks. That’s what they’re there for and no one (who matters) is about to judge you for not having it all-together, all the time. If close loved ones notice you’re in a bit of a rough patch and offer to help—take it, and know that it’s in your best interests to accept a helping hand and offer one in turn down the road.
And if push comes to shove, hell, order a pizza. Take faith in the fact that the delivery person is also here for you.