Let me start off this post by reiterating that I am by no means a family food planning expert. Like it’s not even something that I really enjoy. The shift in our house from a couple who rarely sits down and eats a fully cooked dinner, to one where we’ve got a picky toddler and frequently host other families for meals has been a real stretch for me. Like really.
By my nature, I am a “go see what looks good + in season + on sale at the grocery store and then magically make dinner out of it” kind of girl. But i’m realizing that this strategy doesn’t work great all of the time. Especially with toddlers. And even when it does, it requires a lot of creative energy which means I have less creative energy to offer in other areas of my life - like my toddler.
One of my all time favourite podcasters, The Lazy Genius, has some really great tips for simple meal planning strategies. I like how she is also realistic about the fact that she likes kale, but her kids don’t and at this point in her life, she just isn’t buying it at the grocery store. Not that she won’t ever again, but this is a season where she sticks to the well-loved basics. Brilliant!
I’m definitely not about to stop buying kale at the grocery store, because I happen to love it and so does my kiddo (crazy, I know). But i’m sure there are many of you that would appreciate this simplified approach. If you’d like more advice from her, check out these podcasts: #75 - The Lazy Genius Stocks the Kitchen + #76 - The Lazy Genius Meal Plan and this blog post: Create a Meal Plan that will save your life and make you look pretty.
Okay, so back to me.
There are a few staples in our house that we love and i’ve been working on having a list of like 15 dinners that we are eating constantly and then sprinkling in 1 or 2 new ones every once in awhile. I still like to improvise and use what we’ve got in the fridge/what is on sale at the grocery store. So please take this list with a grain of salt (literally). I find it really helps to have a good basic understanding of cooking and baking sciences so that I can replace or sub things out depending on what i’ve got on hand. I highly recommend following the SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT guidelines (basically include each of these in every dish!). If you bake gluten free or prefer to use different grains then take the time to learn about their properties and identify when you might need more liquid with a certain type of flour, or which things will need extra eggs, or how to use flax eggs and aquafaba instead of eggs, or when to use baking soda vs baking powder, or how to make buttermilk with apple cider vinegar…those types of things.
Once you’ve got the basics down, create your own favourite list. I find it helps to keep these recipes all in one place. Either with photos of the recipes on your phone in a specific folder, a pinterest board or a legit paper recipe box (!!). Find the things that actually ARE easy for you and your family likes - just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you and vice versa. Alright, here’s my list.
CARO’s GO-TO DINNER IDEAS:
roasted veggies + SAlad type things
Honestly. Roast anything tossed with a wee bit of oil and salt (spices too if you want to get crazy) at 425, tossing every 10 minutes until brown and crispy and you’ve got a bowl full of CANDY!! ++sausage and homemade pantry peanut sauce (this stuff is GOLD) and you’ve got dinner. Or get creative!!
Glory Bowl (a canmore classic!)
+ another favourite = roasted veggies blended into soup. I like parsnip, carrot + yellow beet roasted until brown, then blended with coconut cream and water + some spices!…just throw it all in the vitamix after you roast the veggies and voila! soup!
sheet pan fajitas or tacos
I typically like to keep these corn tortillas in the freezer because my husband loves them - i prefer to just eat the goods on top of steamed greens in a bowl.
Vegan dahl or stew type things
There are literally so many more of these types of recipes I could share. I find this category one of the EASIEST and fastest dinner options for our family.
Dal Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - I often make this and just eat it from a bowl!
Spicy Peanut Stew - this is a legit household favorite. you can also use (pre-cut) butternut squash, or sweet potato)
Chili and STEWs with Meat in them
Meal Prep Meat (Add these to saladS, Roasted veg, or eat as a snack)
Egg-free Meatballs (You can also use chicken or white turkey, I also like to add A LOT of fresh chopped herbs)
stir fry with whatever is going bad in the fridge.
This legit doesn’t need a recipe. If you’re going to use meat (chicken, beef, fish), cook it first and set aside - veggie only is also great. Cook the veggies in a pan with some liquid - i like to use my cast iron pan with a lid. I usually cook carrots, celery, beans, bean sprouts, zucchini, brussel spouts, onions…these kinds of things. I often just use some water to soften the vegetables and then add some spices, ginger juice, liquid aminos/soy sauce and rice vinegar at the end. But you can also make a sauce like this go to paleo stir fry sauce or use a store bought one.
Baked Dishes and Casseroles
simple way to feed a crowd!!
Baked Butter Beans with Tomato and Feta (definitely a favourite!)
Pasta + other things Toddlers LOVE
Golden Millet and Quinoa Porridge I usually blend steamed sweet potato with the milk before cooking and sometimes eliminate the millet and double the quinoa to make this dish cook faster.
Tortilla Crust Pizza
Definitely my all time fave. We throw all the veggies on these brown rice tortillas which we first brown slightly in the oven, top with tahini + tons of salsa, then all the veggies and meat, topped with fresh kale so it gets crispy and a sprinkle of all the cheeses. Check out an old version of this recipe here.
Crazy fast dinner options
Roasted Root and Rye Waffle Sandwiches (these are literally amazing. who would have thought that your waffle maker could also be a sandwich press?)
Tuna Sandwiches (try this recipe with greek yogurt or real mayo instead of “Grapeseed Vegenaise”…whatever that is)
Savoury French Toast - there are a lot of fancy recipes for this. My go to is actually just to whisk an egg with a tbsp of milk, add a handful of shredded raw carrot, zucchini or chopped spinach/kale, soak the bread in it, then cook like french toast. my toddler LOVES this.
Okay. That’s all i’ve got for now, but if you’re looking for more ideas I’ve got so many pinterest boards about food it’s crazy. You can also check out my go-to quick and easy dinner blogs for more of these types of recipes: