Family Dinner Fallbacks

The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals are substantial and in an ideal scenario they would take priority in our family calendars over other activities. However, with conflicting schedules it can be challenging to fit in family meal time. For busy nights, home cooks need family dinner fallback meals that are guaranteed to please and require minimal time and effort. Keeping some basic ingredients on hand will help you whip up a simple, but nutritious meal and avoid the drive thru, takeout or eating at restaurants. This is a win for your family’s health and budget. For this month’s Nutritious Nudge, let’s discuss some fallback recipes that you can call on to consistently and quickly get dinner on the table.

Eggs for Dinner

Weeknight Shakshuka

Weeknight Shakshuka

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Eggs poached in a rich tomato sauce are a delicious and easy meal.

View recipe »

This recipe just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Serving eggs for dinner doesn’t have to mean you’re eating boring breakfast foods. Though, there’s no shame in whipping up a quick vegetable scramble or frittata. Eggs are inexpensive, nutritious and can safely store for weeks. When life gets hectic, they can help you make a perfectly suitable dinner.

Shakshuka is a popular dish in the Middle East and tastes delicious. Although the name sounds fancy, your key ingredients here are very common: frozen peppers and onions, a jar of pasta sauce, spinach, a can of beans, eggs and shredded cheese. These versatile ingredients are all worth stocking in your pantry. Be sure to select a Guiding Stars-earning can of beans and pasta sauce to limit added sodium. You can opt for frozen spinach here and jarred minced garlic to save more prep time. Serve with toasted, whole grain bread if you don’t have flatbread at home.

Simple Stir Fry

Pepper Chicken Stir Fry

Pepper Chicken Stir Fry

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. A perfect option for using up leftover chicken.

View recipe »

Serving leftovers for dinner can be less exciting, but we all should avoid wasting food. So why not cook once and eat twice, but use leftover ingredients in a new way? I love to use instant brown rice, frozen vegetables (or whatever I have on hand that’s fresh), and leftover chicken to whip up this quick stir fry. Rotisserie chicken or frozen shrimp also works well here. Shrimp are often brined though, so look for a product that earns Guiding Stars for lower added sodium. No need to purchase a prepared stir fry sauce that is likely to have added sugar and sodium, just season as the recipe calls for with common kitchen staples.

Open & Pour Pasta

Rotini Florentine

Rotini Florentine

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Pantry and freezer-friendly, inexpensive, quick, and tasty.

View recipe »

I get it. Some nights are so crazy that we just need to open a container, pour food into a pan and heat it up for dinner. However, you can still create a balanced and nutritious meal this way. This super easy pasta dish can be made entirely with foods stored in your pantry and freezer. And they all earn Guiding Stars! Add a can of white beans to round out this meal by adding more fiber and protein. It will keep your family feeling full longer.

Half-Scratch Pizza

Black Bean Pizza.

Black Bean Pizza

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Pizza can be quick to make with the right dough.

View recipe »

Does anyone else stock whole wheat pizza dough in their freezer? I like to thaw one out in our fridge when I know we need a quick weeknight meal. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza in a pinch? Takeout or delivery can get expensive quick so making your own half-scratch pizza is the way to go. Most supermarkets sell reasonably priced whole wheat pizza dough. If you want to try making your own, we have a great recipe that also freezes well. This pizza has a southwestern kick that your entire family will love. Sub canned, no-salt-added diced tomatoes if you don’t have any fresh tomatoes kicking around.

Microwave Baked Potato: Baked Potatoes Primavera

Baked Potatoes Primavera

Baked Potatoes Primavera

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. This easy dish makes your microwave work hard, not you.

View recipe »

Potatoes store well and baked potatoes are a great family dinner option. However, waiting an hour for potatoes to bake in the oven can be maddening. Who has that time to spare on weeknight? Have you ever tried baking a potato in the microwave? It’s brilliant! I promise they taste just as hot and fluffy when cooked this way. Try our baked potato recipe that calls for frozen vegetables the next time you need a family dinner fallback.