Now that school is back in session, effortless meals are an important part of family life.  Between homework, after school practices and other school activities, it’s hard to find time to make a healthy meal.  Even with a busy schedule, you don’t have to sacrifice healthy foods for convenience.

Over the years, I’ve figured out several ways that I can make dinner preparation more effortless.  It saves me time, money, and allows me to have a healthy and nutritious meal with my family every night.

7 Tips to Make an Effortless (but healthy) Dinner

1.  Cook once. Eat twice. This has been a lifesaver for me so many times.  Make extra of one meal and repurpose it into another meal for the next day.  My salsa chicken recipe is ideal for cook once, eat twice.  One night is burritos and the next night can be quesadillas, tortilla soup, or Mexican salad.  The possibilities are endless and it takes no extra effort.

2.  Plan ahead.  There’s nothing worse than standing in front of the refrigerator wondering what you are going to cook for dinner.  Planning ahead will help you make sure you have all of the ingredients you will need and the dinner decision is already made.  And you’ll save a lot of money by buying only what you need.  Check out my free printable meal planner and helpful meal planning tips to get you started.

3.  Use your slow cooker. My slow cooker may be my all-time favorite kitchen appliance.  There’s nothing better than throwing a few ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and having dinner ready when you get home.  And crock pots aren’t just for soups either, you can make entire meals in them too.  Check out some of my favorite slow cooker recipes here.

4.  Use frozen, pre-chopped veggies.  Frozen vegetables are a great alternative to fresh vegetables.  They contain no added preservatives and are frozen at the ideal time to retain freshness.  Using a bag of corn or sliced bell peppers in your meal saves you the time and effort of chopping them yourself but allows you to still use healthy ingredients.

5.  Freezer meals.  Preparing ingredients for meals ahead of time and storing them in the freezer allows you to have a meal ready to go any time.  This is especially helpful with slow cooker meals as it is easy to store many of these ingredients in a bag in the freezer – then just thaw overnight or stick the frozen ingredients in the crock pot in the morning.

6.  Serve breakfast for dinner.  Breakfast for dinner is always a fun change for many families.  Since breakfast foods like eggs and pancakes don’t take as long to cook, it’s easy to have dinner ready in a few minutes.

7.  Semi-homemade meals. Sometimes convenience foods are a necessity but there are plenty of great options.  When I was in Walmart last weekend, I noticed their Effortless Meals display as soon as I walked into the deli area.  There were even two different meal options that provided endless combinations of meals.  One was the Marketside pizza meal – a 16″ pepperoni pizza or a 16″ five cheese pizza and a 2 liter of Coca-Cola.

The pizzas looked really great and I considered getting one and adding some spinach, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers.  No one would ever know that it wasn’t a homemade pizza!  But when I saw the Marketside rotisserie chicken meal, I knew that’s what I wanted for Sunday lunch.  The rotisserie chicken meal includes a 29 oz rotisserie chicken, a 2 lb side of potato salad, macaroni salad, or cole slaw, and a 2 liter of Coke or Sprite.  Since potato salad always reminds me of summer picnics, I decided to make chicken sandwiches.

The chicken is fully cooked already, so all I had to do was slice it, put it on some bread, add some homemade BBQ sauce and onion slices and lunch was served!  I put the potato salad into a bowl and no one ever knew it wasn’t a home cooked meal!   Effortless meals are convenient to purchase and help provide healthy, fresh options for dinner during the busy back-to-school time.  See how deliciously homemade this looks?

How do you keep your meals effortless when life is crazy busy?  Be sure to check out more delicious effortless meal inspiration and tell me about your own effortless meals in the comments below!

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