5 Simple Ways to Get Dinner on the Table

Dinner doesn’t have to look like this every night!

After my menu planning post it occurred to me that many of you are great at menu planning, but struggle with actually implementing the dinner plan. It is no secret that eating at home is much cheaper and healthier than eating out, so here are five simple ways to get dinner on the table.

Prep Food on the Weekend

To be honest I am not a huge fan of freezer meals, but I do like cooking ahead to save time during the week. Often I will brown several pounds of ground beef or cook and shred a whole chicken and store it in the fridge to help speed up my nightly meal prep. On the days that go awry I just pull out some chicken and throw together chicken tetrazinni or Mexican chicken skillet in less than 30 minutes.

Make Dinner During Breakfast (or Lunch)

Sometimes it is easier to put together a casserole in the morning when the day hasn’t fallen apart. If you make a hot breakfast it is easy to get a casserole together while making breakfast. Then when it is time for dinner put the casserole in the oven and dinner is ready!

Use the Crock Pot

Once again, this uses the make in the morning method. There are so many amazing crock pot recipes and you can use a crock pot every day of the year. Just put it outside in the summer months and use it to warm your house in the winter months. By making dinner in the crockpot you once again avoid the dinner witching hour and have dinner ready to go with minimal prep in the evening. A few crock pot favorites: Slow Cooked Potato and Corn Chowder, Italian Chicken, Simple BBQ Chicken, and 3 Ingredient BBQ Pork.

Keep a Few Go To Meals in the Freezer and Pantry

Pasta is my go to meal. When we have had a rough day full of unexpected doctor’s appointments or other distractions I pull out a box of pasta and jar of sauce from my pantry. It isn’t fancy, but it is healthier and cheaper than ordering a pizza. And speaking of pizza, I usually keep a few frozen pizzas in my freezer as well. They aren’t healthy, but they are cheap and work in a pinch!

Make Your Home Your Job

At the risk of alienating some readers, for many years I have considered “homemaking” my job. This means I treat it like I would a job. I get up, get ready for the day, and get to work. I might not get paid for my work, but being resourceful and a good family manager saves my family money. If I go through my days not planning, not making meals, not cleaning the house or taking care of the kids, my irresponsibility costs my family money. While there are days when dinner does not get made, these should be the exception not the rule. Crock pot meals, freezer meals, weekend food prep, and go to dinners all work on the days it doesn’t seem possible to get dinner on the table.

In our house, family dinners are a priority. This is a time for us to talk, laugh, tell stories and unwind from our day. It is important that we eat together as a family and we can’t eat together if there’s nothing on the table.



  1. Thanks for all the practical tips! I too consider homemaking my job.

  2. These are excellent pointers!

    As a mom of five children, if I do not meal plan each week, come 6:00 pm my children are starving.

    You’re spot on- you can have a plan but you have to impliment it! The crockpot is my saving grace. And I like to pre-assemble meals and freeze them. I love your idea to assemble casseroles while you’re making breakfast or lunch!

    I am totally sharing a link to this post with my Facebook readers!

  3. Great tips. I think your tip about doing the prep work over the weekend is brilliant! I always try to do prep work when I return from the grocery store but sometimes I don’t have time.
    If healthy food is not cut up, and ready to go when your family wants to eat it, they will probably just go for junk food…right!
    I also try to plan out and prepare at least part of my dinner during breakfast. It just helps to simplify everything when I get home from work.
    Thanks for the great tips!

  4. When you cook ground beef ahead of time, how long are you able to store it in the fridge before it goes bad?

    • TheHappyHousewife says:

      I store it for about 3 days. Any longer and I will freeze it. Cooked ground beef freezes so well, and thaws quickly

  5. Great post Toni – totally agree on the “job” thing. My kids are older now and I am no longer a stay at home mom. How I wish I had these resources then! But I took my role very seriously as well.

  6. Toni, I think your post is here today for ME. I had gotten out of my routine on running my home and have been slowly getting back into my daily routine and meal planning/executing. I have many good intentions going on in my head as soon as I start my day but have not activated them, lol. Thanks for the reminder and gentle push in the right direction. I may not reply daily but I do visit daily.

  7. Thanks for the tips! Dinner is so important and sometimes I have a hard time getting it on the table.

  8. I too needed the gentle nudge to get back on track. I have 5 kids and have recently moved and everything is a mess. I must admit that I have not had the motivation that I need to get things back in order. I loved the tips. Keep them coming 🙂

  9. Thanks for the helpful and encouraging post. I’m pregnant with my 5th child and have been really sick. Things have really been falling apart around our household. I read your post yesterday, realized I had all the ingredients for the Italian Chicken in the crockpot so I threw it in and my husband got to come home to a nice homecooked meal for the first time in weeks.

  10. Thanks for your tips! I also find that I need to plan our meals that way I’m more organised & know what to pull out of the freezer in the morning. Also I know that at 5pm is always dinner prep time & then dinner at 6:15 – works for us!
    Have a lovely day

  11. Carolyn Hoffman says:

    I’ve been homeschooling for 16 years now, and I’ve always said that I can’t homeschool unless I know what’s for dinner first thing in the morning. Success often comes down to the small things that seem so simple, but are really profound. Great job!

  12. Great post! Just shared it on our Facebook page.

  13. Toni
    This reader doesn’t feel alienated. As a homeschooling mom for the past 15 years, I feel validated when other moms speak up and say how important what we do is to the family finances, not to mention all the other benefits to having a parent at home who takes the job seriously. Great tips, too.

  14. I loved the tips too. I always plan to have things started in the morning for dinner.Then, if things get crazy I at least have some head start.I think keeping my home is my calling from God. I’m always glad to hear I’m not the only one that feels it’s important. I found your blog from Organizing Junkie. I will be back!

  15. You are soooooo right! I do Sat–Wed on Saturday [or Sun-Wed], I have a few “favorites” from http://www.30daygourmet.com I keep on hand in the freezer and I have at least one “dire emergency meal” [usually something in pasta!] in the pantry. I keep breakfast stuff in the freezer like homemade french toast sticks, breakfast burritos and muffin-sized quiches so there’s no excuse to not eat breakfast. I’m getting ready to do freezer “salad meat”–grilled chicken, etc to put on my take-to-work salad.

  16. Love this post! I totally agree that it is a job. Get up early, get dressed, follow the plan (as much as you can with children around) and consider it important. Love it! I am also a meal planner. Good points. Lisa~

  17. I totally agree and consider homemaking my job as well. I am proud to be a SAHM, and it makes me feel great when my DH and DD say, wow, this dinner is great!

  18. Great tips! I’ve gotten out of the meal planning routine (although I must confess it wasn’t the most SOLID routine as I struggle with routines and schedules in general…implementing the Sidetracked Home Executives system recently has really helped though!) and lately, the high prices of groceries and everything else makes meal planning, couponing and grocery shopping very unpleasant when once it was a challenge I really enjoyed.

    I’m firmly convinced that “as the kitchen goes, so goes the rest of the home.” When the kitchen is clean, somehow, the rest of the house falls into place much easier. Using the SHE system to structure a very BASIC routine (the minimum tasks necessary to keep the dishes and laundry done and the home in a relatively tidy state) helped me declutter my kitchen and I reorganized it to make tasks I perform often, such as bread making, more efficient. Now I feel more ready to tackle meal planning and prep, since I have a designated day for menu and list making and looking through the ads and coupons. Plus, my counters are now clear on a regular basis so I can do things like cut veggies for snacks.

    And speaking of pizza…have you thought of making frozen pizzas yourself? You could parbake the crust, add sauce and toppings and freeze. I haven’t tried it yet, but have been meaning to for some time as we have a regular pizza night every week. Since I’ve quit buying processed foods, we enjoy homemade pizza so much more than the frozen ones at the store. Just a thought! I think I will try that next weekend…better put it on my list!

    Thanks for these ideas and for encouraging me to be a better steward with my time and resources in the kitchen…absolutely essential these days!!

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