Simple Dinner Tips for the First Month of School (and Beyond)

Simple Dinner Tips for the First Month of School (and Beyond)

The school year is underway, which means you've swapped packing beach bags for backpacks in what seems like an instant. Adjusting to the new schedule doesn't come easy, which is why cutting a few corners can help tremendously, especially when it comes to dinner. Here are a few tips on how to whip up a delicious and nutritious meal with little effort, so you can spend more time with your kids and less time on cooking.

Slow-Cooker Meals
The slow cooker can be your best friend, and if you don't have one, now is the time to invest. Fall is the perfect season to break out this handy appliance, which can be used to make everything from soup to pulled pork, and even dessert.

Slow cookers range anywhere from $30 to $300, depending on their size and features, so you'll want to do some research on which model works best for your family. Choose one that truly fits your needs, since we all know there's nothing worse than having an oversized appliance on your counter that's too clunky to use. Then, have fun experimenting with set-and-forget recipes, and watch your family rave over your hearty homecooked meals.

One-Dish Meals
Much like slow-cooker dinners, one-dish meals are easy to put together, and will ultimately save you prep and clean-up time. To help you ease into your new school schedule, think about serving casseroles, stir frys, lasagnas, soups or stews to your brood for a guaranteed hit.

The basic casserole is a combination of a starch, a vegetable and a protein, with a sauce and crunchy topping for texture. However, the beauty of this one-dish wonder is that you can easily modify recipes to suit your family's tastes. Lasagnas are more time consuming, but can be made ahead of time and popped into the oven later. A stir fry takes minutes to cook, and is a great way to get your kids involved in prepping veggies. Soups and stews are also simple meal options, since you can combine several ingredients and let them simmer on the stove while you tend to other things.

Meal-Planning Apps
Cooking? There's an app for that. A lot of them, actually. Whether you're looking for tools, recipes or how-tos, there are dozens of applications that can help guide you, but a new selection of meal-planning apps are popping up on the market, specifically designed to keep you organized. Stay on top of shopping lists, recipes and what's in your pantry with apps like Mealboard and Menu Planner, and for a free option, try Pepperplate to keep meal planning in check.

From there you can take your smartphone or tablet right into the kitchen, but make sure you have a reliable kitchen stand, and think about buying some disposable sleeves to protect your gadget from grease and liquids. It's better to be safe than sorry.

This month (and beyond), use these tips to help you adjust to the school routine. Between getting your kids to class, helping with homework and managing afterschool programs, you deserve to acclimate to your new schedule without a hitch.

Originally published