When life gets busy and stressful and you feel pulled in multiple directions, meal planning is often the first system to break down at home. You want someone else to get food on the table. You want someone else to clean up afterward. You want someone else to make it happen without adding any stress to your already complicated life.
Eating out at a restaurant or pulling through a drive-thru are short-term solutions to what is hopefully a short-term situation. They’re convenient and won’t do too much damage to your finances or waistline as long as they’re rare occurrences. If eating out at a restaurant and pulling through a drive-thru become your standard mode of operation, however, you’ll realize these short-term conveniences have long-term consequences.
Over the years, my husband and I have come to rely on The Simple Meal when we’re stressed and don’t want to make a production out of dinner. This meal consists of a protein, a vegetable, and a drink. From start to finish it takes the same amount of time as pulling through a drive-thru and less time than eating out at a restaurant. Plus, the cleanup is usually very simple.
The key to making the protein and vegetable interesting enough to constitute a meal are really good spices and sauces. Rustic rub catfish takes five seconds longer to make than plain catfish when you have the rustic spice rub prepared ahead of time. Honey-bourbon salmon takes 30 seconds longer to make than plain salmon as long as you have 3 Tbl of honey and 1/2 cup of bourbon already in your house. And tilapia with an olive tapenade takes just minutes to get on the table when you have olive tapenade in your pantry. All three of these proteins can be baked in the oven (with a little bit of lemon juice to help prevent sticking) in aluminum foil pouches, eliminating the need to wash a pan or baking sheet.
Fresh and frozen (buy the ones not packaged with salt or a sauce) vegetables are a breeze to fix, too. I’ll put a handful of green beans or broccoli or corn in a bowl in the microwave with a little bit of water, heat thoroughly, and then strain off the water. Once strained, I’ll add garlic salt or a little melted butter or some red pepper chili flakes or whatever will compliment the vegetables. I serve the vegetables in the same bowl I cooked them in to cut down on dish mess.
The best part about The Simple Meal is that it is almost always more nutritious and healthful than what you can get from a drive-thru, and it usually tastes better. If you don’t have a protein in house, swinging by the fish monger or butcher’s counter doesn’t take any more time than running out to get something. The Simple Meal is also great for cooks who are new to the kitchen.
If you’re new to cooking, invest in a quality meat thermometer and familiarize yourself with:
What Simple Meals do you make when under a time crunch and want to keep dinner from being a production? Share your recipes in the comments, and be sure to check out our sister site SimpliFried.com for ideas, too.