Hot Tip: Get in the habit of incorporating "gravels" into your dinner hour preparations--this will make getting the meal on the table so simple and easy.
Gravels are hamburger and sausage that's been cooked, fat drained off, crumbled onto cookie sheets, and frozen for two or three hours. (If you forget and leave it in the freezer for longer, no biggie, it's just fine.) Then measure the amounts your favorite recipes call for, into freezer bags or containers, and place it back into the freezer.
So when it's time to make sloppy joes, or tacos, or hamburger soup, or hamburger stroganoff, etc. etc., just pull some pre-cooked ground beef or sausage out of the freezer, add it to the other ingredients and cook it while you're setting the table and tossing salad. This is so easy, your kids can do it.
I also pre-cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large greased pan with a little water added. I do this on shopping day--I set the groceries on the counter and quickly get the chicken cooking. By the time I have all the groceries put away, the chicken is done. I then dice some, shred some, slice some, and leave a couple whole. Then I bag each variety and place it in the freezer as well.
You might want to consider buying the family packs of ground beef, sausage, and chicken (usually less expensive) and splitting the cost and product with a friend. In fact, having a weekly "make-ahead day" with a friend can save time and money and be a lot of fun.
The more you can do ahead, on a Saturday, for instance, the easier the mid-week meal prep is going to be. Now it's your turn. What are your favorite easy meals, recipes, kitchen management tips and family meal-memories? We can hardly wait to hear from you. Until next time, here's to making family dinner hour possible!