At the end of the day, most of us are tired, ready to relax, and not eager to take on all the chores in store for the evening. Dinner can often become an after thought or be relegated to fast food or junk in an effort to simply get it done. Here are three ways to ensure you and your entire family are well-fed, without adding too much more to your already busy evening!

1) Crockpot Meals – especially as the weather gets cooler, crockpot meals are a great way to serve up a healthy meal that’s also warm and comforting in no time. Throw your ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and let it cook all day for a fresh, homemade meal when you walk in the door in the evening. Chicken with salsa, beans, and corn results in easy chicken tacos (just add lettuce and avocado to a warm tortilla!). Many soups are crockpot friends; just toss the ingredients in in the morning and let it simmer all day. Short ribs or pork plus broth and veggies for an easy pot roast, served with hearty bread.

2) Weekend Prep – take a few minutes on the weekend or on your days off to prep meals for the week. Whether that means making meals ahead of time and refrigerating to then reheat as needed, or just cutting and measuring ingredients to be used fresh each day, prepping ahead of time will shorten the time from getting home to getting food on the table.

3) Make Ahead – next time you make spaghetti, make extra sauce and meatballs and freeze them for another day. Making lasagna or soup? Double the recipe and freeze half. Take some time on the weekend to make up a batch or two of empanadas or calzones and freeze for your own homemade “frozen meals”. Creating a stockpile of easy, heat then eat frozen meals gives you an easy go-to for dinner that you can make sure is healthy and simple to make any night of the week.

Homemade meals don’t have to be hard; with a little planning, you can make family dinners and homemade meals a daily staple without requiring any commitment longer than you would have to heat a store-bought frozen meal or driving to get take-out.

Aubrey Phelps MS RDN LDN