5 Tips for Making Weeknight Dinners Easier + A Southwestern Steak + Sweet Potato Bowl Recipe

These 5 tips for making weeknight dinners easier were inspired by our sponsor, Terra’s Kitchen. Read ahead to find out how you can save time and money in the kitchen while still getting delicious dinners on the table during the week! 

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We are now in the throes of school life and as we near the busiest time of the year, I’ve really started planning ahead. That means keeping up with my calendar, staying on top of our budget, and making sure I have dinner on the table every night. Sometimes that last challenge is harder than you’d think! 

In an effort to not only stay on top of our budget (eating out is expensive!) but also make sure I have dinner ready nightly, I’ve come up with a few ways that I can cut a few corners by planning in advance and using tools like Terra’s Kitchen to make my week a LOT easier. 

5 Tips for Making Weeknight Dinners Easier

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1. Meal Delivery

I’ve tried out a few frozen or prepared meals out in the past but I just can’t get over not being able to cook my own food. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love my microwave for things like popcorn and microwavable bacon (the kids can make their own and there’s no mess!). But cooking my meals in the microwave from the freezer just isn’t as tasty. 

So when I heard about Terra’s Kitchen and looked at the weekly menu offerings they had, I was excited to try out a few of their meals through their meal delivery program. Not only is it not frozen, it comes in a climate-controlled vessel straight to your front door. When I unloaded the vessel, I simply removed the removable shipping label, placed it back outside, and it was picked up the next day and on it’s way to shipping more food to someone else. These vessels can be used up to 100 times! Waay better than the styrofoam packaging I was used to for previous services. 

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2. Meal Planning

With Terra’s Kitchen, I can input the meals I’ll be making from them into my weekly meal plan. That means I’m only shopping for breakfast and lunch (and a few items for snacks). I don’t have to worry about dinners because I’ll be making healthy meals in 30 minutes or less with my Terra’s Kitchen orders! 

Meal planning really does help for more than just dinner. And it’s a great way to stay on track with our budget because we only buy what we’ve planned to eat. It also allows me to keep an eye out for weekly specials and coupons in the paper. It may sound daunting to take this time on the weekend but it does pay to plan ahead when there are PTG meetings, soccer practice, and homework looming over our heads during the week.  

Terra’s Kitchen includes the ingredients list and recipes of each of their meal items and it’s conveniently printed on a 3 hole punched piece of card stock so you can easily add it to your meal planning binder. If you love a recipe, you’ll know exactly what to purchase to recreate the meal again and again in your home! 

3. Prepping Ahead

When I meal plan for the week, I also try and get all of my prep work done in advance on Sundays. That way I don’t have to think about cutting and chopping during the week. I also pre-package the kids snacks for lunches as well so they’re easy to grab. 

Well, Terra’s Kitchen does the same thing! All of the ingredients I received were pre-portioned and pre-chopped ready to go straight to the fridge. And the containers they were in fit perfectly on top of one another. It was kind of fun playing Tetris in my fridge to get everything to fit perfectly! Plus there was still room for the essentials we always keep in the fridge. 

Tip: You can use the containers your food comes in as seed starters for your garden! We’ll be sharing our seed starting tips next week so stay tuned! 

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4. Freezer Meals

Now I know that things do come up and sometimes we don’t even have the mere 30 minutes to cook a meal. So I prep ahead and turn leftovers from one meal into freezer meals for a meal in the future. I turned the leftovers from this amazingly delicious Southwest Steak and Sweet Potato bowl into mini pot pies to gobble up in the near future when all I have time for is turning on an oven and sticking a freezer meal in to bake. By prepping freezer meals for the oven or the slow cooker, I can make sure the days we don’t have a Terra’s Kitchen meal are covered! 

5. Time Management

My biggest enemy during the week is time. The time between picking the kids up from school and dinner is a big black vortex that seems to disappear before my eyes. No, seriously. I have NO idea how time goes so quickly between then. 

So in an effort to be better with time management, in addition to meal planning, shopping, and prepping on the weekends, I also set a timer to go off 30 minutes before my husband normally comes home from work so I know when I have to start cooking dinner. It’s so easy to get sucked into working just a little longer when you work from home so setting limits and timers is important. 

By setting aside this time and scheduling it for these tasks, I’m able to stay on top of feeding the family. And a fed family is a happy family! 

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Southwestern Steak and Sweet Potatoes Bowl

Recipe courtesy of Terra’s Kitchen

  • 16 ounces sweet potato chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • .7 ounces jalapeno slices
  • .3 ounces minced garlic
  • 12 ounces skirt steak
  • 2.25 ounces sliced scallions
  • 1 avocado

1. Preheat the oven t o450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. 

2. Cook the Potatoes: Pour sweet potatoes onto baking sheet. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of cumin (optional) over sweet potatoes and toss with your hands to coat. Place in the oven and roast until browned and tender (approximately 20 minutes). In the last 5 minutes of cook time, chop the remaining jalapeno and use a spatula to stir it into the potatoes along with the remaining garlic and all of the scallions.  

3. Make the Steak Rub: Pour half of the jalapeno slices, half the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into a small pile on a cutting board and keep cutting through the mixture with your knife until the jalapeno releases juices and you have made a wet paste. Rub mixture over steaks. 

4. Cook the Steaks: Rub a grill pan with 1 teaspoon of canola oil and place over high heat. Once grill starts to smoke, add steaks and cook to medium rare, turning once (approximately 3-4 minutes per side). Remove to a plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain and make sure to save the juices on your plate to use later. 

5. Dice the avocado by cutting in half, removing the pit, using a pairing knife to cross hatch the flesh and scoop out flesh with a spoon. 

To Serve: Divide sweet potatoes between two bowls and drizzle the steak pan juices over each. Fan sliced steak over potatoes and top with diced avocado. 

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Do you have any tips for easy weeknight dinners? 

Want to try Terra’s Kitchen for yourself? Use code SIMM30 at check out and save $30 off your first order (no expiration). The only condition is a minimal order of $64.99 (which is always the minimum to ship). Enjoy! 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Terra’s Kitchen. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

Finding Teachable Moments With Our Kids

This conversation featuring 10 places to find teachable moments is brought to you by Vroom

Finding Teachable Moments With Our Kids

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize how important it is to turn average, everyday moments into teachable moments with our kids. Not only are they the most relaxed when we’re just doing our own thing and going through our day, they’re also more apt to ask questions and really take in what you’re telling them when you share something with them in the moment.

In an effort to take advantage of these moments, I’ve listed our top 10 places to find teachable moments below.

10 Places To Find Teachable Moments

Finding Teachable Moments in the Car

1. In The Car

The one place that I find ourselves the most disconnected from tablets and computers and phones is the car. For one… no wifi! And we’re in the car at least twice a day to and from school for drop off and pick up. While we don’t necessarily talk the whole time we’re in the car, we are together in a confined space with no where else to go until we get to our destination.

I’ve found that this is the great time to not only ask about their day, but to open up about topics we might not have thought about. And what’s most crazy is that those topics don’t just pop up… they’re provoked by the one thing that is on in the car: the radio. Whether it’s a song that comes on, or something the announcer says, my kids and I have had great talks about everything from racism to politics to math after a topic was sparked by what we hear on the radio.

2. On A Walk

We love taking family walks. It’s important for us to get outdoors with the kids so we try and make time for walks as a family. Whether we’re heading out to the park or up the road to grab an ice cream cone after dinner, it’s a great time to bring things up. We also love talking about what’s going on in our neighborhood and what we see around us.

3. After School

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone but my son never gives me any information about what’s going on at school or what’s coming up. My daughter, on the other hand, gets in the car after school ready to share about her day. But when I do want to know what’s going on with him I don’t just ask what he did at school. I find ways around the obvious question and ask him other things that might lead to a conversation about his day. I found some really great conversation starters here.

4. During Dinner Time

Dinner time in our home is family time. And it doesn’t just start when we sit at the table to eat. By getting the kids involved in making dinner with me, I can teach them little things in the kitchen that they can continue to learn as they get older. Whether its dumping in the ingredients into a bowl like my 15 month old, chopping up veggies like the older kids, or unloading the dishwasher like my husband, everyone has something to do when we get dinner ready. This gives us the opportunity to spend time with one another while we teach each other new things. You can find more tips for creating a family table at meal time here.

5. On A Trip

When we leave home for trips, whether it’s for vacation or a simple get away for the day, we try to take any opportunity we can to teach our children about something. If we’re heading to Boston to visit family, we make sure to schedule a few historical stops along the way, or if we’re going to the San Diego Zoo, we try and get the kids involved in learning more about the animals we see. By just exploring the world around them, they soak in everything.

6. In The Bathroom

So if you’re a parent you know that you can’t do anything alone anymore. And that includes going to the bathroom. While it may not be the most enjoyable thing, I’ve found that my kids curiosity in the bathroom has helped open our channels of communication about things we might not have discussed until a later age. I’m pretty open about the birds and the bees with my kids. While I do make sure to keep it at an age appropriate level, most of the talks I’ve had with my son and daughter have started in the bathroom.

Finding Teachable Moments in the back yard

7. In The Back Yard

Our back yard is our oasis. Whether we’re gardening together, playing together, or taking care of our many animals, having an active back yard has allowed us the opportunity to continue to teach our children about how to grow their own food and how to take care of another being. By just making things available to them, like a few planters to plant whatever veggies or flowers they want to plant, I’ve come to realize how independent they become and how much they’ve learned by just observing us.

8. In The Classroom

Now this might sound like a no-brainer but it’s not on the list for why you think. If you work outside of the home it may be hard to do, but volunteering in your child’s classroom can really open the doors of communication and help in teaching them at home.

I’ve found that by observing my son in class and seeing how he learns things there has helped how I approach teaching him certain things at home. Homework time is also a great time to check in with them and see how they’re doing.  By being active and in communication with his teacher, I’ve been able to see what his strengths are academically and what he needs help with.

9. At A Friend’s House

Growing up I learned so much about the differences between each family after heading to a friend’s house for a playdate or sleep over. The family dynamics are so different between one household and another and by going to friends houses to see their family dynamic, we’ve been able to teach our kids that being different is great. We also make sure they feel comfortable in asking questions they have about those differences.

10. With Family Members

One thing I absolutely love about living close to family are the different life lessons their grandparents and aunts and uncles can teach them. Whether it’s just hanging out at Grandma’s house or going on an adventure with their Great aunts or uncles, being able to learn different ways from different people has allowed our kids to get a bigger perspective on the world around them.

Finding Teachable Moments with Family Members

In an effort to inspire every caregiver to think more about teachable moments, the Bezos foundation has started a fun campaign called the Vroom initiative. Vroom was developed based on the premise that every child is born with enormous potential, and every parent can help them realize that potential. The Vroom Superhero campaign demonstrates the heroic role that every parent and caregiver plays in the lives of children, and reinforces the message that anyone can be a Vroom Superhero to a child.

You can find a little more about the campaign in the video below:

Vroom was designed to give parents and caregivers simple tools that turn everyday activities, like mealtime and bath time, into brain building moments. We want to empower parents and caregivers like Camellia to interact with their children during their daily routines, engaging them in activities that require no additional time or resources but have outsize long-term benefits.

Become a superhero and join Vroom today!

How do you make teachable moments fun?

Creating Simple Family Get Togethers Around The Table

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AHugeSale #CollectiveBias #Vons

Creating Simple Family Get Togethers Around The Table

For the past few years the only family on my side that lived close enough to visit were my dad’s family. My mom moved to Washington the summer after I got out of high school and my siblings moved with her while I stayed down in San Diego to go to college. So most of what my kids know of my siblings, their aunts and uncles, are what they learned through photos and trips to visit each other every year or so.

So when I found out my sister would be moving down here for her husband’s job, I was stoked. The kids always talk about visiting their cousins (like constantly asking when they can go back to South Dakota to take a vacation with them) and now they could visit any time!

Since moving back down here, we’ve seen a lot of my sister and her family. She drops her two older boys off to play with my kids and I drop mine off at her house to do the same. But we hadn’t yet had a family dinner together since she came back. So I decided to create a simple family get together around the table with our whole family.

Gatorade at Vons

I like to keep family get togethers simple. And easy. By being prepared with a simple meal plan and buying foods that are on sale I can keep my budget in check while not skimping on the amount of food we serve.

Dinner for a family of four (well… 5) isn’t a lot different than dinner for 13. There’s just more dishes at the end of the night. And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

Here was my plan of attack: 

1. Make a meal plan based on family tastes, what’s on sale, and what coupons I have

2. Head out to Vons to take advantage of their huge Anniversary sale and stock up for future family dinners.

3. Prep veggies and salad in advance.

4. Utilize kitchen appliences to keep the stove and oven free for other dishes.

5. Start cooking an hour before guests arrive so everything is ready when they get there and I’m not stuck in the kitchen.

6. Enjoy dinner with family around the table!

Creating Simple Family Get Togethers - easy meals

This time around we enjoyed sweet corn on the cob (can be made on the stove, the barbecue, or even the slow cooker), rice in the rice cooker, ceaser salad, ham, sesame ginger chicken, and – for my son – flank steak. It may sound like a lot but everyone was happy and my husband and I get to enjoy leftovers for lunch!

By planning in advance and having everything ready to go by the time family gets to our home, I can sit back and relax while enjoying great conversation with my family. And when I stock up on sales to fill my freezer and pantry, I can host more family dinners without breaking our family budget. And since I love to have people over and entertain I’m already planning our next family meal.

Creating Simple Family Get Togethers - Mealtime with the cousinsCreating Simple Family Get Togethers - Enjoying Corn

The time we get to spend bonding with family is precious and should be enjoyed. My kids get to have the chance to know their cousins, have a relationship with their aunt, and get some fun time in their grandpa. Everyone’s happy!

Creating Simple Family Get Togethers - Fun with Grandpa

Shop the HUGE Anniversary sale at Vons or other Albersons banner stores – Safeway, Jewel, Osco, etc – and stock up on your favorite Pepsi and PepsiCo brands like Gatorade (an 8-pack of 20 oz. bottles is only$2.99+CRV when you buy 3 with your Club Card) from 7/29-8/11.

Vons Huge Anniversary Sale

 

How do you plan for large family dinners?



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