5 More Kid-Friendly Meals for 5 Days

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The dilemma of how to feed kids well on a tight schedule continues. Here's what I'm cooking this week.

It's Monday, and every parent knows what that means – another week of figuring out what to feed hungry little kids each night! Add to that a hefty work load, extracurriculars, play dates, gym workouts, and my kids' mandatory early bedtime, and suddenly getting good food on the table feels like a monumental task.

Lately my focus has been on trying to shrink the grocery bill. I do this by shopping sales, buying large quantities, and – perhaps most effective – cooking simpler food. I have to fight the urge to make fancy, exotic meals, but it saves so much time and energy, as well as money, that I'm really starting to see the benefits. Here's what is on the menu for this week:

Day 1: Fried rice

One of the easiest, yummiest dinners ever. Just make sure your rice has been pre-cooked and is cool by the time you fry it so it doesn't turn mushy. This is a kitchen-sink-type meal, adaptable to whatever you've got in the fridge. I usually fry onions and eggs, add cold rice and generous dashes of sauces (fish sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and/or tamari sauce) until it tastes right. I steam broccoli and carrots, add it to the rice, stir in frozen peas, heat through, and serve with cilantro and peanuts. Kids love it.

Day 2: Cream of cauliflower soup

I found this recipe in a Mennonite church cookbook over a decade ago and I make it at least once a month. I love cream of veggie soups but mine were always watery – until I discovered the secret of the roux. Now I sauté onion, add cauliflower and homemade stock, and cook until soft. I purée it, then make a roux with milk, cream, butter, and flour. When added to the soup, it stays thick and creamy. Again, kids can't get enough of it, and it makes for a good school lunch in a thermos.

Day 3: Pizza

Pizza is an eternal crowd-pleaser and surprisingly cheap to make, especially if you buy cheese and other toppings when they're on sale. I make dough from scratch around lunch and let it rise all afternoon, then it comes together pretty quickly. Tomato sauce, grated mozzarella, sliced olives, mushrooms, peppers, red onion, marinated artichokes, goat cheese, banana peppers, and pesto are some of our usual toppings, and kids like to choose the combinations.

Day 4: Pasta with cream sauce and vegetables

I like having cream sauce ingredients in the fridge – butter, Parmesan, whipping cream, ricotta cheese – because you never know when they'll come in handy. When time is really short, I put on a pot of water to boil, cook pasta, and whip up a cream sauce in a small pot. I sauté extra veggies, like mushrooms, peppers, rapini, broccoli, or spinach, and stir it all together in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper, grate more fresh Perm, and you've got a feast.

Day 5: Turkey shepherd's pie

I won a turkey last fall and it's been sitting in my freezer for five months, so I figured it was time to use it. My husband and I roasted it on Sunday, made a large quantity of stock in the Instant Pot (a new purchase that I'm still getting used to), and divided the meat between fridge and freezer. One night I'll do a large pan of shepherd's pie with leftover turkey, gravy, veggies, and lentils, topped with mashed potatoes. It will do us for at least two meals – not to mention the meals I'll get out of the other leftover meat.

What are you feeding yourselves and your families this week?