6 Ways to Make Back-to-School Weeknight Dinners Easier

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Strip Steak Diane / Laura Agra / Katie Workman / themom100.com


back to school dinners / Roast Beef with Mustard Garlic Crust and Horseradish Sauce / Mia / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Getting back in the swing of weeknight/schoolnight dinners stands out as a shining example of what can be crazy-making about the re-entry period of fall. I’ve just started bracing myself, and thinking about how to make those dinners a bit smoother, calmer, and less stressful. Damn, I do this for a living and still find it overwhelming at times. Here are some thoughts on getting it done with less craziness:

  1. Again and again, get the kids involved. Over the weekend, or a quieter moment, let each of your kids pick something they would be happy to eat that week. Encourage them to look through cookbooks, poke around online, flip through a magazine or two. Then if they are old enough, you might also ask them to: 1) create the shopping list for the recipe, 2) help prep for and cook the recipe, or 3) figure out what else to serve with the dish they picked.

Spoon in a pot of Buffalo Chicken and White Bean Chili.

2. Make double batches whenever possible, and freeze half. Then you’ll have another lasagna/pan of enchiladas/chili dinner waiting in the wings for later in the month. Aren’t you amazing.

3. Embrace leftovers. My family actually really likes it when we have accumulated enough leftovers for a full-on leftover night, where we pull everything out and create some sort of schizophrenic smorgasbord featuring some slices of roast beef, roast chicken, fried rice, roasted butternut squash, and the last few spareribs. Add a salad, and it’s quite the buffet.

4. For those days when it’s simply the reality that people will be eating at different rimes, make a big pot of something durable that can be reheated. Hearty soups, chilies, black beans and rice, stews…all of these can sit on the stove over low heat for quite some time, or you can scoop out portions as you need them and heat them in a smaller pot or in the microwave. A good fix for nights where parents are working late, kids are trickling in from gymnastics, and so on.

6 Ways to Make Back-to-School Weeknight Dinners Easier/ tips for back to school dinners/ Cream of Carrot Soup / Mia / Katie Workman / themom100.com

5. My favorite support tip: prep your week. On Sunday, or whenever you can carve out half an hour of time, chop up some onions, mince some garlic (and cover it with oil so it doesn’t discolor), mince some parsley, peel and mince some ginger, zest and juice some lemons or limes. Just get some ingredients that you often use, or know you will use in the coming week, all ready for action, put them in small plastic containers, and toss them into the fridge. You will be thanking yourself all week long as you do the weeknight dinner dash.

great back to school dinners/ Spinach, Mushroom, and Chicken Quesadillas / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman / themom100.com

6.Make extra protein: if you are roasting some chicken, roast some extra pieces. If you are making beans, make another few cups. This extra will come into use later in the week in the forms of quesadillas, enchiladas, stir fries, and so on.

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

You May Also Like:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Amber AKA Mamapoole says:

    I love your amazingly wonderful easy solutions to my demanding and stressful problems! Thank you for such a wonderful cookbook that my kids and I actually enjoy eating from! Go Katie!

  2. Pamela Waterman says:

    I so agree with your take on leftovers. Our family says “it’s a Luscious Leftover Night” and everyone is happy. So great meeting you at Changing Hands, Tempe AZ. I’ve tried a number of your recipes – the Flaky Fish with Balsamic Glaze is fantastic!!

    1. Tomoko says:

      If you’re reading this, you’re all set, pradenr!

  3. sunithi says:

    Love all your recipes !! The one pot mac & cheese was a huge hit with my family !! Keep making it again :) I love the corn , spinach & bacon. Meal in itself ! Thanks for your helpful book with quick & easy recipes. Working mom so I love & need quick & easy :)

  4. Tammi @ Momma's Meals says:

    I am so looking forward to really getting into this book come the fall time Katie! I’ve already tried some recipes for #SundaySupper and I’ve enjoyed reading them, making them and eating them of course! Thanks for the tip on making more and freezing it because it’s a great option and I always forget to do it!!

  5. Liz says:

    I just made your one pot brownies…so fabulous not to have a ton of dishes to wash! And so tasty, too!

    1. Katie Workman says:

      I have a hard time deciding what I like best about these…the chocolate fix, or the easy clean up!

  6. Wendy (The Weekend Gourmet) says:

    These are great tips for anyone with a busy lifestyle…including those of us without kiddos! After a long day in the office, I LOVE it when dinner can be ready and on the table in 30-45 minutes…

    1. Katie Workman says:

      I hear you, Wendy!

  7. Heather @girlichef says:

    Yes, Yes, and more Yes! In my house, #1 is key – if the kids have picked out what they want to make…they almost always eat all of it. And like it (or pretend to). Thanks for all of these wonderful tips. I’m huge on #6, as well…we eat a lot of quesadillas and flautas with “extra” meat.

    1. Katie Workman says:

      We are totally on the same page!

  8. Lane @ Supper for a Steal says:

    Thanks Katie, you have some great tips for back to school menu planning!

  9. Family Foodie says:

    We are looking forward to having your Around the Family Table this #SundaySupper. It is always a special event when we break bread with you!