Tis the season. No, not that one. Still have a few months before that. I'm talking about"back to school" season. Yep, the kids are back in the classroom, and if your family is anything like ours, that means your already busy schedule just doubled in activities; and hectic days are the name of the game.
In that spirit, I've teamed up with my good friends at Indiana Family of Farmers to give you some great tips on affordable food options to accommodate your super busy life. Let's not forget, we as Americans spend less of our income on food than most other countries! Shocked? You can read more here. Oh, and worried about nutrition? Read my fantastic tips on finding healthy options at the grocery store here.
So, in part three of our series, we wanted to help all of you feed your family on a budget when time is of the essence. I have a few that I think really help our family eat well without my wallet feeling it too much!
1. Make Leftovers on Purpose I will be the first to tell you leftovers aren't my favorite thing in the world. And I'm not one to serve them night after night until they are gone. However, I do purposely make more of dishes than what the 3 of us can eat. Why? Because they are great for lunches the next day. I don't mind eating something again for lunch, as long as I get something new for supper. Plus, come the weekend, when all of us are home for lunch, I have things ready to eat in the fridge. If you know a huge pan of pasta or casserole is too much for your family, don't half the recipe until you think about this option.
2. Pack Lunch For Work and/or School I know many of you take the time to pack your kids' lunches for school, but if you have the change to take your lunch to work, do you? Sure it's so easy to hit the drive-thru, or go out with co-workers and enjoy an hour away from the office, but have you ever added up the amount of money you can spend doing so? Mr E. could eat lunch out every single day if he wanted to, but he chooses to pack one to save money. Or should I say, he chooses to have me pack one for him. So, when I am packing little man's school lunch I do the same for my big man. And this is a great use for those leftovers we were talking about earlier. I would say 4 days out of 5 per week, Mr E.'s lunch consists of things we ate the night before. When I still worked outside the home, I always packed my lunch, and saved going out to once, maybe twice a month for a treat. It really helped to save us money, and honestly was healthier too.
3. Your Crock Pot Is Your Friend If you aren't using the words "slow cooker and hectic day" in the same sentence, you are missing out. Do you fantasize about someone cooking the evening meal while you are at work, or busy running around through the day? It's not a dream. Your Crock Pot can do just that! Once you find some tasty, dependable recipes your family loves, you will wonder how you ever survived without it. Imagine coming home after a long day and having dinner almost or sometimes completely ready to eat. Heck, if you need a good place to start, the recipe I'm sharing today would be a great one!
4. Do Prep Work Ahead of Time No matter what the recipe is, see if there are steps you can do ahead of time, and split the work up, making it easier in the end. Chop veggies. Brown ground beef. Cook and and shred chicken. All of these are things you can do the night before, or if there is time, in the morning before you rush out the door. I do this in many of the recipes I make, and when dinner time rolls around and I'm dog tired, it doesn't seem so over whelming because some of the work is already done.
5. It's Okay To Call It A Day We are all going to have those days when the thought of going into the kitchen and cooking, even if it's just a frozen pizza, makes us want to cry. Don't feel bad. It's okay to say "I'm done" and reach for the take out menu, or even treat the family to a night out. We've all been there, and we will all be there again. Let yourself off the hook, and know nobody is judging you because probably half your neighbors are doing the exact same thing. But you can still try to look for budget friendly coupons or even places that offer "Kids Eat Free" specials when those nights come along.
The recipe I'm sharing today is sure to become a classic the minute you make it, especially with the cooler fall months approaching. Talk about comfort food in a bowl! I actually made this last week when the little guy had come down with strep throat, and it was just what the doctor ordered. It's a great one to utilize some of those tips I mentioned above too. Cook the chicken the night before so you can throw it all together the next day before you leave. Then when you come home, all you left to do is add the noodles. Be sure to make the whole batch because the leftovers are only tastier the next day, and make great lunches! This is going to be something you find yourself making again and again, just like me!
Crock Pot Chicken and Noodles
2.5 lbs. chicken tenders
2 c. chicken broth
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
3 carrots, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3/4 c. frozen peas
24 oz. bag frozen egg noodles
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay on baking sheet. Roast in oven for 30 minutes until juices run clear. Shred with two forks or using stand mixer. In slow cooker, combine shredded chicken, soup, chicken broth, onion, celery, carrots, and peas. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Reduce heat to LOW and cook 5-6 hours. Increase heat back to high and add frozen noodles. Allow to cook just until noodles are done, about 30 minutes. Do NOT overcook, to avoid mushy noodles.
Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.