I’m a meal planner through and through. It’s one of the only ways we’ve stayed on budget for the last many years and the only way to keep me on track when we’re so busy with school, therapy, dance class, errands, and more.
Still, despite the best-laid plans, sometimes the afternoon has gotten away from me. Maybe someone is going on hour three of a Super Tantrum, or errands took longer than usual, or a therapist was running late. Maybe I just flat out don’t want to cook dinner after a crazy day. Well, when dinner o’clock rolls around, I’ll have two very impatient little people staring at me saying “I’m HUNGRY! Can we eat now?”
On days like this, I have a back-up plan. And that back-up plan usually revolves around salad. I nearly always pick up a salad or at least some salad greens for the week, and I’ve found that having a packaged salad is a really great springboard for all kinds of last-minute meal ideas.
They make all kinds of superfood salad blends and plant powered protein salads, but our favorite for the last four years has been Eat Smart‘s Sweet Kale salad. I started buying it in bulk at Costco when I was pregnant with Sophie and it’s been a favorite ever since. Open the package and inside is a packet of dried cranberries and pepitas, a sweet creamy poppy seed dressing, and a fabulous mix of greens and super foods that I LOVE.
The greens mixture–kale, green cabbage, chicory, broccoli, Brussels sprouts–is a delicious mix of crunchy and bright flavors that I’ve found goes really well with a lot of dressings and toppings. That’s why it’s my go-to emergency dinner. With one bag of salad and just a few minutes’ time, I can put together at least five easy emergency dinners and know there’s going to be something delicious and nutritious on the table.
Some nights, I make up a quick batch of pasta and sauce and serve the salad exactly as it is. The poppy seed dressing is gluten and dairy free, so we won’t have any food issues, and Sophie happily eats up all the pasta she can get her hands on. Win-win.
Make a big batch of sauce one afternoon or evening and freeze it. It basically makes itself (seriously it needs almost no attention at all) and then you’ve got it all ready any time you need it!
Other nights, I skip the poppy seed dressing and mix up an Asian inspired ginger dressing and toss in a bit of leftover chicken or beef for a big main dish salad. Add any veggies in your fridge (I like carrots and cabbage or peppers), mandarin oranges, and toasted almonds for bonus points.
We love chicken and apple sausages. Pair them with Sweet Kale Salad served with honey-mustard dressing + a side of fruit. If you have 30 minutes, you might also make a batch of these sweet potatoes. So easy and SO delicious. No one will even know it was an emergency dinner.
Honey-mustard dressing: 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp honey, 2-3 Tbsp oil (we like olive or avocado), salt and pepper to taste.
Yep, pizza. Order it or pull it out of your freezer. We always keep a bit of pizza sauce in the freezer for nights like these. Next time you make pizza crust, mix up a double batch. Pre-bake one crust without toppings for 5-8 minutes. Cool, wrap and store in the freezer till you need it. If you’re not gluten free, pitas, naan, or bagels also do the trick. Add a salad and call it a day!
I’m a believer that eggs are one of the universe’s most perfect foods. Scrambled, fried, poached, or a quick omelet + salad topped with a quick balsamic vinaigrette. Finish it off with fruit, toast, or a baguette (if you’re not GF). Easy-peasy.
Easy balsamic vinaigrette: 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2-3 Tbsp olive oil + salt and pepper.
What’s your go-to emergency dinner?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.