Getting dinner on the table night after night is hard. Would any parent disagree? As a teacher with a 45+ minute commute to and from my school, planning meals for me and my family is only part of the challenge. Finding the willpower and energy to cook after a long day with teenagers is my major struggle. For me, healthy is a preference, but easy is a necessity. I like to develop an arsenal of dinner recipes that are easy to throw together after a long day but are still tasty and enjoyable — because teaching makes me hungry! I’ve added five new family-friendly meals to my dinner cache this year, and I’m pretty psyched to eat them.

1. Tamale pie

I found this recipe one afternoon while searching for something other than tacos but still with that taco meat flavor. Sometimes I use beef, other times I use turkey, and yet others, I leave the meat out altogether and just include black beans and kidney beans. No matter what, the taste is delicious. I love the amped-up protein paired with the cornbread topping, and so does my family. 

2. One-pot macaroni and cheese

Please don’t judge me, but I found this recipe on the back of a box of Good & Gather elbow macaroni (Target’s brand). Who doesn’t love a one-pot dinner recipe? I tried it on a whim — and it is delicious. Sometimes I add broccoli. Other times I add bacon or chicken. Regardless, it is so creamy and delicious that I have no problem eating it for lunch and dinner in the same day (a rarity for me since I’m not always a fan of leftovers).

3. Spinach and feta scrambled egg pita

Breakfast for dinner? Yes, please! Even better, this recipe only takes around 15 minutes to prepare. This is another after-work favorite because with a simple modification (leaving out all the flavor of the feta and spinach), I can make a smaller batch of just scrambled eggs that my 3-year-old and 6-year-old will also enjoy. Finding something that will feed all four members of my family with only a slight modification is always a winner in my home.

4. 15-minute garlic butter chicken

This meal tastes like it took a lot longer to make. The recipe calls for cauliflower rice, which I love but isn’t necessarily a hit with the rest of my family. As a substitute, I always have a few bags of 90-second rice to heat and use instead. The aroma of the garlic and butter is enough to draw my family to the table, and the taste keeps us there.

5. Slow cooker beef stew

This recipe is not quick, but it is delicious. The essential ingredient here is the slow cooker. I love walking into my house and having it filled with the aroma of beef stew. Preparing the ingredients only takes around 20 minutes, and sometimes I get them ready the night before so all I have to do is take it out of the refrigerator, plug in the slow cooker, and press start. A few hours later (depending on the speed you select), dinner is ready. 

Bonus: The other night, my mother offered us a pot pie she had made. Traditionally, we have chicken pot pie, and I love that. This time, she used beef and other stew ingredients as the filling, then covered the top with a pie crust. It was ah-maz-ing! If you grow tired of eating this stew, you can always make it into a pot pie! You won’t regret it.

I’m always looking for more recipes to add to our weeknight meals — especially ones that double as a great lunch the following day! What are your favorite go-to dinner recipes?

Sarah grew up in Rhode Island and now lives in West Bridgewater, making brief stops in Quincy, Fall River, and East Bridgewater, along the way. She made the leap from Rhode Island to Massachusetts way back in 1999 when she decided to pursue a teaching degree at Boston University. She chose her career in 1987 and is currently teaching high school English to 10th and 12th graders, fulfilling a 6-year-old’s dream at the age of 22, a proclamation that often brings forth snickers from her students. She became a mother for the first time in 2016 to her daughter Cecilia, then doubled down in late 2018 with the birth of her second daughter, Adelaide. She currently lives with her husband, Jason, their dog, Nanook, their cat, Lanky, and six chickens. They share a home with her parents, who live above them and also provide the most amazing childcare for Ceci and Addie. Sarah couldn’t live without her family, her insulin pump (shout out to other T1D mamas), and Starbucks iced chai lattes. She could live without angry people, essay grading, and diaper changing.