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5 Ways to Master Back-to-School Weeknight Meals

July 31, 2017
3 min. read

Believe it or not, in just a few short weeks, backpack-laden kids will be boarding bright yellow buses and heading back to school. As the summer winds down, it’s a great time to start planning for your kids’ back-to-school necessities and preparing for the busy upcoming season.

Weeknights during the school year can be hectic—between attending parent-teacher conferences, lugging around sports gear and musical instruments to practices and rehearsals, and helping with homework and assignments, it seems like there’s little spare time for much else. This can make preparing family dinners a huge challenge. (PB&Js again, anyone?)

Well… weeknight meals don’t have to be a constant burden. Here are five meal-prep strategies to help lighten your load:

Single-Pan Sliders

Using a 13×9 baking pan and Martin’s convenient “split-apart” rolls in a variety of sizes, you can make any number of hearty and delicious sliders. Just split the entire sheet of rolls in half and layer your sandwiches in the baking pan with your filling (which can usually be prepared in advance), then bake in the oven, split apart, and serve. A few of these sandwiches also make great freezer meals, or on-the-go snacks as well!

  1. Cheeseburger Sliders

    Cheeseburger Sliders 5

  2. Baked Ham & Cheese Sliders

  3. Chili Sloppy Joes

  4. Baked Mississippi Roast Party Sandwiches

  5. Pepperoni Pizza Sandwiches


Crock Pot Creations

For a flavorful, slowly-simmered meal that doesn’t require constant supervision, your crock pot or slow cooker is perfect! The ultimate “set it and forget it” tool, your slow cooker helps you make a wide variety of dishes with hardly any prep. They’re usually also fairly forgiving on the cooking time, so you can leave your food in a bit longer if you need to run errands.

  1. Slow Cooker Balsamic Steak Sandwiches – courtesy of blogger Delightful E Made

    Slow Cooker Balsamic Steak Sandwiches

  2. Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes

  3. Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

  4. BBQ Brisket Sliders

  5. Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwiches


Make-Ahead Meals

When you want a nice home-cooked meal that requires a bit more prep than your busy weeknights allow, look for “make-ahead” recipes that you can prepare in stages when you have extra time. Many casseroles, for example, can be prepared on a weekend, then frozen until ready to bake. On your next free weekend, consider prepping a few freezer meals to save for those busy school nights.

  1. Chicken Pasta Casserole

    Chicken Pasta Casserole 4

  2. Oven-Baked Frittata Sandwiches

  3. Chicken & Broccoli Cobbler

  4. Ham, Asparagus, & Cheese Strata

  5. Chicken Pot Pie with Bread Topping


Dual-Purpose Dishes

Many busy weeknights include dinners consisting mostly of leftovers from the night before, primarily because they involve no effort. But have you considered transforming your leftovers into a seemingly new dish with a bit of creativity? Try making side dishes that can double as creative topping ideas for another meal, or entrees that can be repurposed in new ways.

  1. Mac & Cheese 3 Ways

    1. Mac & Cheese with Breadcrumb Topping

      Baked Mac and Cheese

    2. Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese

    3. Mac & Cheese “Ditch Dogs”

  2. Leftover Lasagna: Lasagna Grilled Cheese

  3. Leftover Fajitas: Chicken Fajita Melt

  4. Leftover Spaghetti: Garlic Bread Spaghetti Boats

  5. Leftover Brisket: Brisket Grilled Cheese


Few-Ingredient Feasts

The last thing you need when trying to balance a dozen other chores, is a trip to the grocery store to pick up missing ingredients for that night’s dinner. On days like these, maybe you try “raiding” your pantry for things to throw together, or for substitutes for your few missing items. Pick recipes that only involve a few simple ingredients, or staples you already have on hand.

  1. Classic BLT

    Classic BLT

  2. Zucchini Grinders

  3. Old-Fashioned French Toast

  4. French Dip Sandwich

  5. Italian Sausage Sub

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