Commuter Weeknight Dinner Tips

Commuter Weeknight Dinner Tips

Looking for some easy weeknight dinner tips?

Monday through Friday I endure a grueling Southern California commute to work.  Even though I joined a Van pool last year I still spend two hours a day commuting (one hour each way).  When I get home,  anywhere between 6 and 6:15pm, I’m tired and need to de-stress a bit.  The last thing on my mind is jumping into the kitchen and cooking, and I LOVE cooking!

I am a proponent of one dish meals, these meals normally involve little prep and few ingredients and I can use pre-cooked entrees from a quality grocery store. I’m fortunate to have both a Gelsons Market and a Lazy Acres (owned by Bristol Farms) close to home.

Honestly, it’s the prep work that is time consuming.  I don’t care if something needs to set on the stove or in the oven for an hour because I can be doing other things during the cook time.

Let’s jump in and talk about ways to  simplify your weeknight meals.

My weeknight strategy is either a one pot/pan meal or a main entrée I pick up from the local Lazy Acres or Gelsons hot bar.

Tip: If you have a grocery store in your area that serves up great hot bar meals then use them a couple of nights a week!

Dinner from the Grocery Hot Bar

This strategy works best when feeding one or two people, however you can scale it for as many people you need to feed.

  • Purchase only the main entrée and/or salad fixings.
  • Pick up an easy to cook vegetable in the produce section

If you’re a meat and potato’s Urban Kitten, pick up a potato from the produce section and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes.

When in the mood for salad only, then I’ll pick up a container of spring mix and head over to the salad bar and pick up all the other stuff to put on top like shredded chicken, olives, cherry tomatoes, etc.  This is a great way to reduce food waste, buy only what you need for the one meal.

The Lazy Acres Grocery in my neighborhood always has the most amazing Beef, Chicken and Vegetarian selections. The cost is under $10 a pound so even if you have a large appetite or are  feeding two people, this is a quick and affordable solution to the weeknight dinner dilemma.

Easy Weeknight Dinner Tips

I’m a spontaneous cook, in the morning I might think I want chicken for dinner, but by the time I get home in the evening I’m more in the mood for a simple pasta dish.

How do I handle the dinner dilemma you ask? I have basic pantry items on hand so stopping at the store takes just a few minutes.

Tip : Always Have the Basics on Hand

  • Canned Tuna in Olive Oil
  • Jarred Marinara Sauce
  • Rice
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Aidells Andouille Sausage (fully cooked)
  • Frozen peas
  • On Sunday I buy fresh produce,
    • Tomatoes
    • Red potatoes,
    • Russet potatoes,
    • Avocado
    • Lemon
    • Broccoli
    • Spring Mix Salad
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Cooked Chicken Strips from Trader Joes (perfect for a quick Chicken Divan)
  • Assorted condiments
    • Mustards
    • Soy Sauce
    • Marinades
    • Garlic Chili Sauce
    • Steak Sauce

Tip: Keep it Simple

Examples of Simple Weeknight Meals

Monday – Leftover Chicken Stew from Sunday’s Dinner and Crusty Bread

Tuesday – Rice with Peas, topped with Tuna and Avocado

Wednesday – Salad Mix with added Avocado and diced tomatoes and topped with a pan fried Aidells Andouille Sausage

Thursday – Chicken from the Hot Bar and Steamed Broccoli

Friday – Grill Cheese with Cheddar and Swiss Cheese on Sourdough bread.  Upgrade it with sliced Tomato and Onion.  Serve with your favorite chips.  This is Friday evening comfort meal.

These are not fancy meals but they are tasty and easy.

Tip: Embrace One Pot or Skillet Meals

Another Easy One Pot Weeknight Recipe

If you want a hearty meal but only have 10 minutes to spare for prep and can wait an hour while the roast cooks then this is the recipe for you.

Start with an 8 x 8 baking pan and lay down a couple of celery sticks to elevate the roast, toss in a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, slice ½ an onion and ¼ cup of beef broth.  Salt and pepper a 1.5 pound cross rib roast and lay it on top of the celery, tomatoes and onions.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place in oven uncovered for about one hour. Use an instant read thermometer (see my Amazon recommendation) to check for doneness.  Remove from oven and cover lightly with foil and let sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Options: 

  • use a slightly larger baking dish and add quartered potatoes and carrots
  • boil potatoes and make garlic mashed potatoes

The beauty of this meal is you can brown bag-it the next day with a yummy roast beef sandwich or choose to have leftovers for dinner the next night.

Check out more one pot meals here.

easy weeknight dinner tips

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