It’s just a few weeks into the school year, but chances are your kids are already as sick of eating PB&J as you are of preparing them. These fun lunchtime alternatives are easy to make the night prior or when you have the main dish for dinner. Pack each element individually, either in a bento-style lunchbox or in separate bags.

QUESADILLA (Source: The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 cups filling: leftover cooked vegetables, shredded meat, crumbled tofu, cooked beans, fresh or frozen corn, cooked rice or grains, or any other leftovers
  • 2 teaspoons butter or vegetable oil divided
  • 4 large (9-inch to 10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese: cheddar, Monterey jack, Colby, fontina, or any favorite melting cheese

Directions

  1. Pick a few of the suggested filling ingredients above, enough to make 2 to 3 cups of total filling. If combining leftovers, warm them briefly in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat. If using raw ingredients, cook before making quesadillas. Transfer the filling to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
  2. Ironically, the key to a crispy quesadilla is less fat in the pan, not more. Too much fat will make your quesadilla soggy instead of crispy. Use just enough to coat the bottom of your skillet — about 1/2 teaspoon of butter or oil. Warm it in the skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
  3. Lay one tortilla in the skillet and sprinkle all over with 1/2 cup of cheese.
  4. Spread roughly 1/2 cup of filling in a single layer over just half the tortilla. Don’t use too much or the filling will fall out as you try to eat it. Spreading the filling over half makes the quesadilla easier to fold, and adding it as the cheese melts gives the filling time to warm if it has cooled.
  5. Once the cheese starts to melt, begin lifting a corner of the tortilla and checking the underside. When the cheese has completely melted and you see golden-brown spots on the underside of the tortilla, the quesadilla is ready.
  6. Use the spatula to fold the quesadilla in half, sandwiching the filling.
  7. Slide the quesadilla to a cutting board, and if serving immediately, slice into wedges. If preparing several quesadillas for a crowd, slide the un-cut quesadillas onto a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven and then slice into wedges just before serving.
  8. Wipe the pan clean, melt another dab of butter, and continue cooking quesadillas as described above.

Quesadillas are just fine cold and should be cut into small triangles for lunches. Pack with guacamole, tortilla chips, pineapple, and salsa.

PICKLE AND BEEF ROLLUPS (Source: Tastefully Eclectic)

Ingredients

  • 1 jar of pickle spears
  • 1 pound of deli meat (roast or corned beef)
  • 1 package cream cheese

Directions

Roll out your meat, spread some cream cheese on it as good as you can get it. Add a pickle to one end and then roll it up. Done!

Pack with crackers, carrot sticks or an apple, and something sweet for dessert.

CAPRESE KABOBS (Source: Baked Bree)

Ingredients

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Mozzarella stick, sliced

Assemble all the ingredients on a stick. For added fun, serve with some Balsamic dressing. Pair with raspberries and pretzels.

This guide by Fiti-Vation on Tumblr also has some great lunchbox meals that are great for those with little time. There are meals that appeal to kids, adults, or both. The “Wannabe Cheeseburger” and “Frogs on a Log” boxes are both sure to get kids smiling.

Other favorites:

  • Hard-boiled eggs (especially after Easter)
  • Cold pizza
  • Hummus cups

Let us know down in the comments what you like to make your kids when you’re busy!

When you’re a busy parent, taking care of yourself always falls behind taking care of your family. It’s a logical sacrifice, but you need to be careful to not spread yourself too thin. If you don’t occasionally take a little while to relax and treat yourself, the stress and pressure will eventually cause major health issues. Instead, try these little things to pamper yourself between parent duties.

bouquet of flowers

FLOWERS
If you’re out grocery shopping and a bouquet catches your eye, splurge and buy it. Having fresh flowers in the house not only cheers you up but livens up the place, boosting the mood of everybody else.

WRITING
Grab a spare notebook and pen and start keeping a journal. Chronologing your day will help you make sense of it amid all the busyness. If you’re feeling particularly daring, try planning out your memoirs.

DANCE
Sweeping or dusting? Put on some music and dance along as you clean up. It’ll make a dreary chore more bearable, and the physical activity will give you energy and motivation. Plus, it might even convince your kids to come and help!

crossword puzzles

CROSSWORD PUZZLES
If you get a daily paper, try doing the included crossword puzzle. It’ll challenge your brain and can be easily set aside when you need to run. Alternatively, most bookstores and discount shops offer cheap collections of crosswords.

SPA DAY
Book yourself a day at a local spa well in advance and indulge in a little R&R. For those looking to save money, get a bath bomb or some bubble bath and take a nice soak after the kids have gone to bed. You can also buy a premade facial mask from many health and beauty stores.

FRIENDS
Been a while since you caught up with your pals? Book a lunch date at a new restaurant or someplace your kids would hate. Enjoy a nice meal and then go window shopping afterward. Even just enjoying a walk is better with some good company.

relaxing chair with candles

MAKE A “YOU” SPOT
Much like the time-out corner, a “you” spot is where you go to be quiet and undisturbed. Place your favorite pillows and blankets there and a candle in your favorite scent. Whenever you feel like you’re about to pull out your hair, retreat and relax.

NAPS
Settling the kids down for a midafternoon snooze? Join them! A quick nap will leave you energized and refreshed. Just be careful to not sleep for too long, as that can leave you fatigued for the rest of the day.

GET OUTSIDE
If the weather’s nice, take a walk outside with your kids or pets. The exercise is beneficial, and the fresh air will help your mood. When walking’s out of the question, sit on a porch or deck or at least open a window.

MEDITATE
Yoga is incredibly easy to do, but it’s not the only type of meditation out there. Do research and find the method that works for you. If you’re religious, you can incorporate prayer or scripture into your routine.

woodworking

TRY A NEW HOBBY
Been meaning to learn knitting? Want to pick up the ukulele? Have a badminton kit sitting around you’ve never used? How about woodworking? Teach yourself or find a class to learn a new skill or hobby.

GRATITUDE LIST
Write a list of four things you’re grateful or thankful for each day. Focusing on the positive will help improve your overall mood. Alternatively, write down five good things that happened to you today; the result will be more or less the same.

What do you do to pamper yourself, busy parents? Let us know down in the comments!

As much as we want to give our families home-cooked dinners every night, sometimes it feels like an impossibility. You’re far too busy to prepare even the most basic of meals. But you don’t need a lot of time to create something special if you use these recipes.

Pasta with beans and tomatoes

PORK AND BEANS PASTA
You really only need five ingredients for this dish: Italian sausage, pureed tomatoes, white beans, pasta, and garlic (and a splash of olive oil). The resulting meal is similar to Bolognese and is hearty and filling. Pair with a nice green salad for a healthy and balanced dinner everybody will love. You can see the recipe here.

CHICKEN FAJITA CASSEROLE
Fajitas are always a crowd-pleaser, so take the hassle out of them by turning it into a casserole. Mix all the typical ingredients- peppers, onions, chicken, and cheese- in a dish, and add tomatoes, beans, and rice. Bake for half an hour at 400 degrees. Do make sure you cook the rice before baking! To make things even easier, use our pepper tool during prep time.

Burgers wrapped in tortillas

FAJITA BURGER WRAPS
On the subject of fajitas, why not combine them with burgers? Kids adore the combination and they can be thrown together in less than an hour. The mix of lean ground beef, fajita seasoning, and peppers creates a wrap that will no doubt get your kids to eat their veggies. The full recipe is available over here.

BALSAMIC PORK TENDERLOIN
Just three ingredients, plus salt and pepper, go into this deceptively fancy meal. Simply season the tenderloin with salt, pepper, and thyme and roast. Serve with a balsamic vinegar reduction, potatoes or rice, and vegetable of your choice. Prep only takes five minutes, meaning the entire meal should be ready in about thirty minutes. This dinner is especially good when you have unexpected company.

Cripsy lemon chicken

LEMON CHICKEN
Mix up your chicken with a few lemon slices. You can make the breaded chicken yourself, but if you’re short on time, use prepacked chicken patties. Simply drizzle some lemon juice on before serving. It gives the chicken a more refined palate while still appealing to kids. Fun fact: many Japanese restaurants serve their fried food with lemon. (Oh, and use our lemon juicer for extra ease!)

ONE-POT CHILLI MAC AND CHEESE
It may not be the healthiest option, but after a long day, nothing is better. And this mashup of two family favorites is easier than you might think. In a Dutch oven, brown some beef, garlic, and onions. Then pour in the rest of the ingredients and let it cook. Add some cheese towards the end and serve straight from the pot. Check out the full recipe here.

Three hand pies on a cutting board

HAND PIES
These versatile single-serve pies are perfect for the nights when you can’t even sit down. Much like regular pies, you can stuff whatever you want into them: beef and Guinness, broccoli and cheese, or whatever else you can imagine. Just fold the crust over the filling empanada-style, bake, and grab whenever you need food fast.

STRAWBERRY SPINACH JAR SALAD
Here’s a twist on a fun favorite! With summer nearly here, fresh strawberries are coming into season, which means it’s the perfect time for strawberry spinach salads. To make what’s already an easy and quick dinner even more portable, serve inside of a Mason jar or other portable container. Of course, much like hand pies, you can make whatever kind of salad your family enjoys.

Falafel on a wooden counter

FALAFEL
Falafel is fantastic as it only needs a few other easily-prepared dishes to make it a full meal. When short on time, pack the falafel, some pita, and salad separately. Then eat as you go, maybe dipping in some hummus if you have the opportunity. For a more complete falafel, mix in other vegetables or even some kind of meat into the falafel mixture.

Let us know down in the comments what your favorite on-the-go meals are!

When you’re a busy parent, you find yourself wishing for even just a few extra minutes. This is especially true with summer vacation arriving. Whether you’re planning a trip out of town or indulging in a “staycation,” whatever you can do to save some time is extremely welcome. Here are a few ways to shave the seconds and beat the clock.

PREMADE MEALS
Making meals that can be grabbed and eaten on the go are great for when you need energy between drives. Likewise, dinners that just need to be popped in the oven- or even just pulled from the fridge- are fantastic for nights when you don’t have the time to cook.

THE GO BAG
Do you always forget something at home? Do you end up needing something left behind more than you thought you would? Try using a Go Bag. Simply take any bag- an old diaper bag is fantastic for this- and fill with stuff like laundry pens, medicine, sunscreen, and other necessities. Leave it in your car and you’ll never be without those vitals ever again!

mom carrying shopping bag

SHOP ONCE, SAVE BIG
If you go to the grocery store multiple times a week, try condensing it into one larger trip. While this visit may take longer than the usual quick shop, it’ll ultimately save you time the rest of the week. Find coupons and check offers before shopping as well, and make sure to prepare a list. If you know what you’re after, you’re less likely to waste time browsing (and waste money on unneeded food).

DEAL WITH THE MAIL

When you grab your mail, take care of it immediately. Don’t throw it onto the table to deal with later; you’re wasting time by revisiting it. Throw out the junk, separate the coupons from the bills, and read any letters or cards you received. If you’re on your way out the door or already late, wait to go through it until you can without being rushed.

sticky notes on car wheel

USE YOUR COMMUTE
If you’re a working parent, take advantage of rush hour by turning it into you-time. Practice singing or a foreign language. Record an audio journal or plan your tasks for the next week. Just be careful to stay aware of traffic. The last thing you want is to get too involved and forget to actually drive!

PLAN YOUR WARDROBE
If you find yourself spending too much time staring into your closet, try planning your outfits in advance. Hang a top and bottom on the same hanger with any accessories you want to include for that day, then you just need to get dressed and slip on your shoes. Our hanger pockets are great for holding jewelry and other accessories with each outfit.

child doing chores

THE CHORE CHART
The bane of kids everywhere but the savior of parents: the chore chart. Schedule everybody’s tasks for the week, making sure they don’t overlap or get done twice. Make sure you include yourself (and your spouse) on there to make things fair for the little ones. If you need added incentive, promise allowance or prizes like trips to the movies for chore completion. Just make sure you pay up!

PLANNING AHEAD
Hang a family calendar in a communal area, like the kitchen or hallway. Tell your kids that whenever they make plans, they’re to write when and where it is on the calendar. Keep pens and a step stool nearby for younger kids who might be unable to reach. Now, whenever you need a refresher on where you’re headed, just check the calendar and you’ll know! (For extra security, add the events to your phone so you’ll remember on the go.)

What are your tips for saving time, busy parents? Let us know in the comments!