photo by Kathy Maister

photo by Kathy Maister

You forgot to take something out of the freezer.

Your husband forgot to buy one key ingredient for dinner.

You had a meeting at school that you overlooked.

It’s just you and the kids tonight.

Or you just don’t feel like cooking. In any case, you need a fallback meal.

A fallback meal is dinner you can get on the table with a minimum of prep, ingredients you have, and your kids will eat. It’s not fancy, but it works, and it keeps you out of the drive-thru lane. Here are some of mine:

  • Grilled cheese
    Add ham or tomato, if you have it, or heat up a side of soup. My friend Joyce calls it “soup & sandwich night.”
  • Frozen waffles
    We make extra on weekends and freeze. Pop in the toaster just like the ones in the box.
  • Spaghetti and meat sauce
    I probably make this once a week, so it’s mindless. I use ½ lb. of ground beef (I don’t even thaw first, just cover and cook on lower heat and scrape it off as it browns,) and Newman’s Own Cabernet Marinara. Sometimes I double the sauce and freeze it for next time.
  • Bean burritos
    One can of refried beans, tortillas, and sprinkle of shredded cheese.
  • Buttered noodles
    If you have them, add some frozen vegetables to the last 5 minutes of cooking and toss with a bit of garlic salt.
  • English muffin, bagel, or tortilla pizzas
    Depends on what we have on hand. Toast in the toaster oven with pizza sauce and shredded cheese.

Serve with a side of fruit or yogurt, and dinner is done!

What are some of your fallback meals?

photo by Roman Pavlyuk

photo by Roman Pavlyuk

Even though I realize that soda has no nutritional value and it’s made from an unappealing chemical cocktail, I could never find an alternative beverage to enjoy during the long afternoon. I’ve tried fruit juice, seltzer, or even plain water, but nothing else satisfied my need for caffeine, and juice added calories I didn’t want.

Back when I worked in an office, I would buy and drink at least two 20 oz. bottles of Diet Coke every day from the vending machine. Once I added it up, I realized I was spending between $40 and $60 a month on Diet Coke! Rather than quit, I just packed my own in a small cooler.

Then, as a stay-at-home mom, I continued my soda habit, but chasing after my two small children meant that I often wouldn’t finish the can. It would get warm and flat, and at the end of the day, I would pour it down the drain.

I felt guilty spending so much money on soda and wasting resources, even though I recycled the cans. A two-liter bottle just doesn’t taste as good after a few days, so I purchased 20 oz. bottles in a package. Then I could cap a bottle and return it to the refrigerator.

What finally worked

I like making chai tea in the winter, so I recently tried an iced version.

Here’s how:

  • Boil water.
  • Pour water into a one quart mason jar, filling it halfway (that’s approximately 2 cups.)
  • Steep with 4 Good Earth chai tea bags for 5-10 minutes.
  • Fill the remainder of the jar with cool tap water. Cover and store in refrigerator.

Whenever I want a drink, I pour a glass ¾ full, add ice and splash of milk. It works! I finally found something that satisfies my afternoon desire for caffeine. No cans, no bottles, no chemicals. How have you kicked the habit?