Balanced meals for busy families

For me, being a mom is all about balance. In that, I don’t have any. I’m kidding. I’m totally on top of everything, all the time, of course.

The fact is that sometimes you have to make choices: missing bedtime to make it to the gym, skipping a social event instead of getting a babysitter, or logging work hours after 7pm to spend more time with your little one after daycare. Even though life gets hectic, I am committed to maintaining balance in our family’s eating habits. With a little planning, and a few corner-cutting tricks, I have found that I rarely have to choose convenience over homemade meals.

Here are a few (mostly) homemade meals from my arsenal. To round them out, I’ll usually add fresh fruit and steamed vegetables as sides.

Set yourself up for success by preparing shredded chicken in a slow cooker.  I do this every other weekend, and freeze in meal-sized portions. Most of my meals work with about ¾ quart sized freezer bag of chicken.

  1. Place 3-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in slow cooker.
  2. Season with salt, pepper and any other desired spices. (I often use garlic powder).
  3. Add about a cup of water.
  4. Cook for 6 hours on low.
  5. Shred and freeze into portions that make sense for your meals.

Last week I found bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts on sale for $.99 a pound and couldn’t resist. I used the same steps above, but added a quartered onion for flavor. After 6 hours, I removed the skin and took the chicken off the bone, then cooked for another 30 minutes.

Cream of chicken and wild rice soup

Chicken and Wild Rice
Creamy, delicious, and made with real ingredients!

I still can’t believe how easy this recipe is! This quantity usually feeds the three of us for two nights, plus lunch for me once. I usually add a steamed vegetable and apple slices or berries on the side.


  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 pound chicken breasts (I didn’t measure the chicken, just used a frozen bag)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots, onion and celery. I use the leafy portion of the celery heart. (Pro tip: chop these the night before to save time before work).
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • up to 2 cups additional milk or water


  1. Rinse the wild rice. Place the uncooked wild rice, raw chicken, mirepoix, chicken broth, and poultry seasoning in a crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. There will be extra liquid in the crockpot; do not drain.
  2. Before serving, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and let the mixture bubble for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk until a thick, creamy mixture forms.
  3. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker and combine. Add extra water or milk to adjust the consistency as you like it. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

Pesto chicken and tortellini with vegetables

This is an example of a corner-cutting meal, but it’s a quick and easy crowd pleaser in our house.

  1. First, bake or pan fry boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  2. Just before they are finished, prepare fresh tortellini pasta (my favorites are either RP’s tri-color four cheese or Trader’s Joe’s spinach tortellini) in boiling water.

    TJ's pesto
    This little jar has changed my life.
  3. Add your favorite vegetables (I use broccoli) into the pasta pot for about two minutes.
  4. Drain the mixture and add about three tablespoons of prepared pesto. Trader Joe’s makes a pesto with quinoa that is tasty and adds more protein to the mix. (It’s my new favorite thing).
  5. Top the pasta and vegetables with sliced chicken
  6. Garnish with parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Easy enchilada soup

I’ve been making this one for so long that I have it memorized! Since it’s a lighter soup, I eat it year-round (save for those 90 degree days).


  • Bag of frozen shredded chicken
  • 32 oz chicken broth (low sodium), plus 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped onion, your choice of green, red, yellow, orange bell pepper
  • 1 cup fresh or jarred salsa (I use medium heat)
  • 1 cup black beans (optional)
  • Frozen corn (optional)

For garnish:

  • Avocado slices
  • Shredded cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream


  1. Saute onion and peppers in 1 TBS olive oil on medium heat for 5-7 min
  2. Add thawed chicken and salsa. Warm through.
  3. Add chicken broth (and corn and beans, if using) and 2 cups water. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 min
  5. Ladle soup into bowls for serving. Top with desired garnish.

The easiest salmon you’ll ever make

I took this recipe straight from Siriously Delicious a few years ago, and it’s become a staple in our menu.


  • 1-2 lbs fresh salmon
  • Sliced lemon
  • 1 shallot
  • Capers
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil


  1. Place salmon in tinfoil, season with salt and pepper
  2. Top with sliced lemon, shallot and capers
  3. Sprinkle with olive oil.
  4. Tent salmon with tinfoil and bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees

That’s it! I usually pair this with fresh green beans or broccoli since my husband and daughter will eat both of those, and whatever variety of fruit we have in the house. If you have more time on your hands (hahaha!) you could also roast red potatoes.

When all else fails – quesadillas!

This is another quick fix. I always keep whole wheat tortillas on hand in the refrigerator, for quesadillas, fajitas or even homemade pizzas. If I plan ahead, I will save some thawed chicken from one of the recipes above to use for quesadillas the next night. Below are my favorite quesadilla ingredients – mix and match to your liking!

  • Cheese (any variety)
  • Black beans (I keep these stocked.)
  • Spinach leaves (another staple in our refrigerator)
  • Chicken
  • Jalapenos (for the adults)
  • Corn

Start with a tortilla in a non-stick pan over medium heat. I add ingredients on one half of the tortilla, starting and ending with a small layer of cheese. Fold the tortilla over so it’s shaped like a half moon. Cook for a few minutes and flip to cook the other side. I cut these into wedges and add salsa and sliced avocado to the plate.

I hope you find these helpful! Comment below to let us know what works best for your busy family.


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