Between daytime homeschool activities & evening activities, I’m always looking for on-the-go dinner ideas. After a couple years of slower days & evenings, we are making up for it this fall. Until winter when they slow down, these will be commonplace for us.
On-the-Go, Portable Dinner Ideas
I don’t know where the idea for grocery-store rotisserie chickens came from but what a genius idea it was! I first remember seeing them about 15 years ago but I don’t think I ever bought one until after my middle child was born. Why was I so late to the bandwagon?? For a packable dinner, I buy it ahead of time and refrigerate. Once it is cold, I find it slices more easily. (My kids make such a mess when I shred it!) While I’m near the bakery grabbing the chicken, I grab a loaf of bread or a package of dinner rolls. My Food Lion has a ‘steakhouse’ bread reminiscent of Outback Steakhouse’s bread…and it is really good (and cheap)! Add in some fresh fruit and/or veggie sticks.
Variations: Swap out the bread for a tortilla wrap. Or take out the bread & add in pasta salad.
Euro platter-Sounds fancy doesn’t it? I came across this name for what we called ‘snacky dinner’ and immediately switched! What is it? A great way to use up bits & pieces, that’s what! Pull out the half-opened packages of crackers & deli meats, the ends of cheeses, the scrapping-the-sides of jarred dip, the last bits of fruit, etc. Give your kids their dinner container and let them fill it up. Kids get a variety for dinner, you get a cleaned-out fridge.
My kids love to go to Subway. Kid #1 orders ham + lettuce, Kid #2 orders just ham, Kid #3 orders just ham & then he takes off the bread. So why am I paying $20 for this dinner?! Instead, I buy mini-sub buns from the grocery’s bakery to make our own sub sandwiches. My kids are just as happy and my wallet is happier, too. Check the deli area for nice mustards & sauces. They can be spendy up-front but it inspires me to eat from home which saves me money!
Variations: Use frozen meatballs to make a meatball sub. If you want a warm sandwich, put your sandwich on the griddle or in a skillet and put something heavy on top. Heat, flip over & replace the weight and continue cooking. [If you have a George Foreman-type grill, this is excellent for that.] Think alternatively for meats & toppings as well–leftover sliced chicken & beef work great. BBQ sauce & pesto sauce can switch things up. If your store carries the small $.50 bags of chips, pick their favorites. Something about each kid having their own bag excites my kids.
I discovered the portability of hand-pies last year and I am so glad I did! Those late-in-the-season nights when practices are getting cold? The heartiness of hand pies hit the spot. I don’t pack these to eat in the car because they can be a bit messy but they work great to eat on the sidelines. Buying pie crust from the refrigerated section makes quick work. Fill, seal & put in the oven while you’re getting kids ready and they’ll be ready as you walk out the door. What to put in them? Pizza toppings, taco meat + cheese, chicken tossed with buffalo wing sauce + cheese, BBQ meat + cheese. Google around for hand pies, calzones, and empanada recipes and you’ll find something for every taste! I have frozen these uncooked as well as mostly cooked. Add a couple extra minutes if you bake from frozen.
A traditional pasta with red sauce isn’t exactly on-the-go friendly! But switch out the red sauce with pesto sauce or garlic oil and it is a lot less messy. For the garlic pasta, I heat olive oil until warm, add crushed garlic & red pepper flakes and remove from heat. I do this at lunch & let it rest for a couple hours, then toss with cooked pasta and parmesan cheese. Add chicken (home cooked or rotisserie) and your favorite veggies and now you have a filling pasta salad for an easy on-the-go dinner.
Variations: Use frozen or fresh tortellini or ravioli in place of regular pasta. Swap pepperoni or salami for the chicken.