It's nearly the end of the year and we are all exhausted - kids and parents alike.
With end of year concerts and celebrations squeezed in amongst regular busyness, it can be hard to find time to eat, let alone cook.
I have developed an option for kid dinners when hunger is high and time is short. I call it an 'Open the Fridge' dinner.
It works by simply siting the kids up at the kitchen bench, opening the fridge and feeding them whatever you find.
Don't waste time putting everything out on a plate. Plates and even cutlery are completely optional for an Open the Fridge meal.
Simply hand your kids the first item you find and let them start to eat it as you grab the second one.
What will end up on the 'menu' will depend on what's in your fridge but, even if you've been hard pressed to fit in food shopping recently, I'm sure you'll find something there.
A typical Open the Fridge dinner in my house might start with a carrot or handful of cherry tomatoes, followed by a cheese slice or two, a piece of bread, a left-over sausage or a tub of yoghurt.
You're welcome to dive into the cupboard too but, remember, the key is no preparation - rice crackers can dip into the hummus from the fridge, grab a banana, open a small tin of tuna or add some vegemite to the bread.
And don't forget the freezer. Frozen peas are perfectly safe to eat straight from the packet make a great green addition to an Open the Fridge dinner.
The zero preparation time and fact that the kids start eating straight away makes an Open the Fridge dinner the ideal option for evenings when you arrive home late and/or only have a short window before needing to head out again.
As well as quick, an 'open the fridge' meal is super-low on preparation and clean-up effort. No nasty pile of dishes to await you (are you like me in that the less time you have to cook, the more mess you create?)
Once the kids start to munch, you might even be able to grab enough time to do a lightening fast bag unpack, email check or phone charge.
And, once the kids are old enough, you have the option of putting them in charge of doing the fridge opening, freeing you up even further.
Despite the focus on fast and furious, it's worth noting that Open the Fridge dinners are not unhealthy and, depending on what's in your fridge, can be extremely well balanced.
You might even find that your kids get caught up in the novelty of such a different dinner and eat more fruit or veggies than they would otherwise. My kids love an Open the Fridge dinner and me declaring that this is the plan can add a sense of fun to an otherwise potentially stressful evening.
Open the Fridge dinners are especially ideal for our busy end of year time. They are perfect for the Australian summer, when there is less need for a hot meal.
If you are lucky enough to get a night out without your kids – maybe a work Christmas party or a much-needed end-of-year catch up with friends, an
Open the Fridge dinner is especially good for when you need to eat later than the kids.
Best of all, they hit the spot for when you simply do not have enough minutes in the day to cook and when the kids are starving and need to eat NOW!