How We Save Our Weeknight Dinner Sanity and Introducing Our New Puppy

This post is sponsored by the makers of Hidden Valley® Ranch but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

If you are wondering why we have been a little quiet around the blog lately, there is a good reason for it. If you do not already follow us on Instagram, you may not know that a few weeks ago our family got a little bit bigger! Our new puppy, Bowie, is our first dog and our beloved fur baby. 

While I have not been a dog mom for very long, I have learned some shortcuts to make my life a little bit easier and retain some of my sanity. Since I work from home, I am both taking care of Bowie and also working on my computer in-between dog walks, puppy play time, training sessions, and chasing Bowie around trying to make sure he doesn't run into any trouble. 

There is no denying that Bowie is such a sweet puppy and needs to be cared for closely all day long since he is a young pup. But I would be lying if I said that it wasn't the biggest responsibility I have ever had. With all of the responsibility that comes with caring for Bowie, I also carry extra stress and have far less time than I normally would to take care of things around the house. Preparing the kinds of homemade meals that we are used to having with a puppy in the house can feel next to impossible. But I have been learning some ways to save some of my sanity in the kitchen when it comes to preparing food while Bowie wants me to play with him or pay attention to him while I am trying to cook dinner. 

Not too long ago, Adam and I made the drive out to Chandler to visit the Arizona Animal Welfare League to meet a dog who was soon to become our fur baby. In the car on our way out there, Adam was coaching me and reminding me that I can come across as a "crazy dog lady," and that I should try to wait until after the shelter employees leave the room before I started crying happy tears. 

But sure enough, the moment I laid my eyes on Bowie, my eyes welled up and he pranced right over to me with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. That was it. It was already decided at that moment that he was coming home with us once we filled out the paperwork, made our payment to the shelter, and bought him his puppy essentials before driving back to Phoenix as a family for the very first time. 

Adjusting to life with a puppy has taken some time for us, and most especially during the work week. We have found some things that work for us to make our lives easier, as well as which kinds of pantry essentials that help save our sanity when it comes time to cook dinner.

Using Convenient Seasonings and Condiments to Quickly Add Flavor

Stocking up on flavorful seasonings, ready-to-eat dips, and versatile condiments make meals not only easier and quicker to prepare but also more delicious. Whenever I can, I try to shop online first as opposed to heading out to the grocery store (since I do not want to leave Bowie in his kennel alone for more than an hour). I prefer to buy a majority of my pantry items on Amazon Prime Pantry so that everything I need to make dinner is brought right to my door! 

Some of our go-to seasonings as of late include smokey barbecue, three-cheese, and the Hidden Valley® the Original Ranch® Seasoning Shaker. The Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Shaker works on a number of recipes for all kinds of meals--we shake it over popcorn for an afternoon snack, and then we also use it with our typical weekday meals to give them more flavor (like the savory, chicken ranch macaroni and cheese recipe that we made last week). 

The Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Shaker can be found on Amazon, as well as an upcoming product that we had a chance to try which is the Hidden Valley® the Original Ranch® Ready-to-Eat Dip. This dip is so convenient for snacking--I just open it up and it's ready to serve right away, so I can totally see how great it will be for a game day as well as when we are having some friends over for board game night. Bowie loves eating and chewing on baby carrots, and while he chews on his, I grab one for myself and dip it into my Hidden Valley Ranch Ready-to-Eat Dip. All of our seasonings, dips, and condiments make life a little easier and more delicious during the week while I try to balance our lives with our new puppy.

For a limited time, you can use code "20HVRCATHY" at checkout here to save 20% on one Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Shaker. You can also shop for other Hidden Valley products at

Choosing 1 Protein for Multiple Meals

Before Bowie, we would switch up our proteins we ate during our meals every day. One night we may have a roast, and then the next night I would make something like homemade jambalaya or hand-rubbed chicken wings. While switching things up keeps dinner interesting, variety at dinner can prove extremely difficult when you have a young puppy nipping at your ankles wanting to play or get into everything in the kitchen and forcing you to stop preparing your meal and care for your dog. 

One of the main ways I have saved some sanity during weeknight meals is stocking up on one or two kinds of proteins, and then preparing and planning similar meal bases to eat one night after another. For example, hamburger meat is great to give us variety and I can save a lot of time by cooking all of the hamburger meat into patties and then storing the cooked hamburger in the refrigerator to reheat and add seasonings and sauces for different meals. 

Similar to hamburger meat, chicken also offers a lot of potential for recipe variety. I like to wash, cook, and shred chicken thighs for meal planning. I may store 2 cups of chopped chicken to add protein to a pasta dish, or I may place the cooked chicken into a freezer bag with a sauce to marinate it overnight for tacos the next day. 

Learning that it's More than Okay to Enjoy Repeat Meals

Growing up, I remember starting to hate certain kinds of foods because my family would continuously cook the same meal over and over and serve it almost every night of the week. Wanting to avoid falling into this pattern into my adulthood, I taught myself how to cook when I was in college. I did this so that I could save myself the money and rather than go out to eat at a different restaurant every night, I could go grocery shopping and stock up on all kinds of proteins, vegetables, and ingredients that I learned how to cook to give myself variety at dinner time. 

For years I have been proud to say that I have never felt bored by our meals since I have always made the extra effort to prepare and cook different kinds of food to enjoy each night of the week. Keeping the variety on the dinner menu has kept me from feeling bored with food--with a new puppy in the mix, the time that I would normally spend preparing meals in the kitchen has been cut down significantly. Since I am using similar proteins multiple times a week and carrying them into other meals with a twist, I have learned that it is okay to enjoy meals that feel like a repeat so long as I switch things up a bit with different seasonings, vegetables, or the way the meal is served. 

Do you want more sanity throughout the week when you're preparing dinner? Do you have a new pet at home you're learning to care for? If you can relate, we invite you to share this post to Facebook and Pinterest!

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  1. Awwww! I love your new puppy! What a little cutie pie!

  2. Bowie is the cutest. THE. CUTEST! I can't think of a fuller life than a puppy and mac and cheese with Hidden Valley.

  3. First off, congratulations for adopting Bowie! He's a handsome guy. You hit it on the head: making sensible meals while trying to care for a pup can be a challenge. The Hidden Valley products sound like a blessing. Your mac-n-cheese looks amazing!

  4. I am with you – it's OK to serve the repeat meals! I usually do it with my soups and stews.

  5. Your little pup is too cute!! We are a Hidden Valley Ranch kind of home too! I love it in all kinds of recipes.

  6. Congratulations on becoming pet parents! I can almost smell the puppy breath. Ranch dressing really is versatile.

  7. Hidden Valley Ranch is a staple in our home. I love adding it to burgers and making all sorts of dips.

  8. How cute this puppy is! He has such good eyes! So so cute!

  9. He is like a little bear, so adorable! Love easy meals and we are a total ranch family. Use it all the time!

  10. Oh my gosh, just look at that face. I just want to love him all up. I didn't know Hidden Valley Ranch made more than just salad dressing.


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