September 04

Fast and Easy Family Fall Favorites with Tomato Products

As another summer comes to a close, families are returning to busy school and workday schedules. Although making dinner during the school year may seem like the impossible, crazy schedules shouldn’t prevent you from putting meals on the table for your family. Stocking your pantry with economical, convenient canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, salsa, and tomato paste can help you make delicious and nutritious meals in minutes. As a nutrient-rich ingredient, tomato products are a rich source of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and the phytochemical lycopene—which research suggests may help prevent certain chronic diseases, and is more available to your body when it’s in its cooked rather than fresh form.

Here are some of my favorite tips to ease your meal prep this fall, and encourage you to add tomato products to your back-to-school list:

  • Chill out with Chili: Warming up to a bowl of chili is the perfect way to end a busy day. Use your slow cooker and let it simmer all day so it is ready to go when it’s dinnertime. For variety, try adding different combinations of beans and vegetables like Black Bean Pumpkin Chili or Mushroom Chipotle Chili.


  • Double the Trouble: Doubling recipes and freezing half for later use is a great time-saving tip to get dinner on the table quickly. Use your freezer as an extension of your pantry and stock it with quick, reheated dinner-ready meals, including casseroles, baked pasta dishes, pot roast, soups and stews. Try Spanish-Style Chicken in Tomato Sauce for a nutritious Mediterranean meal that can be stored in the freezer for up to two months.


  • Pizza Pizzazz. Making your own pizzas can be faster and healthier than delivery….and more fun! Use whole-wheat pita bread or premade whole-wheat pizza dough and canned pizza sauce to save time. Kids can help knead the dough or add toppings. Bonus: research has shown that kids are more willing to eat the food they prep.


  • Taco Tuesday. Planning your family’s meals throughout the week can be a huge time saver. Enjoying a Mexican fiesta on Tuesday is a great way to spice up the week. Adding canned beans or vegetable to taco meat, or using salsa as a topping is a delicious way to add nutrition to the meal. Try Turkey Tacos with Spicy Tomatoes for a zesty midweek dinner that will please all ages.


  • Breakfast for Dinner. There is no reason you can’t serve breakfast items for dinner. Italian Tomato Eggs are quick, easy and delicious any time of the day. To save extra time, make the sauce over the weekend and reheat when using.


  • Pasta Pair. Pasta is a delicious and economical dish, which is a perfect combo with salad. Canned pasta sauce can be enjoyed as is, or have fun experimenting by incorporating spices, vegetables, or ground lean meat into the sauce for a different spin. Using fresh pasta can save a few extra minutes of cooking time.

Written by Kaley Todd, MS, RDN, a freelance writer, clinician, and culinary and communications specialist. She’s the founder of Kaley Todd Nutrition at