If you are like me, not just the kids’ schedules heat up in the fall. Everything seems to go in hyper drive. Between ballet, soccer and PTA meetings, you struggle to break bread with your family and in a way that does not create a nutritional deficit. In a busy, busy life, dinner prep has to be quick. Here are my three best tips to get you to Christmas vacation. This also enters me to win a TwitterMoms and Samsung French door refrigerator.

My first tool is to use the broiler. Yes, the broiler! Remember that part of your oven you have relegated to make garlic bread and nothing more? Yes, that 500-degree mechanism that sears the taste inside. There’s no extra cleanup so it really is a time-savings technique.

You can cook some great chicken in high heat very quickly that is juicy and flavorful. My kids love drumsticks and a package of frozen drumsticks is only about $2 per pound. Add some spices to thawed drums and stick them under the broiler about 10 minutes each side. If salt and pepper is all your children can handle but you want something with a little more zing, then make some Buffalo sauce for you and your husband. Melt a stick of butter and add cayenne and Tabasco until you can’t stand it. Use it as a dipping sauce or baste your drums with it.

Burgers and fries are also wonderful under the broiler. The ground round can get a little messy with splatters so use a roasting pan to allow the grease to fall down and stay away from the flame. Line it with foil to make cleanup even easier.

Second, reinvent leftovers! Pasta and some grated parmesan cheese can do wonders for veggies and meats that are no more than one or two portions left in your fridge from a few days’ meals. You don’t even have to have a sauce, but a jar of Alfredo can add some depth and creaminess. If you don’t have that, add a quarter cup of olive oil, mince a clove or two of garlic and chop some basil leaves if you have them and voila! Add some fresh spinach for some extra iron in your family’s diet too. A bag of pasta only takes 12 minutes to boil—and don’t forget to salt your water so it is nice and tasty and not bland and starchy. Chop up your leftovers into bite-size pieces and mix with pasta and sauce or seasonings in a baking dish, grate some parmesan over the top and bake for twenty minutes.

If casseroles are not your thing, do the same thing with chicken broth instead of Alfredo sauce to make a hearty soup. Swanson’s has a re-sealable container of broth and no MSG. Pasta or rice can make it more filling but are not necessary.

Third, breakfast for dinner is always a fun way to liven up an evening. Pancakes, bacon or sausage and some scrambled eggs on the dinner table always make kids feel like they are breaking the rules. Liven it up with orange juice whipped in a blender with ice and some vanilla yogurt. It’s quick and relatively inexpensive.

These three tips can get you pretty far—I know they have helped me to avoid the boxed lasagna and the drive thru. Cheers to quick and easy meals and bon appetit!

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