Many of us recognize the drill. You’ve been flying all day – perhaps in heels. The last meeting of the afternoon ran over. There are errands to run on the way home from work and there’s homework to help with the minute you step through the door. Now, what’s for dinner?
I won’t tell you that I’ve got this down to a science but over time, I have accumulated a few things that help me on a weekly basis. Take them. Try them. Let me know what secrets you have. We’re in this together.
1. Make out menus a week at a time. This gives you the foundation for your grocery list so that you can work to get those store stops down to once a week also. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t eat exactly what’s on the menu. Just roll it to the next week.
2. Have a leftover night. At our house, this is Thursday night. I open up the fridge and pull out all of the containers that have been put away during the week. It’s easy and it also keeps the refrigerator tidy.
3. Build up a well stocked pantry. This was my last t3 report. Add legumes, grains, pasta, tomatoes and you’ll always have a meal in a pinch.
4. Cook extra on the weekend. I don’t do this every week but when I can, I make Monday night’s soup while I’m working on Sunday night’s dinner. It’s a great time to do other prep work also; chopping nuts, cleaning vegetables, etc.
5. Have a cooking party with a couple of friends. My sister in law does this with great success. She gets together with three friends and over the course of a couple of few hours and lively conversation, they make four dinners. Everyone leaves with their share which can go on the table or into the freezer. This is fun way to socialize.
6. Keep track of what worked and what didn’t. I keep this in a three ring binder in the kitchen and I keep my shorthand simple. Was it easy? Did the kids eat it? Was it spectacular? This saves me from repeating a disaster and gives me a short-list of those I can count on.
7. Make a pot of something that goes with everything. Ours is often brown rice. I can use it as a side with beans, spice it up and stuff it inside a pepper, ladle a curry over the top, etc.. I started doing this in graduate school and it’s a habit that stuck.
8. Give the kids chores. This depends upon their ages of course but I leave two or three assignments to be finished by the time I get home; peeling carrots, cutting up a melon, shelling peas.
9. Use your CSA as the source of your meals. Ours arrives on Thursdays at the same time that I’m doing leftover night. I take a peek and use it’s contents as the basis for the menus that I make. This week, it’s stuffed peppers and a pasta night with butternut squash and arugula.
10. Forgive yourself. You’re working hard. You want the best for your family. It’s not always going to work out perfectly so forgive yourself when you;re scrambling for take-out and celebrate it when it does work.
What can you add to the list that has worked well in your home?