Tag Archives: easy dinners

Sensible Tips for Prepping Wholesome Family Dinners that won’t make you crazy

Now that school has started, time is a precious commodity for families.  We all like the idea of creating fresh, delicious family dinners but the reality is…. (drum roll)… it takes time to prepare these meals!  Even when your job is to cook (like me), feeding the family can be a challenge!  Here’s the good news… by developing a few good habits you CAN cook yummy meals for your family this year. Here are some “best practices” to get you on the right track.

  1. Force yourself to plan your menu for 7 days.  If planning Monday-Sunday doesn’t work for  you then do it Wednesday-Tuesday or whenever you consistently have an hour to look at your family calendar, decide what you’re going to cook, gather the recipes and make the shopping list for all of it.  And if you’re really organized, grab the coupons that match your list.  You won’t believe the weight off your shoulders when you realize your whole week of “what’s for dinner” is solved!  It doesn’t have to be complicated as long as it’s planned!  If you don’t have a whole hour, do part of it in carpool and the rest while waiting for your child to finish gymnastics or soccer practice. Get it?
  2. Share meal ideas with your friends and family.  Keep them organized into categories that work for you on Pinterest, a recipe box, a notebook, whatever…   Be able to quickly find ideas for categories such as slow cooker, make ahead, super fast, on-the-go, make and take, and no-cook meals.  It’s great to be able to make a recipe that you know will work either because you have made it before or it comes from a trusted source.  Consider posting the menu in the kitchen for the family to look forward to… and to hold yourself accountable.
  3. Prep ahead!  Do all the chopping and cutting for several recipes at once and store in the fridge.  More than half the time of cooking is in the prep work!  If you need carrots for soup, stir fry and kids’ lunches then cut them all up at the same time.  (some veggies like carrots hold up better if stored in water).  Slice meat for steak sandwiches, marinate chicken, cook rice, bake potatoes, brine turkey breast, whatever you can do ahead.. DO IT.  You will love yourself later and you only have to clean up that big counter of chopping mess once or twice a week.   It doesn’t hurt to get the kids involved in the prep work! If you don’t like the idea of batch-prepping then find a time in your day (not dinner time) when you can prep ingredients for the next meal so all you have to do during dinner chaos hour is just cook it!
  4. Plan to thaw. I hear this all the time.  I have stuff to cook but I forgot to thaw it out.  When you are making your menu plan, add notes about what needs to be pulled out of freezer on which days to be thawed in time for preparing.  Frozen meat floating in the sink while you anxiously watch the clock is no fun.
  5. Make good use of leftovers.  Figure out ways to re-purpose leftovers into another meal and make that part of your plan.  Or, freeze leftovers and thaw them out for a second round next week.
  6. Plan a night off of cooking.  I encourage you to pick one guilt-free night each week where you plan to NOT cook.  Maybe you order pizza, let the kids make soup and sandwiches, eat leftovers, go out to McDonald’s, eat cereal, clean out the fridge and pantry and eat what you find….. one night without a square meal is fine!  Announce DOYO– dinner on your own with your head held high!

Try to have fun with this and not just look at it as more work for you (even though it is!).  Why not try a new recipe at least once a week, have the family cook together one night, choose a different country each week and make a featured recipe.  I have been known to take a cookbook and have my child randomly open it to a page and voila- that’s what we made!  Good luck and if you fall off the food truck, pick up your spatula and start again next week.