Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Dinner on the Table

As Moms, we know how hard it is to get dinner on the table. Work schedules, complicated school schedules, and extra-curricular activities can make the time before dinner chaotic, to say the least. Eating together as family, however, is a terrific way for families to stay connected and share their day with one another.

However, there is absolutely nothing worse than coming home from a long, stressful day at work with one or more children whining and melting down about how hungry they are while you stare at the fridge, waiting for something magical to pop out at you.

We here at Momentum Resources are huge fans of Susan and Michelle at You've Got Supper. Their free website gives you a weekly menu with matching grocery list; what could be easier? Check out their tried-and-true tips for getting dinner on the table.

1. Plan Ahead – The biggest challenge is planning out your meals and getting the food in the fridge. Once you have your plan for the week, you can just come home from work or kids’ activities, get out the ingredients, and throw together supper. Keep your weekly menu posted somewhere – on a chalkboard, in a day planner, or even taped to the inside of a cupboard.
If something requires some time, such as cooking some chicken breasts or chopping up some veggies, you should try to get done the night before (even if that means on a Sunday). Don’t forget to defrost any meat a day or two before you want to cook it.

2. Keep It Simple – Keep your meals simple and fresh and know what you can handle. Some weeks we are overly ambitious and food gets wasted because we never have the time to cook it. We love the weeks when we plan out 3 or 4 “simple” meals, make them all, and the fridge is empty at the end of the week.

3. Make Enough for Leftovers – Always try to make double when the leftovers will heat up or freeze nicely. You can change up the meal with different sides or a different presentation (i.e. meatballs and spaghetti can turn into meatball subs the next night). Soup is great to freeze in small containers and enjoy any time. Make sure to date and label everything you freeze so you know what you have in your freezer!

4. The Sure Thing – Write down a list of easy meals that you usually have the ingredients on hand for and the whole family likes. Some of our favorites are:
· Scrambled eggs or omelets – Pack ‘em with whatever veggies, cheese, salsa you have in the fridge, bacon / sausage (even the fake kind), toast with yummy jams, fruit
· Quesadillas – Sprinkle in cheese, black beans, and leftover chicken.
· Pasta - Tossed with sauce or just olive oil, parmesan / mozzarella, any leftover veggies such as broccoli, tomato, asparagus
· Fish - Stop at the fish market on the way home and then sauté or bake some fish with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and lemon juice (you can usually get a lemon at the fish market). Fish takes just a few minutes to cook and you can have a great meal at home (we like to serve it with couscous which takes just 5 minutes).
· Baked potato bar – Baked potatoes take a good hour in the oven, but there’s no mess and no hands involved.
· Taco night – Keep a taco kit in your pantry and some turkey meat in the freezer.
· Sammies – The pre-packaged meats last a long time and taste pretty good. It’s all about the bread so keep a back up loaf in your freezer. It can defrost in minutes. Any type of grilled Sammie with some soup is a great meal for the whole family.
· Pizza, Pizza! – Keep pizza sauce and cheese on hand. Use bagels, English muffins, French bread, or an extra pizza dough (which you have waiting in the freezer) to whip up the ultimate kid “sure thing.”

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