Monday, September 19, 2011

Dinner Planning Scramble

Traffic was terrible on the way home, your toddler is over-tired and hungry (aka "hangry") at pick up and your 6 year old needs to be at soccer practice at 6:15. No problem, except that you still have to feed them dinner. Details......

Blog readers know I've personally struggled with taming the evening beast, particularly when it comes to dinner time. But believe me, the secret sauce to a delicious dinner is in the meal planning.

A friend recently solicited some advice when moving from a full-time with daycare schedule to part-time with nanny scenario, and realized she had to step up the meal planning.

Here's what has worked for me:
  • Keep it simple. We have food allergies and sensitivities so there's a lot of broiled salmon or grilled chicken, veggies and fruit. You're not looking for Julia Childs here, you're getting dinner on the table.
  • Make Leftovers. Everyone can eat leftovers for lunch, and plan to use those leftovers in other meals. Try pork tenderloin, it's super easy to cook and comes seasoned. Slice the leftovers on sandwiches in the week. Or try the Purdue Oven Roaster, completely fool proof. Clean up is easy (it's in a bag) and have roast chicken one night and the left overs for a quesadilla later on in the week and chicken salad for lunch. We had a 6lb $8 bird a few weeks ago and ate it all week, with the best being homemade chicken noodle soup at the end of the week. Again, I'm no Jacques Pepin, but it's homemade stock from your carcass, chopped up chicken and half a box of pasta. That's it.
  • Cook on Sundays. Make your most complicated meal on the weekend when your spouse is home to mind the little ones so you're not breaking up sibling squabbles while trying to double recipe ingredients in your head.
  • Double up: Speaking of, if you make a meatloaf, make two. Double your batch of turkey chilli. Freeze the second. It doesn't take any more time to double than to make a single and you'll have something in the freezer later on for busy weeknights
  • Planning: MUST.HAVE.PLAN. I start with the weekly family schedule (do I need a meal a babysitter can assemble? People coming over? Swim lessons at 6pm two nights this week?), examine what's already in the pantry/freezer/fridge, and come up with a meal plan. I go to my normal grocery store's flyer, figure out what meat is on sale as the loss leader for the week and plan out based on existing recipes. My criteria is healthy, easy and affordable. That can be tough! But have your go- to meals, sprinkle in some new ones with recipes you see in magazines or from friends, and congratulate yourself for pulling off another amazing meal during the witching hour.

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