Tips for easy weeknight dinners
By: Kerry Lyons | Published Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:13 PM | Updated Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:13 PM
People often ask me “how do you do it?” What I think they mean is how do I juggle a full-time job, five kids and a dog and manage to usually (note: not always!) leave the house looking fairly put together and somewhat awake. Part of the answer, of course is a huge cup of coffee every morning. Another significant part of the answer is my husband Des; he holds his own around the house and with the kids and then some.
Another element of my so-called success (if that’s what we’re calling leaving the house with lipstick on and my eyes open!), is that I’m really organized. Almost to a fault. But, since people keep asking me “how do you do it?” I’ve decided to devote one post a week to just that. How we do it. Sharing my tips and tactics for surviving (and occasionally thriving) the typical chaos that accompanies five kids six and under. From now on, you can look forward to “Tuesday Tips” which I hope will contain some useful tools and tactics to help you juggle it all… and hopefully only occasionally drop a ball or two, as I admit, I do!
For this inaugural “Tuesday Tips”, let’s tackle weeknight dinners. Our dinners, like our days, tend to be very very good or very very bad. I find there is little middle ground. Either we have a plan and all goes well or we don’t and well, it doesn’t! So, I try to spend some time each Sunday (not a lot, an hour tops!) planning out the menu for the week ahead. I take into account evenings that Des or I may have to work late and nights where baseball, book club or ballet might throw a kink in our system. Then I plan what we’ll eat Monday through Thursday so the guesswork and frantic panic of “what’s for dinner?!” can wait until Friday -- when I’m quite comfortable answering “Pizza!” (which, for the record, may be frozen depending on how the family budget looks that week!) Here are my top tips for you to take away:
- Make your weeknight meal plan on Sunday
- Take stock of what groceries you have and what you might need
- Order what you need online and have it delivered on Monday or Tuesday – while you’re at it, check to see if any staples are on sale and add those to your order too
- Pre-chop anything you can (broccoli, peppers, salad, etc.) and defrost any meats or frozen leftovers (sauces, soups, etc. that you won’t have time to defrost at 6:30 on Wednesday night!)
- Look at the calendar and remind yourself that chicken nuggets are ok for the night that your husband will be out late, Junior has t-ball and you’re hosting book club
- Affirm that you are not a short-order cook. Make one dinner and one dinner only. As my 90-year old Granny still says, “If they don’t like it, they can lump it.” What this means, I think, is tough luck kiddos! Mama’s only making one dinner and if you don’t like it, breakfast is right around the corner. Tough love but it works.
- Keep it simple. Go with the tried and true. When you plan that menu, don’t test new recipes or attempt something time-consuming. Do your experimental/fancy cooking over the weekend when the pressure to get the meal on the table, homework done and lights out by eight isn’t bearing down on you.
That’s it! Does it always work? Yes. Do I always stick to it? No. I’m only human and sometimes I don’t want to spend Sunday afternoon planning the week ahead; I just want to savor the moment. But, when I do follow these tips, we get the opportunity to savor tasty weeknight dinners that are on the table before the sun sets, allowing us the time to enjoy each other’s company rather than racing the clock. And that's time well spent!