The end of the day rolls around, and we head home from work and activities. We walk through the door, drop our bags, kick off our shoes, send our kids towards the toy bin, letting the stress of the day literally fall away from us. Just as we are about to breathe a sigh of relief those fateful words come from across the room…what’s for dinner? Your mind begins to race as your start to shuffle things around in the fridge trying think through what might make a passable meal. All the while, the menu drawer is whispering it’s siren’s song to you. “Just call it in.” You fight it, and begin to pull a few items out of the fridge and the pantry, but the prospect of preparing meat, chopping vegetables, and of course WASHING PANS begins to press in on you, and the temptation to phone it in takes over. Tonight it’s take-out.
Hey, if this sounds like you; don’t kick yourself. I’m a chef, and my family eats take-out more than I like to admit. If you managed to sit at a table, converse with your family, and get food in everyone’s belly then you already have the most important part down. Even with my years of meal planning experience and tons of recipes to work from, sometimes that home cooked dinner is my nemesis, and I just can’t muster the energy to meet the challenge. I know I can do better, and I know you can too, but being better means being honest about why we run to the take-out menu instead of our own stove.
We Don’t Plan Ahead
I think this is my biggest challenge. Sometimes the weeks are so crazy and schedules seem to change by the minute making it hard to make a real plan. I go to the grocery store, and I pick up a few different proteins and grab some produce, but I don’t really know what I’m going to make. I just knew we had no food, and rectified the problem by filling my fridge with random food. Now, I have a new problem. What do I make with this food?
You have to have a plan. Taking ten minutes to think up what I can make for the days ahead at least gives me a goal. I can buy all the right groceries, and essential ingredients, and know when it is time to start dinner that I have something to make. Does it always work as planned? Nope! Sometimes, I cook for a few days in a row, and then something comes up that happens to be right at dinner time. It’s OK, I can always get back on track the next day, because I still have all the ingredients for that dish ready and waiting. I have taken away the biggest stress and saved myself time by taking a few minutes to write a weekly menu and get the right food.
We Over Commit
Somehow, someway we all seem to try our hand at being a Michelin Star Chef at Dinner time. I don’t know if it is because we Pin a little too much or watched too many YouTube how to videos, but there is a tendency to bite off way more than we can chew for weeknight dinner. No where does it say, that weeknight dinner must be five courses, cost a fortune, and be served on china and white linen table clothes. This is recipe for burn out.
The plan for weeknight dinner should be simple. All of your meals should revolve around items that are easy to prepare and don’t take long to cook. They shouldn’t have a huge list of ingredients, and shortcuts are encouraged. Don’t knock ground beef already formed into patties, or pre-cut vegetables. Every shortcut gets you closer to making those home cooked meals a reality.
It is nice to try new things and put a little effort into your meals sometimes. Weekends are a great time to make special things. I’ve included Lasagna and Beef Stew into my most recent plan. These are both a little time-consuming, but they are dinners my family really enjoys. As a bonus, I can make really large recipes of these and have leftovers for the week. It is time well spent, and I have some lunches and dinners for the week to come.
We Underestimate the Importance of Family Dinner
I want to put it out there, that I don’t think you have to be a gourmet to have great family dinners. You can bond over take-out or home-made stew, and it’s all great. I do think that the time we spend together sharing meals is really important, and making food at home can open up some great opportunities to get your family interacting, and thinking about one another. Everyone can take a part in planning the meals, and the night that their choice gets made will make them feel special, thought about , and loved.
Everyone can participate in the meal in some way. Some can prep, and others clean up, but it will give the whole family ownership over a very important part of family life. It is hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time, but everyone needs to eat. That short time at dinner gives everyone a reason to be together, even if it is just for a little while.
Have fun, make a mess, and make your meals Delicious by Design.
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