This week I am going to help you make dinner, save time, save money, get organized and make dinner time meaningful and full of purpose once again. We are going to focus on how all of us, regardless of how busy you are can make great tasting, healthy meals for your family. Like all projects we start at the beginning. For the What’s For Dinner Solution we start by finding out what you have to work with and getting it all organized.
See what you have
Do you know what is in your pantry? Have you checked the back of the freezer lately? And what about that one drawer in the fridge you never open? Do you even know what spices wait for you in the cabinet?
Not all of us are culinary experts who easily plan menus. Make appropriate shopping lists and can whip up a gourmet meal for our family every night. Life is busy and hectic. We juggle managing a house, a career, husband’s career kids, games, play dates, doctor appointments, baseball practice and the list goes on and on. Not to mention we are not programmed to wake up and decide what we are going to prepare for dinner. If we do the thought is fleeting and before we know it 5 pm has arrived, the natives are restless and there is no plan.
So what do you do know?
First off you need to know what you have on hand.
Take the time to clean out and organize your recipes, pantry, cabinets, fridge and freezer.
Let’s start with the recipes.
Get them organized. If you have recipes cards or a folder with papers shoved inside buy some notebook dividers. Label them appropriately: Appetizers, salad, side dishes, main course: meats, pasta, desserts, breads, breakfast etc…
As you are organizing your recipes sort through them; will you make that again? Did the family like that dish? Does it fit within my diet plan (diabetes, allergy, healthy, no sugar etc.) There is no sense in keeping recipes that will not be used. It is just more clutter.
Now for the Pantry
Clean out expired products.
Sort by food likeness: baking products, canned goods, cereal, crackers and so on.
Same steps from the pantry apply, like foods together. Condiments on one shelf, milk, creamers and juice on another. Use the produce drawers for the produce and deli drawer for your meats and cheeses.
If you do not already start today and write the date on all foods you place in your freezer.
Make a list of what you have on your freezer so you can plan your meals accordingly. Stop buying food you already have.
All of the above will help you see what you have, how much you have and make your menu & list making easier. Not to mention you and the family will be able to quickly grab a great snack when needed.
Now it is your turn. Tell me in the comments below what you do to stay organized so you know what is on hand to eat. Any organizing tip you want tos hare with the other readers are great too.
Whether you have a family of eight, or are single and dining alone, I want you to make family dinner time special. I want dinner to be something you look forward to each and every night.
Your life is busy, your life is crazy, and you need a time every single day where you have an opportunity to connect with your family, or your roommates, or even just to catch your breath.
Sometimes it can be the food that helps make dinnertime special. In the comments below, I want you to tell me what your family’s favorite meal is. (And if you include the recipe, you will be entered into our prize drawing twice!)
For more ideas, I have a newsletter filled with great recipes and tips for every area of your home. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox once a month.
(Plus when you sign up for the newsletter, your will receive The Ultimate Guide to Man Food an e-cookbook that will rock your husband’s culinary world.)
In addition to the food, sometimes it’s the dinner conversation that will make your dinnertime special. That’s why today’s giveaway is this amazing book by my friend Mary DeMuth.
(BTW – if you are not subscribed to her blog, reading her books, following her on Facebook, or just generally being a Mary stalker, just do it. She’s challenging and brave and kinda amazing.)
My friend Gerry and I were having a deep meaningful talk about Thanksgivings past. No, we weren’t reflecting on all the things we were grateful for, we were remembering our food traditions. (My mouth starts watering just thinking about turkey gravy.)
She told me that one year she was just tired of putting on the whole show, so she decided they would eat in a restaurant. The food was yummy, and they had a great time relaxing and letting someone else cook and clean up. It wasn’t until the next day that Gerry saw the fatal flaw in her plan: No leftovers. How were they going to construct on Friday those turkey-and-cranberry sandwiches with dressing and gravy that were almost as much a tradition as anything that happened on Thursday?
An ode to the leftover!
What is a LOOP meal?
A LOOP meal is a great way to reinvent leftovers. You cook one day, have Left Overs On Purpose, and then use those leftovers to create a great second meal later in the week.
Share with me in the comments your favorite way to use Left Overs On Purpose.
We usually roast about one chicken a week and have about three or four meals from the leftovers. (I can hear you moms of six LOLing as you read this…) Our supermarket has whole chickens on sale about every other week, so this is a great deal for us.
In addition to the suggestions I’ve given you in the download, here are some quick and easy ways to use leftover chicken:
Top your salad with it
Make Chicken Salad
Add it to veggie soup
Use it to top a baked potato with broccoli
Use it on pita pizzas
Put it on Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Finally – we have some amazing bloggers who are taking the challenge in whole new directions – I would HIGHLY encourage you to go to their blogs for some inspiration:
Amy at Homemaker in Training offers you a Master Class in meal planning and getting your shopping list together. Trust me, you want to reach her black belt level of planning.
And if you’ve discovered you are well beyond the newlywed stage and you still haven’t figured out this cooking thing, you’re not alone. Go check out Julie D. great blog about Learning to Cook After 40 and you won’t feel so alone.