Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dinner Rut, Part 2.

We're now into the school year, extracurricular activities have begun; and we need to get our dinner routines organized.  I'm a big proponent of family dinner time, and we do our best to stick with it as much as possible, given the kids' schedules and Jeff's work commitments.

But, as the Stones once said, "Cooking fresh food for her husband's just a draaag.."

Same applies to the kids too.. but here's some ideas that have worked for us.

1.  Have a "Big Prep Day." 

Chop raw veggies, wash lettuce greens, fresh fruit, check supplies in fridge and pantry, and make a big batch of something. 

If you're really motivated, make one thing in a crock pot, and one thing that's a casserole style dish that freezes well.

Four suggestions my kids eat that are good for Big Prep Day:

- Crockpot Korean ribs
- Cook's Illustrated Baked ziti
- Meat Lasagna
- Turkey chili

2.  Menu plan for the week

I know, it's a draag too, but you don't have to be fancy about it.  Forget wasting money on all these elaborate menu planners I see advertised.  You don't need to memorialize this stuff for posterity.

Grab a piece of scrap paper and just jot down the days of the week.  And some ideas.  I don't know where you get your ideas, but for me, I rely on stuff I've tried before from recipes from magazines like Cooking Light, Eating Well,,, or Pinterest, if you really want to make yourself crazy. 

I try to make at least one new recipe every other week.  I don't pressure myself about it.  If I don't find one every other week, I stick to what I know.

For us this week looked like this:

Sunday - Big prep day:

Monday - Dance class, after school.

Tuesday - piano at school,
(I modify by using thighs only and panko. Don't skip the cooking rack, it really helps keep the meat crispy. If you don't have fresh thyme, just toss in some dried seasoning that you like with chicken.. I've used generic "poultry seasoning," "Italian Seasoning," basil, etc. I love this recipe because you can prep the meat in the morning - and it's ready to go for the afternoon when you cook it. Breading it take five minutes, and it cooks for 40)
  • steamed asparagus

Wednesday - piano after school
  • ziti leftovers (I'll freeze all the leftover ziti for another meal.)
  • salad
  • garlic bread

Thursday - piano after school, guitar at school and gymnastics after school, Carpool night!
  • pizza on the road for kids, Jeff out for work
  •  leftover chicken for me when back from gymnastics.  

Friday -

Saturday - (Kid Birthday party for one of them, dance class and three hours of gymnastics across the island, adult surprise birthday at 6:30!)
  • Chicken feta burgers on whole wheat buns for kids (prep in morning after breakfast)
  • French fries (frozen)
  • corn on the cob (frozen).

On Saturday, I'll make a new weekly plan, do some shopping and start fresh for the week.  I try to shop on Wednesdays (5% discount at Lindo's) and Saturdays because that's what seems to work best in terms of keeping the pantry stocked and the fruit and veggies the freshest. 

We don't have places like Costco or Sam's Club here, but there are smaller Bermuda equivalents that I go to for bulk purchases of paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies, maybe once a month.  Their food items aren't very healthy (processed, packaged snacks, etc.) but I do stock up on Dunkin' Donut's coffee there and smooth peanut butter.

Sometimes, all good plans fly out the window, of course (It's a gorgeous Saturday!  Let's get to the beach!) But, I always feel like having a plan foremost makes life easier.  If you have to deviate a bit, then you accept it.  That's life.  But you won't find me wringing my hands together at 6 o'clock wondering what we're eating tonight. Who has time for that??
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