I have had quite a few emails lately about dinner planning and execution. Dinner is always a hard time of day, but we all must eat dinner. We shouldn't be shocked everynight and most of the time, we are in charge. The more you can do to plan ahead of time, the easier it will be when the time comes. For me, I favor the two week list. I write out a list of meals for two weeks, I cook usually 5-6 nights a week. I write down recipes that I like and a few new ones to try. I then save these lists so that I have ideas to pull from other times when I can't think of ideas. If it is a new recipe, I will write down what recipe book it is in and what page. I try to plan out the meals so that I am cooking ahead. Here's a little example from last weeks schedule:
Monday: Thai Peanut Wraps
Tuesday: BBQ chicken chopped salad
Wednesday: Shredded pork chalupas
Thursday: Linguini with Basil and fresh tomatoes
Friday: Grilled pizzas
So, here is the execution - Since I had already shopped for the two week menu all the ingredients should theoretically be in the house. I know ahead of time what I am going to make that night so many ingredients are planned ahead. For instance: the Thai peanut wraps had nothing prepared ahead of time but I saved some of the peanut sauce for the grilled pizzas at the end of the week, Thai pizza's are delicious. Then next day, I made the BBQ chicken salad and used some left over grilled BBQ chicken from a previous week that I had frozen and chopped. All I needed to do is chop the lettuce and add the other ingredients, I had beans in the freezer also from a big batch I had made a few weeks ago. The next day I made shredded pork in a big batch also to freeze for another week to make enchiladas. Thursday was Linguini with Basil and tomato. Since I had bought a big bag of basil, I made some pesto to store for the following week. I just used that pesto last night for a pesto pasta dish. Simple and delicious. Friday night was supposed to be grilled pizza's but we went out instead. I saved the ingredients to make this week, some pesto for a pesto chicken pizza, some peanut sauce for a thai pizza.
Not all weeks go as easy, some weeks are more of the preparation weeks but if you get in the habit of thinking ahead, dinner time can be cut in half. You can make a dinner faster than you can get take out. It just takes time to plan. You must first take the time to be "dinner organized." Stock up on reusable tupperware containers to freeze everything. I hate to waste anything. I feel that it is not showing gratitude for my food if I do. I also hate leftovers so I will freeze what's freezable then bring in back, reincarnated into a different type of dish. I saved about 3/4 cup of spahetti sauce a few weeks ago for a calzone another week. I also buy a big bulk size of ground beef and will cook it up with onion and garlic. I freeze it up in small containers and can pull it out easily for tacos, sloppy joes, etc. When you grill chicken, double batch it, chop it and freeze it. You can use that chicken for all kinds of quick dinners.
Move over Rachel Ray...I can get dinner done in 15 minutes!
**Fellow E.H. April Haymore says the Happy Baby baby food is great for the little mouths to feed. You can find it at Target in the freezer section. So much better than the canned junk! Thanks, April for the comments!