I consider one of my hobbies cooking, and I take pleasure in making a meal my family and friends will enjoy. Give me a menu and I’ll happily collect the ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen.
What I like least about the cooking process is deciding “what’s for dinner”? And when I’m tired, hungry, short on time or agitated by the question posed by my family I draw a blank, completely paralyzed with the decision of what to cook and eat, making the cooking process unbearable.
If you suffer from the same, here are a few ways to get organized in the kitchen and answer the question, “What’s for dinner?”.
In an ideal world, you can commit a few hours each week to seeking out new recipes, plan out an entire week’s worth of meals, do all the shopping and prep ingredients for your recipes. Meal planning works best when you plan weekly and routinely eat similar foods or have a large repertoire of recipes you’ve frequently cooked and need only to glance for reference at the recipe. If this appeals to you then do it!
Start by downloading the worksheet What’s for dinner?
Plan meals with the freshest of ingredients for the start of the week, frozen meals or those that don’t expire quickly towards the end of the week.
Going out or ordering-in? Add this to the week’s menu.
For those particularly busy days when you know you will be short on time plan your simplest, quickest to prepare meals.
Starting the process can be daunting and time-consuming. To jump start I suggest doing one or both of the following:
- For one month, note every meal you eat on a calendar. From take-out to homemade you’ll have four weeks of meals to see your family’s eating patterns. Using this information, you can plan a week’s worth of meals based on what you already enjoy eating.
- Use a set of index cards to create a collection of recipes you cook frequently. Write down every meal you would cook again and the ingredients used. Once you have a series of cards, you can shuffle through and create your meal plan. The bonus is you also have a built-in shopping list.
TIP: Meal plans are not just for dinner. Use a meal plan when packing school lunches. From snacks to sandwiches have a set menu to reference for the week. Then leave your kids to help pack their own lunch.
Stifled for meal creativity? Create a theme based on food ethnicity (Italian, Asian) or ingredients (noodles, beans). Determine a day of the week that you will always cook (or take away) this meal, such as Friday Pizza nights. Use alliterations to come up with fun theme days such as Meatless Monday, Taco Thursday, or Soup-er Sunday.
Establishing themes ensures everyone knows what’s for dinner and simplifies the process. A few years ago, my in-laws ate dinner at our home every Wednesday night. In order to simplify the menu, we stuck with the Dutch tradition of gehaktdag (meatball day). The meatballs my mother in-law sourced from her butcher and I ensured we had the accompaniment of potatoes and seasonal vegetable – easy peasy.
TIP: In a real time crunch? Eat breakfast for dinner. Who says a fried egg sandwich or cereal with yogurt and fruit is only for the mornings?
Once you’ve planned your meals and done the shopping, the idea is to spend a few hours, usually on the weekend, prepping and pre-cooking for the week. This includes prepping vegetables and meat by trimming and cutting into pieces ready to cook/eat and creating casserole dishes or soups, to be frozen and (re)-heated. On the day itself, you need only combine or reheat the elements for a quick, healthy and delicious meal.
My friend, chef and Netherlands Master Chef finalist, Bojana Snijders- Nikodijevic is busy creating a cookbook which addresses the dilemma of what’s for dinner and utilizes the prep-cooking method. If you want to remove daily cooking stress from your life while making healthy and delicious food for your family pre-order a copy of THE PLAN, PREP AND PLATE METHOD, Simple Dinners for Busy Families today.
MAKE ONCE, EAT TWICE
Soups and casserole dishes are clear favorites for leftovers but have you considered other meals you can cook once and turn into different meals? I routinely make a large batch of vegetarian chili. Instead of freezing the leftovers we eat it again later in the week as a filling for wraps or fish tacos.
You might cook up several pieces of chicken or other meats one evening to eat over the course of two or three. Reheating later in soups or stir-fries.
MAKE GROCERY SHOPPING ROUTINE
Nothing complicates the decision of what to eat even more than an empty fridge. Shopping on a routine day of the week will ensure that you have a properly stocked fridge and pantry. It will reduce the need to shop daily or around dinner time when the grocery store lines are at their longest.
Before heading to the supermarket make your meal plan. By meal planning, you purchase only what you need to consume in the coming week, thus, saving you money by reducing potential food waste from over purchasing. Looking for more budget saving ideas read, Tips for Slashing the Grocery Budget.
Once you know what you are going to eat make your shopping list. Whether you write it out the old-school way or utilize an app (like Wunderlist or Remember the Milk), a shopping list helps you oversee your potential purchases against your meal plan.
TIP: Organize your shopping list based on the route through your grocery store.
My mission is to help busy families find more space, focus and time to do the things they love. If you’d like help getting your kitchen organized or creating a meal plan contact sorted.by Melissa.
I want to help you live a more organized life. Let’s get you sorted.