Mom, what's for dinner?
How often have you heard this phrase?
For me, it’s daily… at about 6 p.m. as I walk in the front door. Feeding a hungry family can be tough when you’ve just worked a long day. The best way to tackle this dilemma is to face it head on.
The first step in the process is planning. Most families repeat the same menus over and over, so keep track of your meals as a way to plan your shopping list. I create a grocery list from a menu of dinner options we want to have during the week. The list helps to ensure that items are on hand to make the planned meals and it saves money by avoiding spontaneous purchases at the grocery. Including “staple” items makes it easy to pull together a quick meal. Staple items to keep in the fridge or pantry include large bags of frozen chicken breasts or fish, frozen vegetables, whole grain breads, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, spaghetti sauce, low fat cheeses, peanut butter, and bagged salads of mixed dark greens or spinach. I have found that I need to have quick, easy meals at our house that even the kids can pull together. Our menus include whole-wheat spaghetti with red sauce and a salad; grilled chicken with frozen broccoli and sweet potatoes or my son’s all-time favorite- quesadillas made with low fat cheese. I have him round it out with a glass of non-fat milk and fruit.
In order to get the meal on the table quickly, I buy pre-made salads, frozen vegetables and pre-cut fruit. My family helps by sharing the meal preparation or clean up. The crock pot is a great tool on days when we have sports after school. Having recipes like chicken cacciatore ready makes it easy for everyone to serve themselves and get out the door. Another time saver that works for some families is to do all the cooking on the weekend and just re-heat during the week.
It takes time, patience and practice to find the meals that fit your family. It is easy to get into a rut. I have fallen into the “same old routine”. To add variety to our menus I have been trying one new recipe every week or two and then keep a running list of our favorites, so we can repeat them in the future.
A little planning results in healthier menus for the family that cost less. So try planning your menus this week, and have an answer when they ask, “what’s for dinner?”