Just How Does She Do It?!! Meal Planning for the Week

Friends, blog readers, family, and strangers at the grocery store ask me, "How do you make dinner and then have time to post it on your blog? Are you some kind of wonder woman?" Thanks for the boost to my ego, but it is just what I do. Some people like to read. Others exercise every day. Many people work full time. Maybe you are an uber-volunteer at your kid's school. I am going to let you in on a few of my "Dinner's Ready" tips and techniques to help you and your family eat healthy home-cooked dinners (most of the time) that don't come in styrofoam containers.

You gotta plan. Everything worth doing takes a little planning.

1. What are we gonna eat?

My "Dinner's Ready" week starts with picking out 3 - 5 recipes for dinner entrees. My list of what's cooking in my kitchen is posted in the photo above. No one eats ever meal at home so this number of meals is typically enough to get you through the week. Also, plan on making more than your family will eat at one sitting. That way there will be leftovers waiting to be reheated at home, and the temptation of the drive thru won't pull you in. If you are having trouble thinking of what to make, tons of websites - especially mine - are their to help you. Try Family Food, FamilyFun, Epicurious, and Cooking Light for ideas to make for dinner. I like to plan a chicken dish, a beef dish, a fish dish, and quick kid meal like sloppy joes for our family week of meals.

2. Get it together.

After deciding on our family menu, I make a grocery shopping list. You will save time in the long run if you do your shopping for the week in one trip. It may seem like a pain in the neck to spend about an hour at the grocery store. You will be kissing my feet though when you don't have to run to the store at 6 p.m. after a long day of work and driving your kids to basketball, dance, and art class to pick up a pound of pasta and 6 chicken breasts.

After making your shopping list, check the pantry for staple ingredients that should always be on hand. If your pantry includes the following items, your dinner time preparation will be a snap.

A well stocked pantry will also be a time saver in the long run. Keep on hand:
- pasta
- rice
- canned tomatoes, tomato sauce
- stocks, i.e. chicken, beef and vegetable
- olive oil
- flour
- canned beans, i.e. black, cannellini, chickpeas
- onions
- garlic
- potatoes
- spices including thyme, basil, oregano, sage, tarragon, montreal seasoning
- some "gourmet type" items, i.e. sun dried tomates, marinated artichoke hearts, coconut milk, green chilies that can be added to every day recipes to make them more exciting.

3. Prep ahead

After a busy day of working, volunteering, laudry, doctor's appointments, dog walking, and exercising, the last thing you want to do is make dinner. Plan on making a portion of your dinner ahead of time. Slice the chicken and vegetables for stir fry while you have a few minutes before the kids get on the bus. When dinnertime rolls around, just throw the ingredients in a heated pan and you are cooking.

If you are feeling really ambitious, do most of your prep work for the week all at the same time. Need onions, and carrots diced for beef stew on Tuesday? Chop today and store in the frig until needed. If pan seared chicken breasts with sage and sherry gravy is on the menu for Thursday, sear the chicken on Monday and reheat it in the gravy on the day you are serving it. An hour spent chopping, dicing, and sauteing ahead of time will make dinnner prep a breeze.

Dinnertime doesn't have to cause you to get a migraine. Like most good things in life, a litle planning goes a long way. If you still don't want to make dinner, email me. I'll do it for you. I'm a Personal Chef.


Anonymous said...

here's my tip fom my mother, who worked full-time AND made dinner 6 nights a week: arrange the grocery shopping list in the same order as the aisles of the store. that way, you can breeze through the store one time and not miss anything. no backtracking!

amycaseycooks said...

Thanks for the tip. Anything to save a little time helps.

Darron said...

I love your suggestions and try to implement all of them each week. Cooking for a family can be difficult, but is essential for many reasons, not the least of which is healthier eating. I recently made one of your featured recipes (wilted greens an goat cheese sandwiches) and posted about it on my own blog with a link to you. Hope you don't mind. Thanks!

The Teacher Learns to Cook

amycaseycooks said...

Darron - I'm glad you found my post helpful. Thanks for the link!

Patsyk said...

Great ideas... things I know I need to do, but last week didn't manage it! Starting fresh again for next week which is filled with baseball and a few other activities. Dinner needs to be easier on those busy nights!