I was reading Mandi’s post about why meal planning doesn’t always work last week and kept nodding my head in agreement. No matter how organized I am, I end up dropping the ball or having a terrible day where I didn’t get ahead of the game on dinner. No amount of planning prepares you for bad days.
Still, the one thing that saves me time and time again is when I plan meals that are coordinated and connected together. I generally make the first meal on Sunday or Monday, before the week has time to pick up and carry me away in its clutches, and because I’ve used that meal to lead into a few others, I can easily have something on hand for even the worst days. Unless, you know, I opt for takeout.
Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner
Roast Chicken Dinner with Rice: A full chicken costs less, and while it takes longer to cook the first night, it provides the building blocks for two meals later in the week. Buy a roaster size chicken so you’ll have leftovers. Pull the extra after dinner, store it in a container in the refrigerator, and then place the bones and vegetable scraps in a pot for stock. Making extra rice to set aside for the fried rice makes for easy dinners later in the week, too.
Chicken and Noodles: This classic dish and thicker version of the soup is perfect for the coming fall. It can get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less, making it an ideal weeknight meal.
Fried Rice: Use cold, leftover rice for the best results. I’m fairly adventurous in what I put in my fried rice, and so I’ll use leftover vegetables from other dinners throughout the week’s meals: the last two carrots, a stray onion, a few green beans, bits of broccoli, etc. It helps clean out the refrigerator, and because you are using things that are already prepared, like the rice and chicken, you can get it on the table in less than 20 minutes.
Take a Trip to the Mediterranean
Spinach Lasagna: When I make lasagna, I usually take the time to make two: one for now, and one for the freezer. Still, since you’re taking the trouble to shred cheese and brown sausage, you can easily shred and brown a bit more for later. Shredded cheese can be frozen or refrigerated for later in the week when pizza night arrives.
Greek-Inspired Vegetable Skewers with Naan: This meatless meal makes for an easy dinner when paired with 5-Minute a Day naan and hummus. Leftover vegetables can be saved for later, and additional pieces of naan can be baked at the same time or simply stored in the bucket for a different meal.
Naan Pizzas: Using the extra naan, the pre-shredded cheese and the sausage from lasagna night, top a few and toss them in the oven for a mindless meal that will quickly become a family favorite. My kids love choosing what they get on their pizzas, and when we seem to be lacking in toppings, we come up with some great nontraditional combinations. Ricotta and zucchini on pizza? Yes, I think I will.
How do you manage the busy weeknight mealtime?
|Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.