There’s nothing more exciting than getting home and smelling yummy dinner! Cooking has become a hobby and an outlet during quarantine. Whether you are parents and kids, living with roommates or living alone, getting dinner on the table makes a difference every day. It’s about self care and care for others. Taking care of ourselves and our family, we nourish our bodies and our community with meals together. How can we make getting dinner on the table easy? It’s about taking an organized approach with planning, shopping, preparing and clean up.
Beginner’s guide to meal planning
Meal time requires a plan. Having a plan makes sure you have what you need, when you need it and with healthy options. The plan starts with knowing how many meals you need to plan. It also requires a balance of veggies, fruits, proteins and carbs. The more colorful your plate, the healthier. Having a plan means that you will have the ingredients on hand to prepare.
- Start with just one of the food groups. Start with proteins and work around this. Pair the same protein with many different veggies or fruits. When you start with only one food group it’s less overwhelming to create your dinner plan.
- Repetition is a good thing. If everyone loves breakfast burritos, make that your staple breakfast plan.
- A family dinner list is a family friendly way to plan dinner. Your family shares 12 ideas that they will all eat for any meal including dinner. It can be super simple, like grilled cheese or baked potatoes or taco bar. The idea is to have your family gather, share and then eat. Keep this list and the necessary ingredients handy when you shop.
- The Family Dinner Project gets you started with the online dinner program, Food, Fun and Conversation: 4 Weeks to Better Family Dinners. This guide helps you make family dinners a household staple in just four weeks. This free guide includes healthy recipes, dinner activities and loads of conversation starters.
- Pantry staples and a freezer inventory make meal planning easier. What’s already here to use?
- Create a plan that goes with a theme for each night of the week. Just like Taco Tuesday, you can make a plan for each night so there are no decisions to make.
- Short cut meal planning using a pre-set menus and prepped ingredients like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron or other meal kits.
Ready, set, shop
Now it’s time to get the goods. Create a list and shop by store. Make it digital so everyone who is out of the house can shop. Cozi, AnyList, and OurGroceries all have easy to use online lists that are accessible by you and your shopping buddy. Use online coupons from the stores you typically shop. A shopping trick that helps is to shop that same day every week. You can shop twice a week and always have milk. Automate non-perishable delivery with Amazon Subscription and your toilet paper arrives regularly.
- Always bring a list.
- Organize your list by aisle. The perimeter of the store is where essentials are purchased.
- Stick to your list.
- Order the same day of the week for curb side pick up
Quick and easy preparation
Can you make dinner in 15 minutes or less? Is Sunday your day to make multiple meals? What’s your quick and easy hack to get dinner on the table? Take help to get meals on the table by partnering with your kids, partner or home helper. Use short cuts from the grocery store with prepped or frozen veggies. Prep what you can one day a week and store in the plastic ware ready to use. Just like other routines, getting dinner on the table requires thinking ahead. Get your protein ready by defrosting the night before in the refrigerator.
- Make a no- cook dinner that requires only assembly. Try cold foods, like sandwiches or salads for dinner.
- Prep all the veggies on Sunday.
- Early prep with a slow cooker for all day cooking.
- Instapot cooking speeds up your dinner.
- Prep and cook on a weekend. Consolidating all the work of dinner makes for a quick evening dinner.
- Have your partner cook the protein on one day. All you need is sides!
What’s your biggest take away from getting dinner on the table? Family dinner together! It’s the opportunity to review the day, learn what’s happening for each of you, and a time to connect. It’s time to cook dinner together and learn a new skill. It’s really not about the food. It’s about the time together!