With our weekly menu on display for everyone to see, it may be hard to believe that we ever eat out, but we do. In fact, there are days when the fast food flows as I sit behind my computer and toil away, leaving no time for the things I enjoy, one of them being spending some quality time in the kitchen, seeing what I create.
It’s an easy pattern to fall into, eating out. You worked late and it’s already 6:00. If you just grab something to go, there’s no mess, no time investment and you’ll be able to relax and take a break for once. One appointment piles on after another, sports practices, music lessons. Eating out is convenient. But it’s also expensive and generally seriously lacking in the nutrition department.
When Mandi from Organizing Your Way asked me to share my experience with managing to keep our meals in our home and around our table, prepared with my hands – Ole’s hands – I laughed. It was the middle of the Christmas season. I was up to my forehead in work and drowning in to-do lists and Christmas preparations (no, I still have yet to mail our cards, thankyouverymuch). I think I may have even been debating throwing that night’s meal plan out the window and heading straight for the nearest Chipotle.
Every day this month, Mandi and a fantastic group of bloggers will be sharing tips on getting yourself organized for 2010. As organization is always one of my goals (and one I fail too often at), I was thrilled to participate in the area of my life that I have control over and *usually* succeed at: getting it done in the kitchen. Today is Day 12 of 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Cook more often.
:: Menu Planning
Planning a menu, writing down your meals, shopping for them, it really works. Without the ominous “what’s for dinner?” question floating around, a list of meals that you have all the ingredients for will make whipping it up seem like less of a job and definitely less of a decision.
::Make a Shopping List
Along with planning a menu comes making a shopping list and actually picking up all the things on it that you need for making your planned meals. A meal plan without groceries is like a beehive without pollen. Not a lot of honey-making going on.
Whether it’s an extra pan of lasagna that you can store in the fridge or a few extra chicken breasts tossed on the grill, load up now. Having precooked chicken breast slices can make a side salad into an entrée or become an easy pasta topper to round out your meal. Taco meat turns into enchiladas and leftover pork tenderloin can be tossed together with stir-fried vegetables to make a completely different meal. Making a larger batch takes very little extra energy, and it will really pay off for those days you’re tempted to run out to grab a bite to eat because you’re just too busy to prepare something.
::Make it a Family Affair
Don’t trap yourself in the kitchen. At our house we make meal preparation something we do together. Tasks are delegated to age-appropriate members of the family, whether it be grilling, chopping vegetables, assembling salads, setting the table, pouring drinks or serving, we’re all in it together and happy to be here. Try keeping your kids around by having them do homework in the same room as you so you’re close at hand for questions, or give them an activity to do. It’s a great time to teach them all of the things your parents or grandparents may have taught you about cooking, and it can be a great time to discuss the foods we eat and why. Hit on the basics of nutrition, exercising, choosing where our food comes from and more. Dinner can be a learning experience and a great time to bond as a family.
::Schedule Meals Away
Sometimes the anticipation of knowing you’re going to be eating out the day after tomorrow is enough to keep you eating in today. Mark off days on the calendar, whether they’re particularly busy days or just free nights that you’re looking to treat yourself, and make time for meals away. I know that there have been plenty of times where I just want to throw in the towel on dinner but manage to whip something out simply because I know there’s a prescheduled event in the future.
I hope this motivates you to spend a bit more time in your kitchen and a bit less time filling your gullet with the convenience foods of yore. Remember, if you end up with leftovers, repurpose…or just bring them to me.
How do you stay motivated in the kitchen?