You’re tired, it’s late and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking dinner. I hear ya! I’ve definitely been there before. Now what if all the dinner ingredients were already prepped and sitting pretty in your refrigerator, and with some simple and quick assembly . . Tada! Dinner is ready to go! What a marvelous concept that would be!
Here’s how to make this thought become a reality:
- Plan, plan, plan ahead! It’s farmers market season. Head to the market or your preferred grocery store on Saturday morning with a bunch of reusable shopping bags and get the freshest stuff out there for the week ahead. Ask the farmer or producer to give advice as to what is in season and what’s the freshest in their selection. They also generally know some great recipes for their products. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions! Farmers know their products best. Or, if you shopping in a store, ask one of the employees for assistance. Most of the time they will be able to answer your questions to the best of their ability, and if the store buys the product in question directly from the farmer, they may be able to provide you with contact information for further advice.
- Prepare staples like rice, proteins and vegetables in batches over the weekend, or when you have some downtime, and store them in separate, airtight reusable containers in the fridge. I like to do this mid-Sunday afternoon. Some preparation ideas to do ahead of time include boiling some whole grain rice or quinoa. Bake some chicken, fish, tofu, or grill or pan-fry some humanely raised beef. Boil some eggs. Slice some raw fresh vegetables to have as ready-to-go snacks. Steam some veggies for just a minute or two, and then shock them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process immediately; it’s best not cook them all the way through, and you still want them a little bit crunchy because they’ll finish cooking in the final preparation stage when you assemble the nightly dinner. All of your cooking preparations should taste bland- you will add the seasonings and spices later when you assemble the meal at dinnertime.
- Research recipes, with your kids or significant other, after you know what foods you will be using that week. It’s really fun to browse family cookbooks or the internet for inspiration and come up with some new, cool ideas on your own by using the recipes as a guide. Not only will your kids (or your significant other or yourself!) will really enjoy this task, but it will give them a sense of responsibility and encourage innovative thinking.
- Schedule a cooking and eating time with the whole family, or just for yourself, like you would any other appointment. Do it together as a team and divvy out tasks to get everyone involved in the cooking process. Or, take turns as the nightly family chef if schedules don’t match up.
- When it’s cooking time, use one of the recipes you found prior that week to finish the meal preparation. Add the necessary seasonings and spices as per the cooking directions, or substitute ingredients with the ones you have if they’re comparable. For example, if a pasta dish calls for fresh basil but you only have fresh parsley, or if you are using tofu instead of chicken, don’t fret! Just use the substitution and forget about it. Most likely it will taste great anyway, and give a new spin to the standard recipe.
Because you planned ahead and already completely most of the work, dinner should be ready in minutes and you will have more time to relax and enjoy eating your delicious dinner creation with the ones you love, even if it’s just you at the table.