I think each and every one of us parents approaches the school year – in between trying to locate the school supply lists online and buying mouthguards for football – with a resolve to make weeknight dinners a little smoother and a little more peaceful. Here are 5 tips that can help us all.
1) Make a schedule. If you have a regular schedule that delineates who’s going to set the table, who’s going to do the dishes, and who’s responsible for the various parts of the meal you’ll hopefully alleviate the “I did it last night!” blues. Write it down, and stick to it as best you can.
2) Cook once, eat twice. Either make something at the beginning of the week that can be divided in half and frozen for an evening later in the month, like a big pot of chili, or make something that can show up in a different guise later that week. Pot roast can turn into beef barley soup, for instance; roast chicken can become enchiladas; roast beef can become a stir-fry.
3) Serve adaptable, Fork-in-the-Road dishes. These are dishes that each person can customize so that everyone gets what they like. Tacos are a great example, with a whole bunch of different topping options so that everyone can make the taco of their dreams. Or give everyone a bowl of rice, and put out a bunch of different options from leftover stir-fry or steak or teriyaki chicken to steamed or roasted vegetables, and various add-ons and condiments (chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, Sriracha sauce), and let everyone assemble their own ideal rice bowl.
4) Prep your week. On Sunday, or whenever you can carve out half an hour of time, chop up some onions, mince some garlic, mince some parsley, peel and mince some ginger, zest, and juice some lemons or limes. Choose ingredients that you often use, or know you will use in the coming week, and get them all ready to go in small plastic containers. You will be thanking yourself all week long as you do the weeknight dinner dash.
5) Do not beat yourself up when you pull out a frozen pizza. If that’s what allows you the time to sit at the table as a family, then just let go of the homemade dinner idea every now and again, and make sure you have a few frozen pre-made meals (lasagna, pierogis, curries, enchiladas, vegetarian offerings, and so on) at the ready. The frozen food aisle gets more interesting all the time, and it's actually a great way to expand your family’s global culinary horizons.
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