You’re having a lovely day; the kids are where they’re supposed to be, you have your to-do list, and one by one, you’re checking things off, and then you hear them. Three of the most dreaded words in the English language…” WHAT’S FOR DINNER?!” The hair on the back of your neck stands straight up, your stomach curdles, and your whole body tenses up! At most unreasonable if you’re anything like me!
Why do I dislike these three words so much!? I decided to think about this deeply; since I’m writing about it, I must do my due diligence. Why is it that after all these years and experience, I have cooking dinner, do I dance a jig when my husband says he’s eating out and skip to the kitchen to make myself a scrambled egg?
I’m sure, in part, it’s purely a time challenge. After a full day’s work, taking care of the house, kids, pets, partner, and possibly a little self-care if you’re lucky, there isn’t enough time to complete it!
Yet I take the time to make a healthy breakfast and lunch and am not mad about that. Or is it because other people are relying on me for dinner? But I’m a mom. That’s kind of what I signed up for. Nope, I don’t think the time crunch or the responsibility gets my blood boiling.
Is it the act of cooking? How can it be? I love to cook! I make my living talking about food and even went to cooking school. Give me a theme and an excuse to invite a house full of friends and family over, and I’ll cook till the cows come home!
I decide the proverbial question of “What’s for dinner,” is like laundry primarily because it never ends! Once I happily fold the last load, another one lurks around the corner, waiting to pounce! AHHHHH!
So, what’s a girl to do? Meal prep you suggest? I would love to say I’m a meal prep mama over here, but sadly, I’m not. I am in awe of those who do it and often recommend it to my clients. I don’t always practice what I preach in this regard. I’m more of a “what am I craving today,” two hours before dinner kind of girl.
However, I have come up with a few strategies that help keep me calm, cool, and collected most days when my dinner demons come calling. Therefore, without further ado (and without any more complaining, rant over, I promise!), here’s my “What’s for Dinner” dilemma to-do list.
1. Cook once, eat twice.
This is my savior! Always make enough food for at least two meals!
2. Prep your proteins!
I know I said I wasn’t a meal prep person, but I recently started prepping just my proteins, which reheat better than veggies and starches, and it’s been a big help. I bake a couple of packs of chicken breasts and several salmon fillets on Sundays or Mondays, then I have to make side dishes the rest of the week, and I’m set! It has made a difference, and I still get to keep the spontaneity of my last-minute dinner decisions. A win, win!
3. Have some nutritious pantry and fridge/freezer options on hand.
This is so helpful when you’re in a pinch. Some of my go-to’s are:
- Rotisserie chicken – never leave the store without one!
- Frozen microwaveable brown rice and quinoa.
- Frozen minced ginger and garlic cubes.
- Canned beans.
- Whole grain or gluten-free protein pasta.
- Frozen veggies! Most have the same nutrient profiles as fresh and are perfect in a pinch. I especially love to add frozen peas to pasta and rice dishes to add a plant-based and fiber-filled protein source.
- Frozen wild-caught fish and grass-fed meat.
- Canned wild salmon and tuna.
- Longer-lasting fresh veggies include carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions, parsnips, winter squashes and kale.
- Whole grain tortillas.
- Salad kits.
- Good quality marinara sauce.
- Pesto sauce.
4. Have a typed and printed list of healthy, fast, and easy dinner ideas posted in your kitchen.
These can be sheet pan dinners, Instant Pot recipes, and Buddha bowls. Sometimes, it’s more about coming up with the ideas than actually making them, so have your favorites to help keep them flowing!
5. Keep your take-out menus on hand.
These are for those days you can’t get it done! Keeping your sanity on those extra busy days and ordering out or using a meal service is perfectly okay.