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Keeping Sane with the Daily Dinner Grind

In the past week or so there have been a number of articles floating around about the difficulties of cooking dinner every night. And let’s be honest, even for someone like me who loves to cook, there are days when I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to have to think about it, come up with ideas, make sure I have all the ingredients I need, or face the reactions of my kids if dinner isn’t what they were hoping for. In short, I get burnt out.

Almost always, though, I push through and manage to come up with something that will serve as dinner. Partly, this is because I am always reluctant to spend money I don’t need to (read: cheap) and partly it is due to the fact that I know that the food I can make at home will almost always be healthier. But it is also because deep down  (and at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy) I do think there is some special about sharing a meal that has been prepared with love (even when it is over-tired, exasperated, stressed out love).

So here are four of the ways that I have been able to keep myself sane and get dinner on the table:

1)   Simplify. I remind myself that not every dinner needs to be the perfect, elaborate, all-from-scratch meal. In fact, most probably shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to make.

2)   Create a go-to list. I have a running go-to list of meals that I can make quickly and without much effort, and I make sure I keep the makings for at least some of those in the house at all times. Examples include:

  • grilled cheese with raw veggies
  • veggie-packed quesadillas
  • waffle omelets and toast
  • pasta with sauce (marinara, pesto, etc.)
  • rice and eggs  with a steam frozen vegetable (this one is thanks to my husband! Rice with a fried egg on top is delicious!)
  • real mac n cheese with peas
  • sandwiches and salad
  • beans and rice bowls

3)   Cook for/from the freezer. When I have the time, energy, and motivation to be cooking, I try to stock the freezer as well with extra casserolesblack bean burgers, soupsstews, and sauces so that I have them to pull out when I need them.

4)   Meal plan. Pick the meal-planning approach that works for you and try to stick with it. Some people love the weekly plan, others do a two-week rotation, some like the monthly plan, and some go with themes (e.g., Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays). Whatever system helps you to keep on track and stay sane, do it.

How do you get dinner on the table every night and maintain your sanity? What tricks make cooking dinner easier for you?


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