Day 6 of the Spending Freeze Challenge – Busy Weeknight Meals

Happy Monday morning all! Who doesn’t love a good Monday dog meme? *Crickets chirping* Just me, huh?

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We’re closing in on a week of the spending freeze and wrapping up a week of talking about our food spending habits. Today’s post focuses on one of my family’s biggest challenges – busy weeknight meals. How exactly does one fit in cooking a meal when your average week night schedule might look like an artfully prepared, color-coded spreadsheet of activities? It’s a challenge that leads many of us to the drive thru or the local pizza shop, giving ourselves a break from one more thing to do on a Monday night. Both of our children are involved in sports, I teach fitness classes that are often in the afternoon or evening and my husband works a mid-day shift, bringing him home around 8pm. Dinner is both our time to connect as a family and to nourish ourselves after busy days. Here are my suggestions for making this Monday, and each weeknight, a success:

  • Plan and then plan some more. The better prepared you are, the easier your meal will come together. Commit to making a list of dinners for the week, then follow through on them. I know this sounds overly simplistic, maybe even patronizing, but I can’t overstate the importance of avoiding that deer-in-the-headlights stare in to the fridge at 5:30pm, waiting for inspiration to knock you upside the head.
  • Do not feel pressured to turn every night in to a culinary masterpiece. Last night, my kiddos ate Annie’s Mac’n’Cheese with veggies on the side while I ate turkey breast rolled in lettuce wraps. This meal took approximately 15 minutes to prepare and nearly zero thought.
  • Create your one “THE WHOLE NIGHT HAS GONE TO HELL AND WE STILL NEED TO EAT” meal. You know these nights – a spouse gets called in to work, a child has a meltdown in the middle of Target, you feel under the weather and dog gets skunked. We’ve all been there. These are the moments when the pizza delivery magnet on the fridge starts to seductively call your name. Throw that magnet in the garbage (ok, maybe not all the way in the garbage, maybe just in the junk drawer) and bust out your fail safe recipe. Here’s mine – no picture of it, because I never think to take one while we’re scarfing it down.
    • Ingredients: 1 pound pasta (any style), 1 head broccoli – chopped, 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed, crushed red pepper & parmesan cheese to season
    • Directions: Boil a large pot of water. While water is boiling, brown sausage in a separate pan. When water comes to a boil, dump in pasta. During the last 3 minutes that the pasta is cooking, dump in the broccoli with the pasta. Drain pasta & broccoli and toss with the cooked sausage, adding crushed red pepper & parmesan cheese to taste.
    • Enjoy. Add salad & bread sticks if you have time to spare, but who does?
  • Practice learning a handful of recipes REALLY WELL. I once heard Anthony Bourdain say that any home cook can make their lives easier by learning to cook 5 meals very well. Think about how far those 5 meals could get you throughout the week!
  • If you know you’ve got a fairly easy weeknight, cook two dinners. I know this sounds insane, but tomorrow’s you will thank today’s you 1000 times over. I’m following through on this plan today. Tomorrow’s dinner is in the Crock Pot right now and it’s one of my favorite week night recipes – a whole chicken cooked in the Crock Pot. I’ve shared this recipe about 8,000 times with friends & family and with good reasonΒ – this recipe is genius – an onion in the bottom of the pot, seasonings on top of the chicken and turn it on for 5 hours and you’re done. The chicken falls off the bone and is delicious by itself or used throughout the week in soups, on top of salads or in quesadillas. Here’s my happy little chicken, hanging out as we speak –

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Have any rock star recipes you use on busy weeknights? I’d love to hear about them. Share in the comments below or drop me an email.

Day 5’s Post

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