Meal Planning for Slackers

11 Mar

This morning I gave my Facebook followers a chance to Choose Their Own Adventure (oh gosh do I miss those books) and decide on today’s blog topic. The choice was between my experience with the Tata Wrangler of getting an actual grown-up bra fitting over the weekend OR  how I suck at planning meals during the week.

After a super quiet morning on the FB page, I was surprised to see that meal planning won! So either you all are still knocked off-center by Daylight Saving Time or you have the same issues I do when trying to cook during the week.

Basically what it comes down to is a lack of time. Well, lack of time in addition to just being plain exhausted by the end of the workday.

I work Monday – Friday each week and typically get home around 6:30 or so. I usually have a work event once a week (sometimes more often), where I don’t get home until 9:00 or later. So, that leaves me with 4 weeknights that I SHOULD be able to cook dinner.

Here’s what usually* happens: I start the week off on the right foot by making a list of potential meals on Sunday and then getting all the ingredients needed from the grocery store. However, I decide to forgo dinner for Cheerios on Monday because my husband ends up working late. Then, Tuesday night I actually cook one of the dinners I planned. On Wednesday, I get stuck in traffic and it ends up taking me 2 hours to get home, so I stop through the drive-thru on my way. Most Thursdays, I work late and then once we hit Friday I’m so tired from the week that I don’t want to cook and would rather go out someplace nice.

Before I know it, Saturday is here and whatever food I purchased the previous week has gone bad in the refrigerator. It’s a waste of money. It’s also terrible for my waistline because of all those extra on-the-go calories that are creeping into my mouth. Frankly it annoys the crap out of me that I can never seem to get it together enough to have actual homemade dinners.

That’s when the mommy guilt kicks in. Or wife guilt. Or WHATEVER guilt. Why am I such a FAILURE? Why do I SOMEHOW FAIL every single week to provide my family with sustenance. I mean, why can’t I get it together enough to make a damn dinner for everyone?!

Oh, and before you make the suggestion — my husband doesn’t cook. We tried having him be in charge of food one night a week and he came up with either sandwiches or pizza delivery. As far as I know HE doesn’t feel guilty about his lack of cooking skills though, that’s reserved for me.

So if you have the same issues that I do with getting dinner on the table, I have found a couple little tricks that help us:

  • I invest in a few Let’s Dish meals that are the ones that you cook straight from the freezer. These work out best for us because they usually take about 30 minutes to cook and if I change my mind, the meal just stays in the freezer and nothing goes to waste.
  • I try to make a super-sized crockpot meal that can last for two dinners. If I throw something in the crockpot for Tuesday’s dinner, we can reheat it again another night.
  • I buy quickie meal ingredients for last minute options: spaghetti sauce and noodles, sandwich makings that could be smushed in the George Forman for homemade paninis, salsa and shredded cheese that can be smeared on a tortilla for a quesadilla, etc.
  • BRINNER – It’s breakfast for dinner people and I always keep the ingredients needed for pancakes or French toast in the house.

This isn’t enough though and I’d really like to be one of those people that have an actual dinner at home a few nights a week. So, I’m going to try really, really hard to find some new recipes that are quick and easy. In fact, I think I’m going to make April our month of eating at home with me making something for dinner each night that I’m not working late.

Help me out, what are your tricks for getting meals on the table during the week? Do you have a go-to recipe that always saves the day? If so, PLEASE share it with me because I could use all the help I can get!

 

*This does not include my son – he ALWAYS gets a well-rounded dinner which includes vegetables and fruit. I just need to start caring about what I put in my body as much as I care about what goes in his!

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13 Responses to “Meal Planning for Slackers”

  1. Quirky Chrissy March 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    I’m a big fan of the “throw shit in a pan and hope it turns out method.” Things that work really well: Roast (beef, pork, lamb, or chicken) with veggies (pre-cut or baby carrots, Brussels sprouts, tiny tri-color potatoes, and onion petals.) An hour in the oven and voila! Dinner is served. Also frozen chicken breast tenderloins are my best friend. They defrost in the fridge in a few hours or in the microwave in minutes…and then cook them in a pan, bake a potato in the nuker (it’s like 8 minutes or something). Steam some frozen veggies or throw a quick salad together…easy peasy.

    Brian doesn’t cook either. Unless it’s a frozen dinner, a can of soup, pizza delivery, or chinese pick up.

    • JoulesDellinger March 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

      Great ideas! And I think “throw shit in a pan” is an excellent recipe name!

  2. Jen @ Life on the SONny Side March 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Girl, I SO miss those books too. I’m a working mom like you. Some weeks dinner does feel like just one more thing I don’t have time to worry about. I love how thoughtful you are about taking care of your family. Crockpot meals and Brinner are two of my faves for sure!

    • JoulesDellinger March 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Do you have any good crockpot recipes you love? I pretty much make the same 3 over and over again!

  3. Lauren@FilingJointly March 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Hey Joules! So I’m probably not the best person to give you any sort of advice here since I “work” from home and do not have a small child but I do spend a lot of time meal planning every week. So here are some of my time/food saving tips.

    Friday or Saturday night here is pizza night. I do this to use up all of my in-danger-of-going-bad ingredients. I just buy refrigerated pizza crust and then use leftover spaghetti sauce or alfredo sauce or pesto or even just garlic and olive oil on it and then top with anything and everything. It’s surprisingly hard to make pizza disgusting.

    On Sundays if I know I’ll have a busy week I throw something in the crock pot (beef stew is great for getting rid of older veggies too) and then “prepare” dinner for Monday by throwing some meat in a simple marinade or panko-crusting some chicken or something (chilling breaded chicken in the fridge over night actually helps the crust set.)

    Also, one night I’ll run into the grocery store and grab a rotisserie chicken. It’s so easy to use it in chicken tacos or just with steamed veggies or a salad and then the leftovers can be used for lunch the next day cold or for dinner again the following night.

    I’m sure I have more but my brain stops working every 200 words or so…

    • JoulesDellinger March 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Oooh, I love your throw everything on pizza crust idea! We do the rotisserie chicken thing sometimes, but we get bored of it — I like the idea to use it in some chicken tacos. ALL your ideas sound yummy so maybe you should just come over and cook for me! =)

  4. PinotNinja March 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    A variaton on “throw shit in a pan” is “throw shit in a wok.” Grab whatever vegetables and/or proteins you have in the fridge, give them a rough chop, heat up the wok (or big frying pan) on high heat, pour in a little olive oil, throw in some garlic, throw in your veggies, and stir for like 5-10 minutes. If you’re feeling Asian, throw on some sort of soy/terryaki/ginger sauce and put it over rice. If you’re feeling Italian, dump on a jar of sauce and put it over pasta. If you’re feeling French, add in some butter, lemon and cracked pepper and have it with a baguette.

    It’s also imperative that you drink a glass of wine while using the wok. It won’t work right if you don’t.

    • JoulesDellinger March 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      Some nights my oven doesn’t start without a glass of wine. Or my microwave…

  5. jasileet March 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    i thought i was the slackeriest mom ever. we did cribless cosleeping in their own room and sneaking off.. we did nursing to glass cup in 20 months, no bottles, mixing or ugly plastic cups and basically installed recessed lighting everywhere so they couldn’t set the house on fire with a lamp. oh and the baby gates- it was like the panama canal just hitting the rest room at night.. we were like- children here is your life, run free! indoors and all.. but i digress- what i should have done is get them acclimated to a raw veggie and grilled meat lifestyle from birth. i would have never had to cook AND i would have been in perfect paleo fashion. sadfaces all around. another wonderful missed opportunity.

    • JoulesDellinger March 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

      Maybe I can just train my son how to take over the cooking once he hits 4 or 5? =)

      • jasileet March 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        lol! my 6 year old daughter enjoys veggie prep but i’m not sure i’ll let the wild little boy near a sharp edge for another dozen years. my problem with meal prep isn’t that i don’t love cooking, i LOVE cooking. just everyone is so fricking picky!!! “today is monday- i don’t like pasta on monday” really? makes me want off this island.

  6. Betty Vivas March 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I use a meal-planning service to take care of the research and stuff, so all I have to do it shop and cook. There are several out there, I use hautemealz.com, which is run by a group of chefs. Love the food, and actually having time to cook for my kids again.

    It’s pretty cheap too, at $5/month…especially considering the time (and fast food money, lol) it saves me!

    -BV

    • JoulesDellinger March 19, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      Wow, I’ll have to check them out!

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