This one time, in Weight Watchers, a lady said that she planned out what she would make for dinner by the month. That means that she knows today what she will make on March 24. Which is technically another season entirely. Madness! It is currently 4:02 pm on February 24, and I do not know what we will be having for dinner tonight. I do not know what is for dinner tonight, and I am the one who makes dinner.
So, what to do about this dinner paradox? There are a few strategies I have developed over the years to keep the Division of Youth and Family Services at bay, and I’m happy to share them with you. In the interest of getting through the week, I have one for each day.
Monday – Develop a pantry meal. Right now, mine is Carbonara. It calls for stuff I always have around that doesn’t go bad in a few days. It’s essentially pasta with bacon and eggs, but you use pancetta (which keeps forever, but don’t worry, you can always use bacon or ham if that’s what you have. In fact, you could probably use any cold cut). Here is a good recipe from an awesomely named blog, bloatal recall
Tuesday – Remember, the freezer is your friend. There are a number of things you can freeze and then use for dinner in short order. I keep turkey burgers, shrimp, salmon, chicken breasts and sausage in there most of the time. These things can all be cooked right from the freezer or with a few minutes running under cold water. Bread also freezes and thaws beautifully in a few minutes. You can also of course freeze leftovers and reheat weeks later, when nobody remembers that this particular meatloaf made them think of throw-up. Maybe dress it up with some bacon on top (also freezable) and no one’s the wiser.
Wednesday – Buy at least two of everything when you shop at the grocery store. This is a modification of my mother’s advice, which was to cook two of everything you make and save one for a later meal. Which is also good advice. Somehow, it seems like nobody buys into the same exact meal twice, so I tend to make it from scratch each time. But it’s good to have the ingredients on hand already. Aside from freezing, I have found that the following items last a surprisingly long time in the fridge: onions, broccoli, whole butternut or spaghetti squash, carrots, spinach, ricotta cheese, any grating cheese, really, most cheeses. Conversely, these ones don’t seem to make it more than a day: cut butternut squash, bagged broccoli, asparagus, fresh peas. So don’t waste your time buying extras of those.
Thursday – Remember that Stone Soup story? If you pick up a few cans of beans and some of those chicken broth boxes every time you shop, you can have the kids pretend they’re villagers and select one thing from the kitchen to contribute to the soup (or more than one, depending on how many kids you have. Or you can be the villager). And you have some cheese and frozen bread for grilled cheeses already, right?
Friday – Breakfast for Dinner! It’s so crazy it just might work! French Toast, Eggs, even pancakes — I like Pink Pancakes (with beets!) from Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious. These are all pantry meals, they are pretty nutritious and usually crowd pleasers.
Saturday – Time to open the delivery menu drawer. Pizza is obvious, but most places will either deliver or you can pick up dinner. Pile everyone into the car for a field trip to the sushi place! Have a Gilmore Girls-style evening when you order from all the places in town!
Sunday – Also known as the day your spouse cooks. Or it’s pretty easy to trick an older kid into making dinner for you. They can do supervised cooking at around 10. Before that it’s really just more mess for you. Not that it isn’t always messier when the kids do something, but if they’ve actually prepared dinner, it’s worth it.