Couldn't we all use a little less stress these days? In my ideal world, family meal planning with less stress would mean every evening Alton Brown, or Rachel Ray would ring my doorbell at precisely 4:45. Okay, I know wishful thinking, right?!?!? I guess we'll still be wearing our chef's hats this evening. What if I told you I have a method that is a whole lot less stressful. If your home is anything like mine, the weeknights are a fog of homework, chores, extra-curricular activities, church, and everything else we try to fit into that short period of time. Here's a peek at our table on any given afternoon....
A mess, right!
I'm sure you've already discovered for yourself, attempting to prepare dinner at the stove while helping with homework doesn't always go as planned!
This method of writing out my meals on index cards has been the key to a less stressful evening for me. Let me show you what my recipe box looks like (it's probably a little different than yours)....
Inside this box, are the index cards for the main dishes my family likes to eat. Make that, the dishes my family has tried and are kid-approved, (that's important with picky eaters!). The cards are divided up into the following categories: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, and Crock-Pot meals.
Each card has the name of the dish, which cookbook the recipe is located in (along with a page number, don't forget that!), and all the ingredients for that dish.
Now you're probably wondering why not just go to the cookbook and look it up? Well, we'll get to that in minute. In some cases if the recipe is not in a book, (ex: cut from a package), I will just write it down on the back of the index card. You'll notice I have categorized them by color as well, I tend to spend less time trying to figuring out which category to refile it under.
Now on to that question you're curious about, with the cookbook. The reason this is less stressful is, it takes less time to create a grocery list. I don't have to flip through a bunch of cookbooks in search of what to cook.
Once you have everything from the grocery store, you'll be using the card, with the list of ingredients, to prepare for that weeks meals.
After I've had a chance to go grocery shopping, I prep everything I can in advance:
Did you notice the ground beef has already been browned. It was cooked the day I did my prep work. Instead of browning for just one meal, I did extra meat for the tacos later in the week. I'll just reheat the ground beef for the tacos when I add the seasoning package to it. Are you starting to see your time in the kitchen become less stressful now? Still not convinced? Here's another example: We'll be having two dishes this week with chicken, a stir fry with peppers, and Easy Chicken Pot Pie. The day I did my prep work, the chicken was cubed and cooked for one dish, and sliced and marinated for the other, prior to placing them in the freezer. That means I will be spending less time preparing that night's meal! Now on to other things....Let's see how much I remember about multiplying mixed fractions. Dinner will be served shorty....
....but if you don't like what is served then:
(I have yet to get any complaints. Not sure if that is good or bad because I really do like their blooming onion!)