Tell me honestly, does the thought of preparing meat and three veg strike fear into your very heart?
Then you qualify to keep reading. If not, I’m afraid you’ll have to shoo. That’s right: shoo! We are about to discuss some secret, serious, slack homemakers business.
Are you sure you’re not a perfectly capable, cooking dinner every night type of reader? There is a danger you will be tempted to feel smug after reading, and as the character of my readers is paramount in my mind, I’d spare you that downfall. So this is your last chance to scat.
O.K. Unless of woman-kind I alone have ever struggled with the life sentence (pardon!) privilege of cooking sensible meals every single everlasting day of the week, we should be left with those of you who are, for whatever reason, be that illness, lack of skill or knowledge, or simply the propensity for reading too long in a day, failing to cook dinner as regularly as you need to.
My initial remedy for meal preparation aversion is not cheap. This is no time to be budget conscious, and it may well cost you similarly to the round of take-aways and resturant dinners you rely on now. Budget conscious comes later (if it needs to), but for now the primary goal is to establish a habit of daily preparation. To that end, I offer you the “L plates” of meal planning.
When you advance there will be many factors to consider in planning a menu: for now the prime criteria is to make it as simple as possible while you establish a routine of meal preparation. This may take two weeks to a month, depending on your dedication and circumstances (sickness and general trauma can delay progress!)
First, decide what you can make. I’ve put together a MEAL PLANNER Beginnings *pdf that requires minimal preparation and leaves the least possible dishes to wash afterward. You may want to tweak it in the event you don’t eat some of the food listed, but the idea is to be simple and realistic: you are trying to establish a habit, and this needs all the ingenuity you possess to pull it off.
* The recipe for Monday night’s dinner in the menu planner can be found here: https://beyondbluestockings.wordpress.com/2007/11/11/emergency-dinners/
The tuna can also be substituted with beef or chicken: I know that sounds weird, but I promise I have tried it all three ways, and it really does work with all three, and extends your choices!
If you are part way on the road already, you may want to browse the “emergency dinners” category to the right, or google simple meals and start planning your own menu according to tastes.
Cook like a busy person. Remember how your mother and your home ec teacher taught that every vegetable needs it’s own saucepan? And how there was a mountain of washing up at the end?
What were they thinking??? 😯
Take one large saucepan, half fill with water and add chat potatoes (you know the tiny ones you don’t have to peel? Because the point is…you don’t have to peel them, and it’s easy to guess how many each person will eat.) About five minutes before they are ready, dump in some mixed frozen veggies. Yes, in the same saucepan – forget home ec. I actually find this easier than microwaving veggies, but if you prefer to microwave, go at it. On another night, use frozen corn cobs instead of the potatoes, and add the other veggies at the same time.
For variety, an alternative is to buy large, washed potatoes. Again, you are not going to peel them: just wrap in alfoil and put them in the oven about an hour before you want to eat. Don’t worry about pre-heating the oven and coming back to put them in – all in one action, put the oven on and toss the potatoes in. Again, serve with some frozen greens – or not. (You don’t want to shock your system. 😉 )
This will not be the most exciting few weeks of eating you’ve ever done, but if you stick at it, it will soon become less of an insurmountable task, and you will have the momentum of routine to stir you on to greater culinary heights.
Print out your menu and place it somewhere unforgettable. If you are a morning person, (or if a new baby is the reason you find yourself not managing dinner any more) use the morning to half fill your saucepan with water and place it on the stove ready to go, or wrap your potatoes in foil if that’s on tonight’s menu. You will love yourself later and reinforce your commitment to actually go through with it come evening.
Decide on a time you are going to start dinner, and barring a natural disaster, stick to that time. Ask your mother or someone to phone and hold you accountable if you need to. Be sure to make a shopping list reflecting your menu – failure to have ingredients to hand is to sabotage your plan.
Preparing dinner every night may not ever make your heart sing, but if you can stick with it long enough, neither will it seem the insurmountable task it presently appears while driving past the pizza shop. You may even grow to enjoy it: it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened, and certainly you will be healthier.
Happy cookin’ folks, and stay tuned for the “P Plates” of meal planning, coming soon. You’ll be inspired 😉 (Or, confound it, if you’re one of those sneaky Martha Stewart types and you didn’t shoo when you were supposed to, you can marvel anew at how the other half live 😛 )