Sunday, March 13, 2011

tips for eating at home and my top 10 weeknight recipes

Picture of Parmesan Chicken Recipe
Parmesan Chicken via the Barefoot Contessa  {Scroll down for recipe link}

The benefits of eating at home and sharing a family dinner are endless.  It's healthier, cheaper and it can be easier if you work the right strategies.  But, sometimes life gets crazy and next thing you know it's hello McDonald's drive thru...for the third time this week...super size me please.  

We eat at home and as a family 5-6 nights a week.  It works for us and we have a system.  Here are my tips if you are someone who is trying to eat at home more regularly.  I decided to post it on a Sunday, since that is the day that I do my meal planning for the following week.

1.  Have a plan.
Sit down and plan the entire weeks meals the Sunday prior.  Write it on the calendar.  This is not a big drawn out activity.  Just 15 minutes to write down what you will have.  Knowing what you are going to have is half the battle.  Check your calendar the night before and take out any meats you need from the freezer, start a marinade and do any advance prep you can.

2.  Buy bulk meats on sale and get a vacuum sealer. 
There are certain meats that I use a lot, so when I see them on sale, I stock up on them and vacuum seal and freeze them into meal sized portions.  You can do the same thing when buying your meats at Costco or other warehouse stores.

3.  Don't cook every night. 
I cook 3-4 times a week and I plan recipes during the week that will feed us for at least 2 nights, if not three.  Switch up the side dish, add a salad or some fresh bread and eat what you had the night before.  This is probably the biggest time saver in our house.

4.  Don't cook on a Monday.
What I am saying is cook on the nights that are less stressful and have leftovers on the nights you know will be hectic.  If you have ballet and soccer and a work meeting, knowing that dinner will be ready in a snap is a good feeling.  Mondays are typically a little more stressful around here, but Sunday's are mellow, so I usually cook a big dish Sunday afternoon and we have leftovers on Monday.  Find the schedule that works for your family.

5.  Double whenever you can.
Some recipes take hardly any additional work to double and you can either freeze the additional portion {like lasagna} or just cook up both batches and make it last a few days longer, take it for lunches, etc.

6.  Go to the store more than once a week.
Life changes quickly, so what you plan on Sunday doesn't always work on Friday.  If you only go to the store once a week, you will probably throw away a lot of food.  That's what we used to do.  Now I go to the store 2-3 times a week.  Just buy for the next one or two meals you will make.  You will be able to eat fresher produce and meats and you will be sure that you are not buying food for a meal that will spoil before you get a chance to make it.  Some people say that going to the store wastes money.  I disagree.  Just don't go hungry and don't buy anything that isn't on your list. 

7.  Have something in your back pocket.
Even with a plan, you never know what might come up.  You get stuck at work late, your child is sick and you don't want to drag them to the grocery store or you forgot Jimmy has baseball practice.  Whatever the case, have an emergency backup.  This can be as simple as keeping a block of cheddar, some tortillas and box of Mexican rice in the pantry.  You can whip up cheese quesadillas and a box of rice in a flash and still have dinner at home.  Same thing with those fancy pants soups you buy from the deli section in the store and a bag of mixed greens.  Soup and salad, anyone?  Fried egg sandwiches are another great one.  Just always have something ready to go...just in case.  Don't be afraid it will go bad.  It won't.  Something always comes up.  If you know you have the makings of an emergency dinner, you will use it.

8.  Have easy side dishes ready to go.
A box of rice pilaf, pre made mashed potatoes {I love the ones sold in a 2 pack at Costco}, a bag of baby greens, rice for the rice cooker, a can of ready to bake Pilsbury French bread loaf {these bake up in a about 30 minutes and there is nothing as comforting as fresh French bread}.


My Top Ten Weeknight Recipes:

Most of these are low prep, simple ingredients and low in effort.  The ones that take a bit more prep/effort I have noted in bold.  They are worth it though, because they are the ones that will feed your family for 2-3 nights or more.  Clicking on each dish will take you to the recipe.




4.  Seared Ribeye over Arugula {I eliminate the roasted peppers from this recipe when I'm in a hurry}


6. Shrimp Scampi {also a great recipe for entertaining}

7.  Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes


9.  Pulled Pork {serve with warm tortillas, lime wedges, cilantro and Spanish rice...yum}

10.  Five Cheese Penne Pasta {perfect for making on a Sunday and perfect for doubling.  These get individually portioned, stored in the freezer and bake up bubbly in about 20 minutes.  Add a soup, salad or bread for weeknight perfection}

Sorry, I can't stop at ten because my list would not be complete without the Barefoot Contessa's amazing Lasagna dish, so...

11.  Lasagna

I think that's everything.  I hope I inspired you to eat at home this week.  Happy cooking!!

4 comments:

  1. Just wanted you to know you are quickly becoming my favorite blog!

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  2. Look at you all super domestic! Those all sound so good! I can't wait to try them!

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  3. Yum! Looking forward to trying these!

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  4. Thanks so much for the tips/recipes! I'll definitely have to try these!

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