Last year I made a generic meal schedule to avoid the most asked question in our household. “What’s for dinner?!”
I cringe every time I hear it! I have been an ‘improv’ cook for over 11 years and have the ability to “wing it” and create a meal in 30 minutes. Even though this is not a cooking competition, my time saver is knowing what my kitchen and fridge are stocked up with. Also, a full spice rack is essential. Spices can take your meals a LONG way. For example, adding a pinch of nutmeg, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, and cracked pepper to mac and cheese will diversify the taste. Sprinkle some bright red paprika on top to add some color + aroma, and your eyes and taste buds will be satisfied!
Before I get sidetracked and hungry talking about food and spices, let’s get back to what we all dread the most…
If you have searched endlessly for sample meal plans online but haven’t found one that suits you, my strategy might help you. All moms are working moms regardless if it’s in an office or at home, and finding time to feed the family is hard. Time is of the essence, so I decided to keep it simple. I created a theme for each day of the week, which gets switched around every semester, depending on the kids’ extracurricular activities schedule.
To start, I have set the guideline to not repeat a protein from Monday through Friday, and one of those days is strictly vegetarian. For each meal, I add a starch and a side salad or vegetable. I suggest you always have onions, peppers, and garlic in your fridge. Almost every recipe carries one or the other, if not all. When it is time to shop, pick 3 other vegetables that you can use throughout the week, such as mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, butternut squash, fennel, swiss chard, kale, spinach, tomatoes, etc. Don’t forget your fresh herbs!
You are exhausted from a fun and/or busy weekend, so you are ready for the day to end! A simple pasta tossed with a protein (or not), one or more vegetables, and a simple sauce – olive oil and garlic will do- are an easy way out. The sky’s the limit when it comes to pasta recipes that can be ready in 30 minutes.
Repurpose your weekend leftovers, buy a roasted chicken, sauté ground beef (with sofrito), sliced chicken, pork, or fish in a pan with oil and spices. I recommend using adobo, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cumming, and paprika. You can also switch your type of tortilla weekly; soft, hard, corn, flour, or tostadas.
Wednesday: New Recipe – Think outside the box (Choose a country)
The meal chosen for this day is meant to take a bit more time and inspiration. In our house, it is the day that has no extracurricular activities or late meetings. The kids always get excited because now, instead of asking “what’s for dinner,” they ask, “where are we traveling today?” Our destinations are usually Germany, Turkey, India, China, etc. Believe it or not, ethnic cuisine can be quick and easy!
Thursday: Slow Cooker or Take Out
This is the craziest and longest day of the week. I usually plan this one ahead and set up my slow cooker with the desired recipe on Wednesday night. Beef or pork stews are a favorite because they need no looking after. But, in reality, sometimes takeout is the way to go if I want the kids in bed by 7:30.
We live in Pensacola! You can find the freshest seafood in the country here. Don’t be scared! Seafood cooks quickly and is quite versatile. Steam it (or buy it steamed), sauté it, toss it in pasta or rice, grill it, or even serve it raw! Some of the leftovers can be repurposed on pasta, quinoa, or couscous salad the next day. One less meal you need to think about on Saturday!
Saturday: The Cook is Off Duty!
Enjoy the day and treat yourself…Use your leftovers!
Sunday: All About the Grill
Think about what you can grill and what side dishes/ salads you can make to repurpose on Taco Tuesday. Put your friends, partner, or spouse to work! It makes cooking more exciting…