Raise your hand if you ever wonder when you'll have enough time to get everything you want done not even to mention how cooking dinner will happen. Raise 2 hands if this is every week for you. :)
While I'm hoping it's not every week for you, but if you're like me or my clients or friends or family members, it's probably more often than what is ideal. This post is for you if you also want to prepare homemade dinners and are also super time-crunched. My goal is to spur motivation that it can be done and while it will require effort, the real self-check is how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel better, keep it up, if not, re-evaluate.
My blog dropped off over the past year in part because life just got too busy so something had to go. Plus many of the "recipes" I use week in and week out really aren't much to blog about. Then a few friends gave me just enough inspiration nuggets (thanks Corey and Courtney) that spurred the idea to write about some tips and tricks I use to get a healthy and relatively tasty meals on the table. I'm warning you it will be basic and you probably are doing (or have done) this in some shape or form and might have thought less of yourself when I hope you'll give yourself a big pat on the back at any attempts at homemade dinners!
Here are some tips:
1. When I'm stressed I like to break things down to the basics. So when I think about meals I'm constantly thinking to myself-starch, protein, calcium, veg/fruit, "healthy" fat. This helps me keep our meals balanced and my clients report this helps them to eat a variety of food. Usually I will combine protein and calcium because often calcium is also a protein like cheese, however spinach and other leafy greens are calcium sources too-just not as high. To keep it simple just think "Do I have a starch, protein and fruit/veg in this meal. Okay, how will I do that..."
2. When I know the week will be hectic, I'll pull out an easy family favorite or 2 to make mid-week because meal making tends to drop off as the week progresses, so planning for this is key. I sometimes make these recipes for a few weeks in a row and my family doesn't seem to mind because they are, well, their favorites.
3. I also write down the days that I won't be cooking because we will be ordering in/going out. We also order pizza with a side of broccoli nearly every week. The point is I plan out when we are going to order so I can feel good that one dinner will be covered and use it to motivate myself I don't have to be on the hook 7 days a week. (As a side note, making meals has been a huge priority and I've been doing it since college so I've had nearly 2 decades of practice-yikes). Work up to it in realistic ways. Even committing to preparing dinner 3-4 nights consistently if you have other responsibilities is a great accomplishment. And if you want to do more, awesome!
4. I also will make more of whatever we eat to either have as lunch or eat a few days later and will slightly modify it with a different side.
5. My husband helps. And if he didn't we would probably never eat ground meat or steak and that's how I motivate him to help. I'm just kidding, but I am serious about considering how others can support you. We work this out with who is busier with work. I plan recipes I know he will feel comfortable making after work when I work late. He also tends to make dinner on the weekends if I've been on dinner duty all week. These are just examples of how we make it work if it's any help to you :)
The go-to proteins:
1. Steelhead Trout or salmon. We eat this nearly weekly with leftovers. I'm lucky my family loves this because on the skillet, its ready in 15 minutes or less. Check out my post, but if you have an outdoor grill with a burner it minimizes smells. Boiling a sliced lemon in water also eats up smells. To increase even cooking and easy flipping I cut the whole fillet with kitchen shears.
2. Pre-marinated pork tenderloins TJ's and Aldi have tasty options and supermarkets will have BOGO at least a few times a year so you can freeze for the future. They bake in the oven in 45 minutes and if there are leftovers, they are so satisfying the next day. That being said, if you don't have 45 minutes to make dinner at night, it can be made on Sunday and re-heated on Monday at dinnertime. Using a cast iron pot with a lid will give a little outer crispiness, but the recommended glass dish works great.
3. Shady Brook Farms Turkey Breast Tenderloins are available in 3 different options like Zesty Italian or Rotisserie Chicken.
4. 93% Lean Ground Turkey-Great for turkey burgers, sloppy joes, chili or to include with pasta-it's too easy to eat the entire box unless pasta is embellished with protein and vegetables.
5. Steam Fresh Vegetables-by far this is a lifesaver at increasing the likelihood we eat them. I'm including this brand because my clients and family consistently find this tastes the best.
6. Black Beans heated with red onion as a side dish. It also counts as a vegetable and a starch. Edamame can count as carb, protein and vegetable. Both often are kid friendly and have high nutrition value like fiber, potassium and other cancer fighting compounds.
7. Raw veggies like baby carrots, snap peas, mini peppers, jicama and cucumbers or even sliced apples are the best pinch hitters when after looking at the table realizing, "there are no veggies on the table yet and dinner needs to be right now."-Again reinforcing, the grain, protein, veggie/fruit double check.
8. Grains/Starches are my weakness-I don't have much words of wisdom other than making more brown rice or quinoa and freezing it in pre-portions containers, microwaving Yukon Golds or sweet potatoes, having baked fries and tater tots. We don't eat out often so they are on our table during the week. Plus they aren't fried. Polenta or corn muffins also make their appearance to mix things up. I add light cream cheese to the polenta to increase creaminess and flavor. Lastly my risotto recipe is probably the most popular among friends, family and clients if you haven't tried it, here it is.
Hope this list helps to make dinner a little easier and well worth the effort.
In good health and food,