Do you find yourself so exhausted at the end of the day that cold cereal seems the best option for dinner? Do you struggle to gather your family around the table to enjoy some quality time over a hot meal? Do you dread having to cook because it takes so much time and energy? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Also know, though, that there are ways to create a less hectic dinner experience even in the midst of a fast-paced life.
Things have certainly changed since the days of post-war families gathering around the dining room table every evening for a home-cooked meal. We are now more likely to stop at the local supermarket to pick up something that has already been prepared, expecting everyone will be home by the time dinner arrives. We lead such chaotic lives that it is nearly impossible to enjoy family time.
If you would like to make a change that involves regaining control of the dinner hour, you might be able to use these three helpful tips:
1. Menu Planning
A significant hurdle to the traditional dinner hour is trying to decide what to cook that evening while heading off to work in the morning. You have too many other things to think about. However, this hurdle can be overcome by planning your menu a week or two ahead of time. Friday nights are great for that, by the way.
When you are sitting down with the family for Friday evening dinner, use that time to plan your menus. This is the perfect time to get everyone’s input so that you’re not left having to come up with all of the menu plans yourself. A planned menu has the added benefit of telling you just what you need to purchase on your next trip to the grocery store.
2. Take the Freezer Back
The average American freezer is loaded up with old food that will never get used due to freezer burn, lack of proper identification or sheer age. It is time to clean out that freezer and take it back. What do you do with it? You combine it with your menu plan to make evening cooking more efficient. Let us use a typical pot roast as an example.
You might choose to put pot roast on a Saturday so that you have time to put your whole effort into preparing meat, mashed potatoes, a vegetable and perhaps some bread. As long as you are going to all that effort, you can make enough to cover several meals. All of these items freeze very well. The key here is to make sure you put pot roast on your menu plan sometime prior to your next shopping trip. This guarantees you will use the food rather than letting it sit in the freezer until it grows legs and walks away under its own power.
3. Say Hello to the Crock-Pot
There may be no other piece of kitchen equipment as underutilized as the crock-pot. The crock-pot is an incredibly simple invention that makes it possible for you to prepare an entire meal in one fell swoop, without having to spend all day in the kitchen. A nice chili is but one example.
Before you go to bed at night, combine ground beef, onions, kidney beans, chili powder, garlic and tomato sauce in your crock-pot. Feel free to throw in any other ingredients that appeal to you. Then simply pull the pot out of the refrigerator and plug it in the next morning. It will slow cook all day without you having to worry about it. A little stirring when you get home from work and your meal is ready to go by the time the table is set.
The dinner hour does not have to be hectic or chaotic. In fact, you can reclaim the dinner hour for your family. It just requires a little planning and a willingness to try different things. We should know. Planning and thinking outside of the box are two of the most important traits of the successful concierge.