Showing Love through Home-Cooked Meals
By Janel Piersma
As I walked in the door, the tantalizing scent of dinner hit me. One of Mom’s specialties “Sauerkraut and Spareribs,” a simple meal from her Polish heritage, was on the stove. It wasn’t a fancy meal and it didn’t take long for her to prepare it. But, just knowing she was making it for dinner made me feel loved.
It’s funny how a simple home-cooked meal can mean so much to our families. But, in our hectic lives, it is all too easy to turn to McDonald’s or our grocer’s freezer to provide dinner. Showing your love for your family through home-cooked meals doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are some meal-planning tips to help you take the dread out of dinnertime
Make a weekly plan & shop accordingly
Set aside a regular time each week to plan what meals you’re going to make. To make it easier, make a master list of all the categories of dinners that your family enjoys and then list your favorite recipes under each category. For example, categories could be: Poultry, Beef, Fish, Pasta and Soup. Then, when you make your meal plan for the week, look at your master list and choose recipes from your list. Having the master list in front of you will remind you of all the different recipes that your family enjoys and makes it easier to choose. For greater variety, assign a different category for each night of the week.
Don’t cook every night — check your freezer!
When our daughter was born, I didn’t cook for an entire month ... and we didn’t eat takeout! In the weeks prior to the birth, I began to stockpile homemade meals in the freezer. Then each day, I consulted my list of freezer meals and checked them off as we used them. This idea of a freezer full of dinners works well when you dedicate an entire day or two to preparing a month’s worth of meals and freezing them in disposable containers. When you need a meal, simply take it out of the freezer, thaw if necessary and reheat it. It takes some work at the beginning, but then you reap the benefits all month long. To make it easier, invite some friends over for a cooking party and split up the dinners up amongst you. There are several books out there on this topic including Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson, The Great American Supper Swap by Trish Berg, Dream Dinners by Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna or Don't Panic — Dinner's In The Freezer by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell and Bonnie Garcia.
Don’t have the stamina for this? Try a modified version! Make it a goal each week to prepare a double-batch of a meal and then freeze half. It takes very little extra effort and clean-up to make a double-batch as opposed to a single one. Alternatively, you and your friends could each make several batches of a dish and then swap with each other.
Finally, keep a stash of basics in your pantry
Let’s face it, sometimes life gets busy and planning dinner just doesn’t happen. For those times, keep ingredients for several basic meals on hand. For instance, keep a box of pasta and a jar of tomato sauce in your pantry and some ground meat in the freezer so you can make a quick spaghetti dinner. By keeping a basic emergency stash on hand, you’ll always have something to make when you’re short on time, inspiration and energy.