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How I Stopped DREADING to Cook Dinner


How I Stopped Dreading to Cook Dinner #meal_plan #clever_nest
Cooking.

It's not my favorite.

Truthfully my only real motivation to cook dinner is because I like to eat food (ok, it's also important to make my Sweetie and Munchkin Pants feel loved, fed, and cared for too, something about that being "my job" as I'm a stay-at-home mom... whaaa?? : )

Lowly Beginnings
I'm no Rachael Ray. I'm guessing if you are reading this you may not be either. I have no dreams of standing in kitchens, bustling about stirring pots, and tasting things on spoons.  I'd rather be crafting, shopping, or doing just about ANYTHING else. I want to get in, get on with it, get it over with already!

I'll be married 5 years this November, and let me tell you, the first few years as the new resident chef were rough. There were many fried chicken runs and last minute pizza calls, because I was either caught unprepared or realized I didn't have what I needed to make a certain recipe.
How I Stopped Dreading to Cook Dinner #meal_plan

It's totally ok if your family eats fried chicken and pizza! We still do too! What was wrong in my case was that my dream was to make more home-cooked meals, and as a stay-at-home wife with no kiddos, I definitely had the time for it.

I was stuck in a vicious cycle.

I hated having to figure out what to make every.single.night at the last minute, racking my brain for something that sounded somewhat appetizing, with what ingredients I had on hand.

Noodles with mustard? no, hmm... 
Cereal and stewed tomatoes? no.....

I dreaded 5:00 p.m., the time to get busy making dinner before Jason got home. Tired of the, "oh crap, what am I going to make??" feeling when I ran out shopping right before dinner.

I got fed up! And one day I decided to get my "s" together, as we say in our Christian circle :P, and get organized!

I realized it was way better to sit down and deal with meal planning once in a week, instead of every night, so I could then relax, not worry or stress about it, and just cook the other 6 days! So I made a plan, got myself organized, and shock of all shockers, my life got better! :)

I want to share what I've learned so far, in hopes it might make your life a little bit better too!

5 Steps to Stop Dreading to Cook Dinner 
or, Getting my "S" Together

1. Collecting Recipes
In this day and age I had no excuse that I "don't know what to make for dinner"! There's inspiration all around! Pinterest, recipe books, cooking shows, diet books, magazines, and mom's kitchen are all bursting with ideas. It just takes collecting a few that appeal to us, and that fit our family's specific tastes. I LOVE variety, tasty food, and things that are somewhat healthy.

I mainly get my ideas from Pinterest, and you can peruse my classic meals board,
dinner ideas pinterest board #clever_nest #meal_plan

healthier meals board,
Healthy dinners pinterest board #clever_nest #meal_plan

and crockpot board to start getting some new ideas!
Crockpot pinterest board #clever_nest #meal_plan

I have a few family favorite meals that I'll make every couple weeks, otherwise I like to try new dishes as often as I can. That's just me, do whatever works for your personal taste. Did I mention I love to eat?

2. Keep it Together, Man!
When I find recipes I want to try, I print it out and put it in this fancy black 3 ring binder, titled.... Recipes, 'cause I'm creative like that. I divided my recipe book by the main ingredient- Chicken, Beef, Fish, Misc., and Sides with little sticky tabs. Like I said, so high tech. Works for me!
How I Stopped Dreading to cook Dinner #mealplan #clevernest
I like having everything in one spot so when it comes down to D Hour (dinner hour) I don't have to search for my recipe and wonder if it's on my phone, in a Word doc, on Pinterest, blah blah yadda yadda.

 I'll write notes to myself like, "use less noodles next time" if a dish was too noodley, or "nuts burned" if I left something on the burner too long. Next time I make that recipe, I won't burn the nuts!
How I Stopped Dreading to cook Dinner #mealplan #clevernest

You may take that any way you want.

3. Know your Family's M.O.
Are you normally gone certain nights of the week? Will you need something quick to make before dashing off to your underwater rollerblading yoga class? I try to keep our activities straight on my phone calendar, so it's handy no matter where I am. Some people like having a family activity center in the kitchen so everyone can see the plan for the week.

Knowing when you'll be home for dinner, and what each night will be like is a huge part of this process.

I plan for 6 breakfasts during the week (grab and go), 4 lunches, and 4 dinners. We are inevitably out a few nights per week, even when there's nothing planned on the calendar. And some recipes I use make enough for two nights. Woot woot for leftovers!!
How I Stopped Dreading to cook Dinner #mealplan #clevernest
Also- if you send kiddos or hubby off each day with a packed lunch, don't forget to add that to the plan. It will come in handy for grocery shopping later.

4. Make It Easy on Yourself
There's no need to plan complicated or lengthy meals back to back. I make sure I include one quick 20 minute recipe, one crockpot recipe, and two normal meals in my weekly plan. It's amazing. That way I already know at the beginning of the week that I'll have one quickie meal and one day where I'm not even really cooking at all (can I get a shout out for crockpot meals??). Plus more if there's leftovers (did I mention, woot woot?!).
How I Stopped Dreading to cook Dinner #mealplan #clevernest
Also, some people like to, but I don't specify what I'm cooking on what night, I prefer to keep things flexible. If I have a busy day and just make it home in time before Jason comes through the door, I'll know I can bust out my 20 minute recipe without missing a beat, and use a longer recipe the next night. No more "oh crap!" feeling. :)

To make things even EASIER, there are online meal planning (and grocery list generating!) sites like Food on the TableEmeals, and Plan to Eat that do the planning for you! Some are totally free, and some require a monthly subscription. Haven't tried them, but let me know what you think if you have!

5. What About the "Oh Crap!" Nights?
Life will never be predictable. There are still nights when I say "oh crap!" at 5pm. Like today I had planned on going grocery shopping this afternoon, only to have Andrew come down with the stomach flu this morning :/ Grocery stores and a poor sickie kid don't mix, good thing I keep a few emergency meal ingredients in the pantry! We'll be having simple spaghetti- noodles, sauce, and some frozen cooked ground beef. Whew.

Having a couple "emergency" meals up your sleeve, er, in your pantry, like spaghetti, canned soup, chili, etc., help to smooth over the bumps life loves to wrench in our plans :). (if that wasn't a train wreck of metaphors, I'm a monkey's aunt)

The Light at the End of the Pantry
I feel like I finally broke free from my nightly panic moment! This method has been working for me for a couple years, and it's definitely improved my cooking life:).

What do you think? Do you agree with my process? What are your tricks for making cooking dinner less stressful? Don't be shy! Let's keep the conversation going, I would love to hear from you!

Next Wednesday I'll share the other part of making cooking dinner easier- grocery shopping! Come back and read all about it!


    

Hang out with me on Fb and Twitter during the weekend!

Up Next Wednesday: How I stopped dreading Grocery Shopping

How I Stopped Dreading to cook Dinner #mealplan #clevernest


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