Sane Family Dinners -- The Day Ahead Strategy

plan-ahead dinners

Photo by ToddlerBrain82

My girlfriend popped in the other night while I was in the kitchen, hands covered in slimy gunk, chopping chicken breasts into one-inch pieces.

"You're just cooking dinner now?" she asked incredulously. "It's so late -- shouldn't your kids be going to bed?

"Yep, getting dinner ready ...," I said. " ... for tomorrow."

I proceeded to explain my week-nightly ritual. Get everyone home from work and school, toss an pre-assembled meal in the oven or grill, eat it, clean up, start making the next night's meal.

You see, I have no problem eating later, but my husband and kids do. 6:30 p.m. is the latest. They need to eat or watch out!


On this particular night I was prepping Teriyaki Chicken. I prefer to do as much as I can homemade, even pizza. This dish was pretty simple: I mixed the brown sugar, soy sauce, olive oil and other ingredients for my own marinade and tossed in the chicken to sit overnight. Then all I'd have to do tomorrow when I scrambled in the door was thread the skewers and toss on the grill for 10 minutes.

While the kids were taking their seats, I'd pop the broccoli (already rinsed and trimmed the night before) in the microwave, and throw the leftover baked potatoes on for the last few minutes of grilling.

Voila! Dinner is served. In 15 minutes.

I've been doing day-ahead prepping for so long now that I barely stop to think about it anymore. But I can see how someone like my friend who's not used to it would think it's terribly inconvenient. I mean, what I'd really love to do after a nice family meal is shove the dishes in the dishwasher and play with my kids or relax with TV or a book -- not cleaning up, chopping, mixing and dressing, and then cleaning up all over again.

But it's either this, or we would be eating around 9 p.m. each night! -- that is, if my kids didn't faint from grumpiness first.

How do you manage the 6 o'clock scramble every day? How late can you push getting the meal on the table? Is there a point where your kids will just explode if they don't eat?

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