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Sane Family Dinners -- The Day Ahead Strategy

by Cynthia Dermody on May 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM
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?

Filed Under: dinner, family meals, food

Comments

12
  • tyheamma
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    tyheamma

    May 18, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    This is definitely  worth looking into. DH gets home at around 1530 every day, so we don't really have an issue with when dinner is... just with what dinner is. I think preparing things in advance would definitely help!


  • sokkamum
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    sokkamum

    May 18, 2009 at 2:36 PM

    I do this when we don't have a hectic weekday schedule. I also rely heavily on my crock pot. I am a WOHM so time is of the essence in my house because everyone is starving by the time I get home.


  • PatCa...
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    PatCarMom

    May 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    I do a lot of my prep on the weekends. I spend about three hours or so on Saturday morning cleaning and preping meals. It does make things a lot easier.

    This is a great suggestion, thank you for sharing it.


  • MomIWant
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    MomIWant

    May 19, 2009 at 1:42 PM

    We have weeknight dinners & weekend dinners.  Weeknight dinners consist of easy one or two pan recipes that take less than one hour from start to finish - most run me about 30 minutes.  Weekend dinners sometimes includes meals for the week (i.e. spaghetti sauce, soups, chili, etc.).  I am going to try your idea about prepping the night before...maybe we can add some weekend menu ideas to the weekdays.  It's a great idea.


  • whytfrog
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    whytfrog

    May 20, 2009 at 1:05 AM

    Sane family.... That would be the OTHER end of the gene pool for me!  LOL  Fun ideas though.


  • Meara...
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    MearaFayak

    May 20, 2009 at 1:31 PM

    I used to have a cook book called cook once eat for a week.. I cant find it now in all the moving i've done but if you can find it, its great... all cook ahead or prep and bake wonderful stuff in it.


  • 3are_...
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    3are_a_blessing

    May 20, 2009 at 2:27 PM

    Though I stay at home, getting dinner on the table is still hard.  The kids are increasingly high maintenance as the day wears on.  It would be far better to eat at 5:30 as opposed to our usual 6:30 or later meal.  But with 3 little ones buzzing around, meal prep takes twice as long.  So our current habits need to change.  Another SAHM friend of mine recommends preparing lunch and dinner in the morning. I like the idea of preparing meals ahead of time, though it remains to be seen if I can actually do it. 


  • Brina...
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    BrinaBaby

    May 20, 2009 at 2:38 PM

    I like this idea a lot - even though my kids are older now and sometimes it is often just my husband and myself for dinner during the week, we often don't eat until 7:30 or 8:00pm and that is really too late. This has given me a lot to think about. THANKS!


  • Troop...
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    TrooperYork

    May 20, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    On Sunday morning after making breakfast, I brown 3 lbs ground beef (for weekday tacos and sloppy joes), I bake a tray of chicken thighs/breasts, and bake a tray of pork chops.  Then, during the week, all I have to do is make side dishes.  This works great for those nights we have baseball/soccer, etc and the kids are starving.  They get healthy home cooking, and it takes no time at all.


  • peppe...
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    peppermintmocha

    May 20, 2009 at 4:55 PM

    Wow...I feel lame now. It's almost 4 pm and I haven't even decided what to make for dinner. I had thought about it earlier and never came up with an answer. I know what I want, but I know my kids will whine about it.  Although....I have an idea that will fix that!! Ok..Now I know what we are having for dinner! As soon as I get home from vacation, I will  be planning meals before shopping and prepping them. I just haven't had the time yet!


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