Living a Better Life®
3 Easy Steps to Dining at Home Every Night
Many working families struggle each night to put dinner on the table and break the habit of dining out or ordering "take out" several times a week. Here are some simple ways to start eating at home every night, without hiring a personal chef!
3 Steps, 3 Questions... Who, What & When. More on this in just a moment. First, let's talk about Why, or Why Not, depending on how you feel about the subject of cooking dinner at home! ;o)
If you're really impatient (like my daughter when she was reading this column), you may also go ahead and scroll down to the end of this article for the 3 steps. However, I do hope you'll come back for the beginning and middle.
I have talked with many folks over the years who eat out every night. And, yes, I'm serious; not just a few times a week, but EVERY night. Some of the reasons they give include, "I'm too busy to even go grocery shopping," (by the way... been there!), or, "At the end of the day, I'm just too tired to prepare a meal at home," or, my least favorite answer, "I hate to cook."
No more excuses. If you want to have home cooked meals at home, you can have them!
In the earlier years of our marriage (going on 27 this year), I cooked and cooked and cooked. I loved it because growing up in a low-income, single parent, home, I had also cooked many times for my mother when I was young. She loved everything I made and always encouraged me. (Smart woman!) I knew I could make dinner every night, and I enjoyed it. If you don't have someone to encourage you and compliment your cooking, do it for yourself. Take a photo of what you made, share it with friends. I promise they'll want you to cook for them too.
I understand that cooking is not for everyone, at least not all types of cooking. But I believe anyone who wants to cook, CAN! And anyone who does not want to cook, can at minimum, learn to cook their favorite menu items at home to save time and money. And who knows, they may even learn to enjoy cooking. Anything is possible!
Back in the day, we didn't have the Internet to do a quick-search for a recipe, hundreds of beautiful cookbooks on every cooking topic there is, or dozens of inspiring cooking magazines. We didn't even have the Food Network, Rachael Ray, or Paula Deen! Finding a great recipe to cook is easier now than ever before. So, we KNOW finding good recipes is NOT the problem, don't we?
We even have our own Frugal Family Recipes Cookbook filled with easy to prepare, budget friendly meals, available in ebook or print editions.
If you are reading this now, you probably also live in a country where food is plentiful. Either at your local farmer's market or grocery store. You may not have the money to purchase whatever food items you want, but if you have the money to spend on dining out, you also have the ability to save money by cooking your own food at home.
Chances are, whatever you cook at home will be healthier and more nutritious than take out; especially if it's fast food. Eating better can help you feel better and have more energy for the rest of the evening.
Planning by the Week or Month
Planning is great, if you have time for it. It saves time and money, and I highly recommend it. Our printable menu planners can be very helpful and are still available here at BetterBudgeting.com. You can plan by the week, or the month, just dinners, or daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, depending on how busy you are, just writing down the food you have in the fridge, freezer or pantry is enough to give you dinner ideas each night.
Planning by the DAY
Now, THIS I can handle... ONE DAY AT A TIME!
This is how we made the switch back to cooking dinner at home every night for our own family... and if we can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!
As promised... Here are 3 Easy Steps to Make the Switch
Each morning, or early afternoon, decide on what time dinner needs to be ready. Ask yourself these questions and know the answers...
Who's going to cook tonight? You, someone else in the family, or a combination? Ask for help if you need it. While you're cooking the main dish, have someone make the rice or salad, or whatever. It's not only okay to ask for help preparing dinner, but it's also okay to ask for help cleaning up after dinner.
What are we going to cook tonight? Do we need anything else from the store to go with it. If so, who can pick it up before dinner time. (And hopefully grab a few more things for the rest of the week, never waste a trip!) How long is going to take to cook? When do we need to start cooking so dinner will be ready on time. If it's going to take too long, switch nights and make something else that's quicker for tonight.
What time will we have dinner tonight? When does everyone get home from work and school? Can we all sit down at the table and have dinner together, at the same time? Do we need to eat at different times? Are there any activities that will get in the way of dinner tonight? Does dinner need to be ready EARLY so that everyone can eat as they come and go?
That's it! Now you know WHO is going to cook dinner tonight and cleanup, WHAT you're going to cook for dinner and if you need anything from the store, and, WHEN you're going to have dinner.
Now, just follow through, and do it again tomorrow!!! :o)
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Copyright © 2012 by Michelle Jones. All rights reserved.
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