Some years ago I witnessed this exchange between two acquaintances, as we all picked up our children at 6PM from an activity:
“I guess now I have to decide what’s for dinner.”
“I’m going to get a pizza on the way home. We had Subway last night.”
This really surprised me, because, in those years that I worked only about quarter-time, I saw DIY tasks, particularly cooking, which has the potential to save a huge amount of money, as part of my contribution to our living on one salary. I thought that everyone would have started a crock pot dinner or have a plan for something quick to cook on their arrival home (“scrambled eggs and fruit” is one of my last-minute plans… but it beats fast food!). Since returning to full-time (or more) work, I’ve honed my previous routines to save time. We still eat at home nearly 100% of the time, and my repertoire of easy things to make after working all day slowly increases.
This week is fairly typical for a winter workweek menu. Mari went vegetarian a couple of months ago, and I’ve been mostly vegetarian for years. Thom is not; he has meat for lunch and we eat vegetarian dinners.
Monday: Rice and peas
Tuesday: Potato/pea/cauliflower Curry
Wednesday: Leftover curry
Thursday: Pasta with Roasted Broccoli and Pumpkin-Cheese sauce*
Friday: Chili (from the freezer) and collard greens
* aka fancy mac’n’cheese
There were time constraints, particularly Monday when I had to leave to take Mari to school 15 minutes after my arrival from work; she cooked that evening (and honestly, if she eats rice and peas every night when she goes to college, she’ll be eating better than most students). I drove the carpool Wednesday and Friday and needed meals to just reheat. We all eat vegetables with lunch and often with breakfast, and I’ve become more lax with dinner than I used to be. I’ve learned that:
- Having everyone fed beats making a beautiful or fancy meal an hour late;
- Frozen vegetables are fantastic for budgetary and time constraints, and no one notices most of the time. The potato curry and pasta dish used cauliflower and broccoli, respectively, from Costco’s frozen Normandy mix. No prep time! No waste!
- Thom and Mari are happy having their favorites over and over, such as chili, spaghetti or lasagna, and that fantastic Indian spiced spinach dish that turns a mountain of homegrown greens that they would otherwise regard with suspicion into a few exotically spiced meals.
- Many of the foods to which we’ve grown accustomed were once holiday fare. Reserving them for weekends or holidays now is hardly a hardship.
What strategies do you have for weeknight dinners?