Thursday, March 27, 2008

How a Recycled Treo Helps Me Put Dinner on the Table

The more I listen to other people's life stories the more convinced I am that we all fight the same battles. Dinner is a battle. Not only does it demand a commitment from its maker at a wholly inopportune time of day (does anyone have the requisite energy, creative or otherwise, in the early evening to produce a balanced meal??). Moreover its preparation depends on advance execution of a menu plan and its resultant shopping list, and grocery shopping.

Cooking for my family is more than a priority for me, it’s a passion. And, yeah, cooking healthier foods a HUGE time drain. But over time I've streamlined my shopping habits, found some great resources and developed some fantastic recipes.

Following are four things that help me put dinner on the table regularly. How about you? How do you do it?

1. SPLASH SHOPPER. I really cannot say enough about this fantastic software. Download a trial copy and see for yourself. It will help you keep your pantry stocked so you can easily whip up a healthy meal at any time. Caveat: it's a Palm thing. I'm an iPhone user and still lug around a frumpy Treo because I cannot imagine life without SplashShopper.

2. DESK CALENDAR. I use a blotter-style desk calendar to map out what I'm going to cook for the week. Using it in the kitchen I get a good sense of balance for the week (how much red meat, fish or pasta am I planning) and for the month.

3. SET A MENU. Set aside 5-10 minutes each weekend to make a weekly meal plan. I do this by consulting a list I’ve made of all the dinners we like. I pick out what I feel like cooking and eating that week (taking care to make the week balanced) and then schedule meals according to what the family schedule looks like (I plan a quicker meal on evenings when I don’t have as much prep time).

4. SHOP. After you’ve decided what you’ll be cooking, make your shopping list (see #1) and don't leave home without it. Be sure to plan your veggies, too. After years of having multiple trips to the store I’m now generally able to hit the store once and be stocked to cook for the week. Nothing kills a cooking opportunity like an empty cupboard.

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