It’s been a busy day and it’s time to think about dinner. You can either try that new recipe that will take twice the time with questionable results or stick by an old standby that you know works. Odds are, if you’re like me, you’ll choose the old standby most times. And the “family dinner rut” continues.
Just to recap some of my recent kitchen revamping strategies. I started by questioning my reliance on recipes as a strategy, comparing their usefulness to diets. Instead, I looked at the meals I frequently make for answers, putting them all in one place. I then organized my kitchen to have food to make those meals, including creating a comprehensive storage guide.
Now that I’m organized it’s time to gradually build meals for my family. And here are 5 ways I’m making it happen!
1. Have a strategic vision
I used to be an ineffective clothes shopper. Somehow I ended up with lots of cute tops, but very few pants, skirts, and shoes. I had no vision when I want shopping. This is also what happens when you don’t have a plan with recipes — you end up with too much of one thing and variety suffers.
So go to your list of recipes and meals and start thinking about what’s missing. Do you have lots of chicken meals? Maybe you need to get more fish dishes? Getting in those healthy beans? What are the classic meals you don’t have down yet (lasagna, meatloaf, etc.)?
Create a vision of what you would like to see in your kitchen that has never come to fruition.
2. Get it in writing
After your initial brainstorm, write it down on paper. I started a word document listing out all the meals and sides I currently make, separated into the following categories: (I also have breakfast and snacks but currently am focusing on dinner meals):
Ethnic — other
Soups and Stews
Grill and sides
After listing out meals I make, I included what I need to work on. Mexican food is what blouses used to be for me while clothes shopping, so I’m pretty good on that section. But I need more square meals (protein source) with sides and one-meal casserole dishes. And I need major help when it comes to desserts.
Looking at my meals this way gives me a big picture view of where I am and where I want to go.
3. Search recipes and make them your own
I used to see a recipe that looked good, would immediately try it and then give up when it didn’t turn out.
Now that I am more purposeful about my cooking, I search for specific recipes I need and tweak them until they are my own. Also, this makes it easier to spot recipes I actually need instead of making a different version of the same food over and over.
4. Have a plan for trying new stuff
I like to choose something from my list to work on every week but summer has slowed me down. Since I work from home, I try new meals during the day and eat it for my lunches. Weekends are also another good time to experiment.
The key is to set aside a stress-free regularly scheduled time to experiment with new meal combos.
5. Take it slow
If I have learned anything in my cooking adventures (and feeding!), it’s to be patient. The more I rush and pressure myself the less enjoyable the whole process is. And it’s okay to use packaged meals until you come up with alternatives that fit your style of cooking.
You know, I look back to when I started cooking for my family 7 years ago and realize how far I’ve come. I may never be 100% satisfied, but I’m on the right track. I’m taking charge of my cooking destiny and it feels pretty darn good.
So tell me, how satisfied are you with your current meal base? What continues to be a challenge?
Want step-by-step help in creating your own dinner rotation? Check out Maryann’s book The Family Dinner Solution.