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The Secret to Cooking Weeknight Dinners – Meal Planning!

For my first blog post, I’m just going to lay it on the line and tell you the key to successfully cooking well balanced weeknight meals for your family.  By “well balanced”, I’m not just referring to healthy meals, but also to balancing variety, cultural styles, cost efficiency and planning for those evenings when you are short on time due to meetings, kids’ activities or anything else.  One of the most time consuming aspects of making dinner is trying to figure out what to cook after a long day at work.  A menu for the week totally eliminates the stress and ensures that you have the ingredients on hand.  If you decide to go out for dinner one night, no stress, just skip that day and maybe you’ll make the missed meal idea the following week.

I generally write out a dinner menu for the week on Saturday morning at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand and armed with a pad of paper, a pen, my iphone and my ipad to search for inspiration.  I clearly write out the days, Sunday to Friday.  We usually go out for dinner on Saturday night.  Next, I pull up my calendar and determine whether there are any days when I have an unavoidable meeting which means that I either need to make a meal the day before that’s ready to easily assemble or throw into the oven.  A note on my husband – he leaves the cooking to me because although he cooks well, it’s not his favourite thing to do which works fine for me!

As we prefer staying in on Sunday to get things ready for the upcoming week, I usually make a delicious meal that may involve trying a new recipe or baking something yummy for dessert given that I have the luxury of time.  Sometimes, I may choose a Sunday meal that involves the kids, like making pizza or cupcake decorating.  I often sip on a glass of wine and have music playing in the background on Sunday evenings as I put our meal together.  This leisurely and enjoyable experience is very different than the rest of the week, I assure you.  Once I have chosen my perfect Sunday evening meal, it’s time for the real work – putting together a plan of attack for the weeknights.

If I am making a roast chicken on Sunday evening then there will likely be leftover chicken which I may use to make chicken sandwiches with homemade tomato soup and a salad for dinner on Monday night.  If there won’t be leftovers, then I’ll plan something that isn’t chicken.  I hate wasting food and instead think of how to use leftovers creatively as if it’s a food challenge!

Once I have created my menu for the week, I hit the grocery store to pick up all the ingredients I’ll need for my weeknight dinners.

Sample Menu:

Garden salad
Carrot soup
Roast chicken with veggies and potatoes
Coconut cream pie

Note:  Conference call at 7:30 p.m.
Tomato soup
Cheesy chicken sandwiches with veggie sticks

Note:  Gym at 8:00 p.m.
Caesar salad
Spaghetti and meat sauce
Crusty bread (if time to stop at the store on the way home)

Note:  Meeting at 7:30 p.m. midtown
Mango salad
Basil chicken stir fry and rice

Note:  Meet girlfriends at 8:30 p.m. downtown
Salad – use whatever veggies are left in a toss salad
Garlic lemon shrimp, asparagus and mashed potatoes (baked fish for my husband because he claims to have a shellfish allergy)

Take-out Chinese and movie night with popcorn (and a bottle of red)!

Dinner at my parents’ place, family from out of town visiting

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more tips, ideas and recipes!

xo Jasmine

Jasmine Daya

Author Jasmine Daya

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