7 Steps for Keeping Family Dinners on Schedule
With all of the activities and to-do items you have to fit into the day, are you in need of tips for keeping the family dinner schedule on track? Today’s post is courtesy of Aviva Goldfarb of The Six O’Clock Scramble.
As time goes on, it seems that our family’s evening routine gets more complicated. What I’ve learned from my years as a dinner planning expert is that the key to keeping our sanity around dinner time is to plan a few meals in advance and try to grocery shop just once a week. Sure, on the weekends I often don’t feel like making my weekly menu plan and going to the grocery store. But when dinner time rolls around each weeknight (and I’m often just rolling in the driveway at 6:00 p.m. or later), I want to kiss myself for taking the time to get organized in advance. I breathe a deep sigh of relief, knowing I have everything I need to get a healthy, tasty meal on the table in half an hour or less.
Aside from doing multi-meal grocery shopping, I do have a few other suggestions for keeping family dinners on track.
Tips for Managing Your Family’s Dinner Schedule
1. Put meals in logical order. Schedule your meals for the week based on which ingredients are most perishable (i.e. meat, fish, and spinach) and which nights you will be shortest on time. You can put your recipes in that order or jot a note in your calendar to remember what you’re making when.
2. Have a system for your kitchen. If you know where the vegetables are in your refrigerator (I keep one drawer for fruit and one for veggies), and can quickly lay your hands on the black beans and bowtie noodles, dinner prep will go a lot faster.
3. Get a head start during the day. While the kids are eating breakfast or doing homework, or while you are on a long call, wash and/or chop the vegetables you’ll need, and pull out the pots and pans and non-perishable ingredients you’ll need later.
4. Remove the clutter and get organized. Before you begin to cook, clear off the kitchen counters, empty the dishwasher, and pull out all of the ingredients. These steps make dinner preparation a lot less chaotic.
5. Keep the big picture in mind. Before you start cooking, take a moment to think through the whole meal (and quickly read the whole recipe), including side dishes and table settings, so you know what you need to start preparing when. Enlist help from other family members if you can.
6. Keep your kitchen stocked. When you use up an ingredient that you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully stocked after your next grocery trip. Teach your family to do this too and you’ll all have your essentials on hand when you need them.
7. Put the ingredients away as you use them. The cleanup process goes much more quickly when you do this. When you are ready to do the dishes, stack all of the dirty dishes by the sink and load the dishwasher first (most dishes don’t need to be pre-rinsed), so your dishwashing goes quickly and you use less water.
Sometimes having a system can sound daunting, but I have found that a little planning ahead saves so much time and effort that it makes cooking dinner for my family a pleasure most days, rather than a chore.
Do you have any tips to add? How do you keep dinner on schedule during busy weekdays?
Aviva Goldfarb is a Family Dinner Expert and founder and CEO of the family dinner planning site, the Six O’Clock Scramble. Aviva is author of 3 cookbooks including her most recent, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families”, which was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by the Washington Post. Aviva is a recent and upcoming Today Show guest and is frequently featured in national parenting, lifestyle and health magazines and TV and radio shows.
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