Thursday, August 26, 2010

Solving the "What's for Dinner" Question

via Martha Stewart (Spinach & Gruyere quiche was one of my meals this week).

My stomach voices it's empty displeasure, and I look at the clock. 6:30 PM. David walks into the room and says, "What's for dinner?" I look at him and respond, "I don't know, what do you want?" Much like the scene from the Jungle Book, he responds, "I don't know, what do you want?" We might open the fridge and stare at the empty abyss for a moment, take a glance in the pantry, and then I say, "Well, I'm too hungry to make anything. Let's just go out."

This is our frequent routine. Between school, work, homework, Dmitri, keeping the house up, and maybe doing a load of laundry occasionally, we are exhausted by dinner time. However, being in school and working non-living wage jobs, doesn't leave us with a lot of extra spending money. Going out to eat left us feeling heavy with guilt, and our pockets lighter.

This has been going on for months, primarily since Dmitri was born. I absolutely love to cook and bake, but I don't have the time and energy with so much going on. Plus, what I really hate is cleaning up! If I did have the energy to prepare a nutritious meal, I definitely don't feel like washing all of the dishes afterward!

So we had a dilemma. After months of knowing something has to change, but not really figuring out what, we have worked out a system that seems to be working quite well. It has taken so much stress off of us, and we can finally answer the question, "What's for dinner"!

Here is how we do it.

Sundays are our "meal-planning days." We go out to eat, plan out the week's meals, make a grocery list, and go grocery shopping. This is the one day that we get to eat out!

We have the week divided up equally:
I cook dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
David cooks dinner on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Whoever doesn't cook, does the clean up!

We plan meals according to how much prep time we have. On Saturdays, I can cook a big gourmet meal, because we have the afternoons free. On Tuesdays, however, we have back-to-back classes from 9:30 AM - 6:15 PM, so that night, David will cook something easy, like a pasta dish.

It takes a little dedication. But here is what I've found:

-Knowing that I only have to cook 3 nights a week means that I feel excited about cooking those meals. I put more time and effort into them, and enjoy cooking more!
-We are saving a lot of money!
-We are cutting down on a lot of stress!
-David is getting more involved in the meals.

All in all. It's been a positive experience! If you have the "what's for dinner" problem, perhaps give meal-planning a try!


Mandi Miller said...

Sean works so hard and such long hours that the cooking is usually all up to me. I have been meal planning for two years now and I couldn't imagine NOT doing it! Otherwise, I really have no idea what the heck to buy at the grocery store! I'm glad the two of you worked out a system!

Momma Rhyne said...

Great system you two have. I wish hubs would cook more, I can be grateful that he at least helps a little with dishes afterwards, LOL.

Unknown said...

A meal planning system has always been a big thing for me. I'm like Mandi- I can't go to the grocery store without a specific list, and I can't make a list without a plan.

I don't normally stick to the plan, though. We're learning to adjust to making simple meals almost all week and 2 big ones at most. We usually make left overs too, which lasts us a while.

We've found we eat healthier this way, though! Meal planning means we plan veggies and such!

calikas said...


That is exactly what I needed right now.

I have been stressing about this semester, it is very heavy for me being all science and math classes. My husband is starting law school soon. I was starting to thinking cooking and keeping up with the house was going to be impossible.

Thanks for the great advice!

Unknown said...

I'm with Mandi, my hubby works insane hours and will be starting his Masters in a few weeks. So I'm left with all the cooking. This post come at such a great time, as today I'm working on creating a meal plan for the next week. Our problem is no longer take-out (since we started eating healthier, it's no longer appealing) but running to the grocery store every day for things that we forgot to get over the weekend :( we end up spending too much on random things, and throwing away a lot of great food that just went bad because we either forgot about it or it didn't seam appealing. And feeling totally guilty about both.

Kara said...

Great system! My hubs and I use to lay out stuff the night before and then cook and clean together so that when we were done cooking and sat down to eat, everything was already cleaned and put up. It's so much better when it's a joint task!! Good luck sticking to it!

Samantha said...

I've gotten so lazy about cooking lately. Nacho chips probably doesn't count as a home cooked meal does it?

Unknown said...

That is exactly what we do. So meal planning works out for us (most of the time) pretty well. I have to make a list of the recipes I bought groceries for though. If not I will do the blank stare into the pantry too! =)