We all do it everyday, thoughts about dinnertime swirl around in our minds. For some, the thoughts go mostly unnoticed but for the meal planners it consumes a lot of our brain power. Dinnertime is the most significant meal of the day, the signal that marks the end of the work day for most. What happens before that is where the biggest decision of your day lies. What’s for dinner?
It doesn’t matter if you are in charge of feeding a big family or yourself, the same principles apply. This is the time of day you stop and reflect on the days events while enjoying a meal. Getting dinner plans perfect three hundred and sixty-five days a year is almost an impossible feat. This is why I love to do what I do, food blogging. I encourage you, helping to reduce your stress. I cheer you on as you try a new recipe or new restaurant. I’m right there with you deciding the tone for dinner. Will dinner be a quiet relaxing meal or filled with family, friends and lots of chatter? Everyday is a different scene as we all strive for a nutritious, delicious, relaxing event. Then – life happens.
It all starts with planning. If you are brilliant enough to plan ahead my hats off to you. Most days I try planning, sometimes successfully. Things almost always happen and a lot can change between the planning stage and dinner on the table. There are those days you have to forget the master plan altogether and switch gears. It doesn’t take much to have a well intended plan go out the window. Working late and sick children can have you scurrying for a new dinner plan. That forgotten after school activity or being informed someone is starting a new diet today can cause the meal planner a migraine. I believe this is where the phrase hangry came from, hungry and tired. All my best efforts have at one time or another been countered by real life. When challenged with interference there’s no choice but to adapt and hope for the best.
A one meal fits all is a beautiful thought. I naively used to think it was possible to recreate a 1960s family dinner. Then I became a mother and toddlers and adolescents had their own ideas and agendas. If you are in charge of feeding a family dinner, the struggle is real. I slowly, against my better judgement started incorporating custom versions of the grown up meals. It was a trap, next thing I knew I was preparing grilled cheese alongside the foods kids run from. This complicates an already complicated dilemma, what the heck is for dinner?
There are the glorious times when you stumble upon something that works. You get comfortable and you implement this plan over and over until you never want to eat it again. It was nice while it lasted but it’s time to move on. The next perfect one size fits all dinner could be right around the corner. So, you march on trying all sorts of variations to find that sweet spot.
Challenge number one for dinner is, what is for dinner? Do you feeling like making a casserole, stir fry or meat and potatoes? Are you in a healthy mood today and feel like a salad? Should you pry open the freezer and reach for the frozen dinner? Is today Tuesday? Who’s responsible for starting Taco Tuesday anyway? Maybe sticking to a tried and true recipe is the way to go. Feeling overwhelmed yet? Hang in there, we are only getting started! Don’t despair, there are those special, magical days when the planets line up perfectly and the universe is your friend working with you and you get to prepare that perfect dinner. Or you luck out and there’s a table open at your favorite restaurant. I especially love those days when things work out and crave more of them.
With a brilliant meal plan in hand you head toward the kitchen ready to conquer dinner prep. Confidently you start to gather the necessary ingredients only to learn life is attempting to stop you in your tracks. You know the scenario, you planned everything and when you head to the refrigerator that one last stick of butter you needed has turned into half a stick. You innocently reach for the butter hoping you are seeing things. Now you are left wondering if the recipe will still work. Now, do you stop and run to the grocery store? There you run a very high risk of a total menu change as you grab frozen french fries and a ready made rotisserie chicken. That’s alright, the menu is subject to change.
If you plan dinner for one, this requires time and energy with different scenarios. It’s equally as hard to cook for one person as it is for five. If creating a dish that will have a substantial amount of left overs, do you really want to eat it for the next three days? Will you head out and meet friends, grab take out or dine in? Different scenario, different decisions to make,
Maybe having dinner out might be the better choice, so you think. Now you have to decide where to go, fast food or a relaxing meal spread out over a couple hours. Letting someone else do all the work seems smart. What are you hungry for, will it be Chinese, Brazilian or American fare? Will you throw your hands up in the air and have a pizza delivered? I incorporate pizza delivery into my week but, I often do it on the days that I could’ve actually cooked, so much for planning.
You’ve made the executive decision to go out for dinner and where to go. If you are packing up kids you may wonder if it’s worth all the effort. Being prepared for every possible scenario that could happen is exhausting. The last thing you want to do is upset all the other struggling meal planners that headed out in hopes of a nice dinner. If you are on a dinner date, this too requires more planning. What to wear and what to order can be a challenge. You’re on a date and starving, do you order a salad or go for the gusto? There are more questions than answers to all this. I thought this whole dinner thing was supposed to be relaxing?
Social media adds more to all this with the quick and easy recipe videos that are popping up. I haven’t figured out if this is helping or hurting the cause. I am guilty of trying a few of the video recipes. My early conclusion is that it doesn’t matter how many ways you incorporate ready made crescent rolls into the entree, everything ends up tasting the same.
I’m sure by now you have been told that today is some kind of food holiday. These food holiday calendars that circulate don’t help me. I never get the memo on time. Half way through the day I’m informed that today is national meatball day or national spaghetti day. You would think this would be a useful aid in meal planning, I’m finding it not true. I personally can’t keep up and I am having trouble participating in these food holidays. I do appreciate all the effort that goes into compiling this information. If I happen to catch one early and it makes my day better great, so far that hasn’t happened.
Have you seen the ads for boxed meals delivered right to your door? A brilliant idea and this may be the solution for a lot of people, I am not able to include this in my biggest decision of the day plan. I like the idea of fresh ingredients delivered straight to your door. This won’t work for me, I change my mind too many times to commit to this. I might feel like lasagna in the morning but by the afternoon sausage sounds better. For the rest of you this might actually be helpful. If you try this, let me know how it works out.
You are probably by now at least semi-aware of the time and energy that goes into dinnertime planning. Maybe you didn’t realize all the mind power that you put into this. That little cloud that follows you does have solutions. Where can you turn to for help? Food bloggers are one place you can get some assistance. They know the struggle in being creative in the kitchen and offer lots of ideas. Pinterest is the mother-ship of food idea help, don’t overlook that resource! If you are dining out, there are apps to guide you. My favorite restaurant tool is Zomato here you will find reviewers giving you a heads up on the best dining options.
Family and friends should always be your first choice for help, they are in the same boat as you are. Don’t forget I’m always here to help save you time and energy I try every recipe and restaurant before I share them with you. Many food options don’t make the final cut.
After all is said and done there’s always that glimmer of salvation, you have cereal! You set the table as if expecting gourmet soup to be served. Relieved that you planned ahead for breakfast, well done! Hopefully you have milk….The day is saved and everyone is happy. The box even says it’s good for you.
What does your dinner look like?