Why Dinner Time is the Worst Time to Decide What to Eat
And 9 Tips of How to Fix it
How often do you make dinner at home? Do you find it a pleasurable part of your day or are you stressed of what to make because you’re already hungry and the kids are whining because they are hungry too? Do you succumb to ordering pizza or going to a fast food drive-through more times than you’d like? Well, you’re not alone. I’ve put together a few tips of how I am able to prepare dinner every night for myself and my family to help inspire you to do the same.
But first, did you know that decisions are harder to make at the end of the day once you’re tired and you’ve already made countless decisions during the day? Studies have shown that in prisons, when an inmate is up for parole, he is many times more likely to be granted if he is seen by the parole board early in the morning rather than late in the day. You’ve probably noticed that when you start your day, making decisions of what to wear, what to make for breakfast, etc… come easier than by the end of the day when you’re thinking of what to make for dinner. In fact, did you ever notice that Steve Jobs always wore the exact same thing every day? This was on purpose so that he could avoid making decisions of what to wear and save that brainpower for more important decisions for the business.
Ok, so back to the tips of being able to prepare dinner every night without the stress of first starting with what to make.
1. Have a Weekly Meal Plan
Number one, have a plan in advance of what to make. I choose to do this weekly as that is about how often I shop for food. Especially when I patronize my weekly farmer’s market. I jot down my meal plan on a piece of scrap paper stuck to the fridge. You can be more sophisticated by using an app like Pepperplate.
Keep your meal plans and rotate through them depending on how often you like variety in your meals. You will find this saves even more time. You could also have a master list of dishes by category: veggies, meats, grains, etc… Again, an app can do that if you input all your recipes into it.
2. Plan Vegetables By What is in Season
I typically start with the vegetables as you get more nutrition bang for your buck by eating what’s in season as it is going to be the freshest from farm to kitchen whether you get your veggies from your own backyard garden (which I highly recommend) or your local farmer’s market (also highly recommended) or just the regular grocery store. I try to have two vegetable dishes per dinner and then a protein source. We eat grains occasionally when some extra carbs are needed, but I feel more energized if I stick to just veggies and meat for dinner. Check out this infographic of food combining.
3. Don’t Forget About Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks
Don’t just plan your dinners, however, plan breakfasts, lunches (leftovers perhaps) and snacks. After some time doing this, it will become second nature and you may be able to be more spontaneous with meals. I typically prepare the same thing for breakfast many days in a row, lunch is usually leftovers and some fermented veggies, snacks are typically fresh, whole fruits (especially in the summer… mmmm peaches).
4. Prep Stuff in Advance
Many vegetables can be washed, cut up and stored in the fridge for a couple days for later use. Spice blends can be mixed in advance. I like to make a double or triple batch to keep in the pantry. I wash and reuse spice jars and label them clearly for my spice blends. If you make your own broths, those are definitely made in advance and frozen or canned. When you know what you’re making the next night, you can take a package of meat or broth out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge overnight saving time the next day.
5. Organize Your Recipes
How do I organize my recipes? Well, I like to try new things, so I have several cookbooks that I’ll peruse from time to time to get fresh ideas. When I find a recipe online that I like, I save it to the Pepperplate app. That way, I have it available on my phone if I’m at the grocery store and need to check ingredients. I still have a recipe box of handwritten recipes that may get typed out and saved online when I make some time down the road.
6. Only Try One or Two New Recipes Per Week
New recipes typically take longer to make and if you have picky eaters in your house like me, you won’t want to have that added stress more than necessary if they won’t eat it. I usually try new recipes the day after something everyone likes and we have a lot of leftovers, like spaghetti. That way, no one goes hungry and I don’t have to cook a whole new meal from scratch.
7. Use a Slow Cooker or Crockpot
How about the slow cooker, or crockpot? One of the best inventions ever for busy cooks. I like to use mine if I know I’m not going to have any time to put together dinner in the afternoon because of an appointment or an overdue trip to the park or whatnot.
8. Make Double Batches of Recipes to Keep In the Freezer
This was key for me when I was expecting our two children. I would make double batches of recipes that froze well to stock our freezer for when the new baby arrived. Well, no reason to save that idea just for a new baby. It’s great having a backup plan in the freezer in case you just don’t feel like cooking or something comes up during the day which keeps you away from the kitchen at dinnertime.
9. Schedule Time to Prepare Dinner
Lastly, but equally important, make sure you schedule time in your day to make dinner. Some dinners can be thrown together in 20 minutes, some will take longer. Take this into account with the rest of your daily activities.
I hope this helps you eliminate decision fatigue from your evening and empowers you to make more dinners at home for your health and that of your family.
Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments!
With Love, Hugs and Smiles,