Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dinner Panic! What's for Dinner?!

I just experienced that moment that I think most of us have had, "Oh, no! What's for dinner?!" Not sure how dinner comes as a surprise to me, given that we have it every day, but old habits die hard, I guess. The moment of panic soon drifted away as I remembered that I decided last night what I'd be making for dinner tonight.

Now, some folks are really good at planning meals ahead of time. Currently, I'm reading Cut Your Grocery Bill IN HALF -with- America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. It was a birthday gift from my brother-in-law Nathan and his wife, Erika. Do they know what I like, or what?! Anyway, back to the book. These folks, the Economides family, plan their meals out a month in advance. I'm just not there yet. I do keep the freezer and pantry stocked with the good deals that I find at my local grocery stores, but I have not yet developed my meal planning to the science that the Economides family has. Those folks are good!

That being said, I do have some Go-To Meals for when I've forgotten to take meat out of the freezer to thaw or when I am missing ingredients that I need for something that I want to make. Or when, like last night, I knew that my daughter's lacrosse practice today would have me away from home at the normal time I'd usually be making dinner. In the past, I would have jumped in the car and run out to the store to pick up those odds and ends that I needed to complete a meal. One more trip to the grocery store, more time, more gasoline, more money, more frustration! Also, certainly I was not planning ahead and buying with coupons paired with a sale. Now, instead of all that waste, I make one of my Go-To Meals, which qualify as follows:

1. Must have only a handful of ingredients.
2. Must have ingredients that I readily have on hand.
3. Must take less than 30 minutes to make.
4. BONUS: Can be made ahead of time and quickly reheated.

Tonight's Go-To Meal is Tuna Salad Sandwiches. Canned tuna, mayo, sweet pickle relish, and bread. Four ingredients, not too bad! I usually have a bag of baby spinach in the fridge, so with that on the side, it's a meal. Today, I am a little low on bread, but it just so happens that I have been planning on making my first loaf of wheat bread. And, if something comes up and I don't make the bread? We can make do with what we have, or, I'll use my back-up plan. My personal back-up plan is my husband and he can stop to grab a loaf of wheat bread on the way home from work! Seriously, I aim to do things in a certain way, but am not going to beat myself up (too much) when it doesn't all fall into place the way I had planned. Life happens and my husband is really good at sticking to a grocery list, so I know that no extra purchases will sneak home in the bag.

Another Go-To Meal is pasta and sauce. Again, quick, easy, and fast. To change things up, sometimes I will doctor store-bought sauce with some sauteed onions or peppers (if I have them on hand), or canned mushrooms and olives. Canned corn and chopped green beans have also made an appearance in my pasta sauce. These things make the sauce a little chunkier and add in some extra vitamins and fiber.

Breakfast-for-Dinner also makes a regular appearance as one of my family's favorite Go-To Meals. Eggs, frozen sausage links (quick to thaw), bacon, wheat bread for toast, pancakes, and frozen waffles are all candidates for Breakfast for Dinner in my home.

So, what Go-To Meals do you serve in your home? FYI, fast food does not count!

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