I have said it before and undoubtedly will say it over and over again: Figuring out what’s for dinner is one of the most stressful things I deal with on a daily basis. I know that sounds silly, but seriously, ask my husband. The majority of our fights start with “What’s for dinner?”
In an effort to eat at home a little more, and to quit begging the question of dinner, I have put together a simple list to help stir up some ideas for your own dinner table.
What do you have?
My dad always tells stories about how his grandmother could have nothing in the pantry and still make a meal for 10 people. When I need meal inspiration, the first place I turn is my pantry. There is almost always something useful, even if I can’t see it at first. A bag of flour and box of broth? Put that with the chicken in the freezer, and for the sake of being Southern, you’ve got chicken and dumplins or chicken biscuits-or skip the chicken and just make a cake! It’s often as easy as thinking outside the literal box.
What goes bad first?
No matter how hard I try, things continue to go bad just sitting in my fridge. So I’ve recently started trying to lay out my menu after I get home from the store instead of before. When I make a menu after I already have a loaded fridge, I can go through the process of ordering what will expire first. For example, I’ve got salad veggies that will get soft if not consumed in a day or two, and then there is the French bread that inevitably begins growing mold the minute I get it home. Once everything is home, it is easy to look at the dates on items and order the menu based on expirations.
What’s on sale?
I generally don’t pay much attention to what is on sale at the store, but rather stay focused on what I need to complete meals with ingredients I already have on hand at home. I sometimes find a deal good enough to change my mind, but my savings tactics are already built in to my grocery plans. By shopping on Mondays, I automatically save on meat that is freshly marked down. Getting a good deal is not always directly linked to coupons and sales ads-sometimes, it’s more about strategy.
Do a midweek fridge fill.
In an effort to reduce the amount of food I am throwing away each week, I have begun what I call the midweek fridge fill. I know that no one wants to hear that I think going to the grocery store twice in one week is a good idea; even I don’t like the thought. I will say, though, that this is a great way to keep produce and meats fresh rather than constantly fighting the battle of spoilage. Beyond that, there is always something I forget or don’t know we are out of on the first trip, and the second trip is a chance to pick that up while I’m at it.
Even with all these helpful tactics, I still can’t say that doing the grocery and meal planning thing is a walk in the park or anything remotely fun for me. Perhaps by trying to get into it the spirit I am just covering up my disdain for the experience. To be honest, we still eat out several times a week, because regardless of how many times I go shopping, some nights there is still just “nothing to eat.”
Casey Davis is a wife and momma who hates having crumbs on her feet. She writes about living a simple, organized and frugal life. Follow along on her blog, Twitter or Instagram. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.