Crowd sourcing

I'm speaking next month to a local MOPs group about meal planning and family dinners. This is something that I could probably do off the cuff at a moment's notice, but it's been so long since I created my original talk that I feel that need to revisit it, and maybe put some updated photos in my power point.

So loyal and diverse blog readers... if getting dinner on the table every night is a challenge for you, what is most challenging about it? The planning? The shopping? The cooking? All of the above? Your answers will help me to focus on what I talk about. Because truly, I could go on and on and on.

Having just made the week's menu and gone to the store today, I am personally aware of how grinding it can be. I sat down with my paper and pen, glanced through my recipe binders, and realized I didn't feel like cooking anything. Actually, that's not quite true. I find the change of seasons difficult, and particularly when warm weather is slow in coming. I want to grill. I want cold salads. I want summer and the food that goes with it. I'm tired of the lingering cold, and the entire family will be thrilled when a new fruit comes into season.

I managed to get a list made, though I think I still have one day empty, assuming that I will be able to scrounge something when the actual dinner approaches. Plus, A. decided she wanted lemon chicken, which is a bit labor intensive.** A. wanted it so much that she was willing to make it. That's the kind of menu planning I can live with. We had it tonight, and she did a great job.

Now it's your turn. Share what's difficult, if anything, about getting dinner on the table every night.

**When I went back and looked at the recipe for lemon chicken that I shared, I noticed that I didn't give directions for the making the lemon sauce which goes over it, and I think, greatly improves the dish. Here it is (it's essentially a white sauce, using chicken bouillon and lemon for the liquid):

First, make three cups of chicken bouillon or chicken stock and add 1 cup of lemon juice. Set this aside for a moment. Leave the drippings in the pan from having cooked the chicken, and add enough fat (oil or butter) to make 8 TBSP. (You will have to guess. And yes, I can here some of my non-cooking friends moaning from here. I suppose you could scrape out the drippings and measure, but that seems like a lot of work to me.) Now, heat them back up and add 8 TBSP flour. Use a whisk, cooking over medium heat to completely stir the flour into the fat. Then slowly add in your stock/lemon juice mixture. Keep stirring over medium heat until it has thickened. If you don't need four cups of lemon sauce, you could halve the recipe.


Donna said…
Everything. I hate everything most of the time. I am basically down to one meat protein (chicken) and eggs (which I don't really like), so that is even more limiting.

Planning what to have is hard because everything is either 1) boring, same old things or 2) difficult. I don't enjoy new recipes that have more than 4 or 5 ingredients (and even then I probably can't get 2, but that's unique to me).

Shopping...probably the thing I mind the least although it isn't easy. I need to do it regardless of what we eat so I don't even put it in the "cooking" category.

Cooking...ugh. Well, actually, under some circumstances it isn't too bad, but my options are so limited by circumstances, so I guess it goes back to planning...finding tasty meals that fit within what I have to work with just seems like too much work. The part I do dislike is peeling and chopping, and chopping and peeling. I love just throwing a bunch of things into a pot or skillet and letting them do their thing. :)

I think I will try the lemon chicken! I bought lemons this week, a rare treat, even though I didn't have a plan for using them. So UNBELIEVABLY I think I have all the ingredients in the house. (Ok, not panko bread crumbs, that is never happening, but I make fried tenders from time to time so I think those will work.)
Anonymous said…
I'm too tired to cook when I get home from work.
Carla said…
The planning is definitely my hang up. Once I have dinner planned for the week, the pressure is off... even if I don't follow it or switch what meals we have on the list to different days. The ideas are at least out there on paper.

I really enjoy grocery shopping, but we are, thankfully, in a place financially where I have a bit of freedom and am not limited to only those things on sale with a coupon.

I do get bored with the same things, but the whole family isn't very adventurous in our eating and I'm just not that good of a cook in terms of new recipes.

Cooking with small children can be a challenge. Anything that takes more than an hour (with several interruptions) to prep/cook is asking for a mutiny to happen in the living room while I'm in the kitchen. I hate to do a video every day, but on occasion, I feel the need for the distraction with a labor intensive meal.

My college-aged niece was impressed when she stayed with us for a few days during Christmas. "Wow. Multitasking to the extreme! You make dinner, change diapers, stop fights, get someone a drink and field outer space questions from the 6 year old all at the same time."

Anonymous said…
I think for me the multi-tasking is the hardest part. I'm fine with planning and shopping, but when I am actually cooking, everything takes longer because potty-training toddlers need me or kids are fighting or whatever. I try to do recipes that aren't as complicated during the week and save more complicated things for the weekend.
Rusulica said…
Shopping is the most difficult for me. I can whip up a meal in no time (I cook only for myself and my partner and I like it when we have leftovers for the next day's lunch) if my fridge and pantry are full. I dread goind to the store, but luckilly, my partner doesn't mind, so that is his job, and we go together on a big shopping trip, to stock up. My solution is to always have some shelf or fridge stable ingredients around. Also, I love freezing stuff - not whole meals, but grapes for morning oatmeal (I cook it), sliced mushrooms (I know you aren't suppoed to freeze them but it works for our pizzas) or I make a lot of my own tomato sauce, freeze it in portions, and when we feel like pizza, I can make the dough while it defrostes. Also, when you already cut bacon for a meal, cut a whole batch while you are at it, keep it in a container in fridge, and next time, the meal prep is shortened. I hope I helped a little. If you tipe the speech, I would be interested in reading it!
Kari said…
Planning is my struggle. I’m easily tired of recipes, get stuck in a rut, and need new ideas. Mostly though, I’m an unorganized cook and having a plan would solve most of my struggles.
Kristin Mueller said…
What's difficult for me is when I need a lot of time to prep a meal. Time is a precious commodity for us all! :) I LOVE when I can throw things in the crock pot in the morning and I don't have to worry about meal prep time at night. I also find it helpful for my meal planning to include things that I can do ahead of time. I find that the last hour before we eat is the worst time for prep - everyone wants my attention (understandably, especially if I've been gone during the day), but it is practically impossible to prep a meal with a toddler wrapped around your legs. I do have the kids help, but some days they just want my time, so if I can throw a dish in the oven and not worry about prep we are all happier people. Freezer cooking has been a HUGE thing for me!
All suggestions would be helpful. I don't plan. I don't recipe. As a result, we eat a lot of the same things over and over and over again. Fortunately, my husband is a fire captain, and as such, he is an excellent cook. He cooks about half the time.

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