Automating dinner while eating well
AND it takes time. Which means I need to shave time off other things I'm doing, delegate, or put a few things aside for the time being (Goodbye, Mad Men).
My family's kicking in, but there's only so much I can hand off. Like dinner. The planning, the shopping, the cooking. Getting dinner on the table every night takes a lot of time and mental energy. I've made headway by planning our meals each week, but there had to be a way to simplify even more without resorting to takeout or TV dinners.
I love Aviva Goldfarb's Six O'Clock Scramble menu-planning service. The recipes are simple, delicious, and healthy, and the work of planning is done. But for the next couple months I need something even more automatic...a no-brainer meal plan with less variation (and, admittedly, less interest) so my grocery shopping goes faster as well.
I looked into meal delivery, but going that route more than once a week blew the budget. I investigated services such as Dream Dinners where one could put together freezer meals, but it still took time, transportation, and considerable expense, and I want more control over the ingredients. For example, I like to buy organic meat.
The answer started with a chicken.
Our Whole Foods has a weekday special: each weekday, they offer a different dinner-friendly prepared food item for a discount. Mondays, it's Rotisserie Chicken for $6.99. I usually pay that much for a package of organic, free-range chicken, and I still have to cook it!
Monday is now chicken night. Bake some sweet potatoes, add a salad and bread and we've got dinner.
Tuesday, dinner arrives via SoupCycle, a local meal delivery service I decided to try as a treat.
Because we could never finish an entire chicken, the leftovers will get shredded or chopped, then go into Wednesday's stir fry, and maybe Thursday's burrito bowl. Friday is fish, which I'll let The Scramble tell me how to cook. And weekends, we'll scrounge (there's always plenty to eat, including breakfast for dinner). Good opportunity for the kids to get cooking as well.
If I get sick of stir fry and burrito bowls, there are plenty of ways to transform rotisserie chicken. But simplicity is my #1 goal for the next couple months, so I don't intend to stray too much from my basic plan.
And that's it. My weekly meal planning is done until I'm done writing the book. The cuisine may not blow anyone's minds, but we'll have hot, healthy, satisfying meals each night, which is more than enough.
Bonus: I shared my plans with my neighbor, Katrina, and she suggested we swap making the chicken run and buy enough for both families every other week. Within minutes, two more neighbors joined our impromptu Rotisserie Chicken Club, and now we all have dinner delivery three out of four Mondays per month. For the price of a regular grocery meal. It's like a dinner club with no planning or prep!
Whole Foods may wonder why I'm buying four rotisserie chickens this afternoon, but I'm sure they'll be just fine with it.
How do you simplify weeknight cooking when it's an especially busy time?
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