Ahh, the dinner hour approaches, but before that comes the bewitching 5:00 O’CLOCK HOUR that was oh, so chaotic at times here. Not always my best hour as a mom. I had been good so long, all day in fact and then that dreaded hand hit the five on the face of my kitchen clock, and ugh, it all fell apart. Everyone was hungry, hangry and at the end of their rope. Me, included. What to do?
I was thinking about this hour the other day as an Empty Nester, because some things never change. I felt it all: the hangry thoughts about dinner and no idea where the time had gone. The Five o’clock hour is still hard around here, especially when I have no idea what is for dinner. How does it sneak up on me?
I have some advice for this little problem. Advice that I remembered the other day and decided I needed to share it here and also remind myself!
Start Cooking Dinner at Breakfast.
What? What are you talking about Sursee Gal? I can’t start dinner in the morning, can I?
What I mean is, start in the morning thinking about what you want to have for dinner. Then the dinner hour won’t sneak up on you. You know the way it sneaks up on you- all of a sudden it is 5:00 o’clock, and you have no idea what you are going to cook for dinner. And the kids are hungry, and you are, too. And there are no tortilla chips in the pantry to snack on…
I encourage you to Start at Breakfast, think about what you are having later, much later for dinner. And take the baby steps to get things rolling that way.
You start in the morning. With something. Maybe it is only the thought of “What AM I making for tonite?” or “Maybe, I need to go to the store to get the ingredients. Do I have a tomato sauce?” True story: Just the other day around 5 pm, I called four neighbors asking to borrow a can of tomato sauce. On the last call, I found the lucky winner. Maybe If I had looked in the pantry that morning before I set out the door, I would have known I did not have the can of tomato sauce that I needed for my yummy meat loaf.
Starting in the morning was especially helpful when the kids were young and under foot. I learned that I needed to chop a little here and there. Take the meat out to defrost. Make sure I had the tomato paste needed for the sauce or not, so then I could work it in to get some at the store. Or borrow from a neighbor. Maybe I got the crockpot out at breakfast and plopped that pork in, revving up for some divine pulled-pork tacos later.
If I waited til 5:00, dinner wasn’t going to happen. I was tired and would reach for the unhealthy, the processed, the easy.
But, if I started in the morning, with at least a thought about what was going to be happening later, I could prepare in chunks and break the process down.
I am also a firm believer in meal planning.
So every week I made a menu schedule and stuck to it- a little fudging allowed.
I would schedule in nights of left-overs when there was a game or a practice, and I would use the same schedule each week:
Chicken on Monday–
Pasta on Tuesday–
Burgers on Wednesday–
Leftovers on Thursday–
Pizza night on Friday.
Or some such pattern. The pattern doesn’t really matter. What mattered is, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel each week. I could use my go-to recipes for each category, but mostly I repeated. The less decisions I had to make, the more I cooked. And I do love cooking- the chopping, the boiling, the sautéing- it is all very therapeutic for me. It is time to think and dream and memorize and reflect.
But it all started at breakfast. Mostly. Ok, a little. But that little bit, that little defrost or checking the pantry or setting out ingredients was a life saver for me. Have you tried this? Does it help you? What does it look like for you to start cooking dinner at breakfast? I would love to hear.