What’s on the menu?

This week I found myself rolling and baking 150 meatballs.  Doing so is part of an effort to help meal planning during those days when life becomes exceptionally hectic. In theory, I believe that if I have healthy, homemade options for quick meals on hand, we will be more likely to choose these over processed or fast food on days when dinner is an afterthought following a long day.

What’s for dinner?

There seems to be a moment in every household where someone asks: what’s for dinner?  This is the signal to say that the troops are hungry and want to be fed.  Responding to this inquiry requires an understanding of the options available:

  • Has someone thought ahead and made sure necessary ingredients are defrosted and/or otherwise ready to prepare?
  • Are all the required materials on hand to make a particular meal?
  • How long will preparation and cooking take?
  • Is sufficient time available to ensure that all can eat and still get to meetings, lessons and practices and do homework?
  • Who will do the work? Is that person willing and able to do so?

For many households, considerations must also be made in regards to the nutritional content of a meal:

  • Is it balanced?
  • Does it contain a protein, starch, vegetables and dairy?
  • Does it meet the needs of the various individuals in the household taking into consideration allergies and other health problems?
  • Will they eat it without a significant battle?

The weight of responsibility

Taken together, all of these considerations can feel like a big responsibility for the one who cooks.  Poor choices can lead to battles at the dinner table or worse, compromised health for some members of the family.  At times, the effort can feel overwhelming especially when the person has already had a long and tiring day.

As the primary cook in our household, I admit that there are times when I don’t want the responsibility of deciding what we will eat let alone preparing it.  My brain may be fried from the day’s work or I may be physically tired.  When that happens, more often than not, it means we end up getting fast food because no one else wants to cook.  While such choices are reasonable in moderation, it isn’t the ideal.

Increasing options

Over time we all develop a sense of the ebbs and flows of life.  We begin to anticipate those times when we are busiest at work, when the children are busy with their activities, and when we are most likely to be in that place where we would rather not cook.  This is where things like pre-made meatballs can be helpful.  Added to frozen pasta sauce made during harvest and store bought pasta means a well-balanced meal with little effort that the family will enjoy.  During the year we will also make various soups, turkey/chicken pot pie, lasagna, chili and more.  The key is to provide something for those nights that is easier than fast food.  For the most part, this works in our house, at least during the winter.

How about you?  Does your household have nights when no one wants to cook dinner?  How do you seek to balance the needs of the family when it comes to meals?  What tips and tricks do you have that you are willing to share?  Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/