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Taming the Meal Monster

May 6, 2009

There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful women cooking dinner for someone she loves.” Thomas Wolfe

Kitchen duty can be overwhelming for me, a self-proclaimed organizationally challenged mom. I try to shop once a week, pop a variety of beautiful and nutritious foods in my cart, feeling oh-so-very “foodie,” imagining all of the semi-gourmet meals that I’ll creatively whip up and innovatively serve to my family.

Then sometime around 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, as I look at the assorted exotic items in my fridge and on my shelves:  the fast-shriveling eggplant, the four cans of Thai coconut milk, a jar of  Nutello, assorted dark chocolates and hard cheeses, I wonder,  “What was I thinking?”   Then I’m desperately riffling through cookbooks looking for a creative and innovative recipe for Nutello Eggplant simmered in Coconut-Chocolate Cheese sauce.

Been there?

It recently occurred to me that if I am uncertain what’s for dinner by noon, there is a good chance we’ll be staring at heaping helpings of the local cafeteria line later that night. No one is complaining, but I feel like a food failure.  There’s got to be a better way. We needed a radical meal makeover plan.

 Here’s what I determined to do:

1. Find the Fave-Five:  The top five recipes you know your family will eat. This is your little black dress approach to meal planning. One dress, or one list, dozens of accessories, or sides that are mix and matchable.

2. Create a “getting my groove on” list extraordinaire something that becomes a signature detailing everything you use in a week. I include paper products, cleaning potions and personal items. Keep this handy to mark when you are out of something important. Your goal: weekly trips not daily pop-ins for vital ingredients.

3. Prior to your week; review the calendar. Who must be where and when an activity might conflict with dinner. Here is where you go easy on yourself. Schedule in a taco night, or take home Chinese, or pizza and movie night. No on enjoys a martyr mom when it comes to meal time.

4. Take a peek in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry, see what’s missing, add it to the list. If you have time, do a quick clean out of the fridge, tossing anything that looks like a penicillin-growing Petri dish, or an alien life form.

Taming the meal monster can be done, by beginning with three easy steps. Plan ahead, create the “getting your groove on” list and keep a well stocked pantry and fridge.

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