Weeknight Dinner Project: The Second Commandment of Weeknight Dinners

Last spring the editors at Parents Magazine asked me to be a “dinner coach” for two area moms. Like most of us, these moms struggled with having the time and the ideas to put a fresh, healthy, and satisfying weeknight dinner on the table for their families day in and day out.

The recipes I developed for the Parents project appear in the September and October issues. But even more fun was working with the women directly and coming up with plans of attack to help them.

There were a few main strategies I focused on. One was what I have dubbed the First Commandment of Weeknight Dinners. A second, a.k.a the Second Commandment of Weeknight Dinners, is Prep Ahead.

Prep as much as possible ahead of time. That might mean spending an hour Sunday afternoon chopping and bagging vegetables for the next couple of days or even whisking together a simple marinade on a weekday morning for your pork chops or chicken breasts.

Prepping ahead is essential for me, and yesterday afternoon I knocked several items off of my weeknight dinner prep list:

– Roasted beets for a salad Monday night

– Blended together a dressing for the beets. (Before eating tonight I sliced the beets and tossed them with the dressing. There will likely be enough beet salad left for me to take for lunch on Tuesday.)

– Stirred together a ginger-soy sauce marinade for tonight’s pork chops.This morning I put the chops in a Ziploc bag with the marinade.

– Washed and trimmed sugar snap peas.

– Toasted sesame seeds for the snap peas.

– Washed and chopped cauliflower for Wednesday night’s dinner.

– Made a soba noodle salad for Rosa’s (and my) lunchbox this week. I added some shredded chicken left over from Sunday’s dinner.

This doesn’t cover me completely for the rest of the week, but it sure made dinner tonight a breeze and will continue to help me out later in the week.

All that prep took me about an hour-and-a-half, including clean-up. Ninety minutes isn’t nothing; it’s a chunk of time that some weekends I don’t feel like putting in. But, I usually do it. Having healthy, less-stress family meals is important to me, and I know that I have to make the prep a priority.

Bagging cauliflower on a Sunday afternoon isn’t sexy. But on Wednesday night, when I’m walking in the door at 6 PM (if I’m lucky), I’ll be happier to see that Ziploc than my husband.

Just kidding!

(But, seriously, I love having pre-prepped veggies in the fridge.)

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3 Responses to Weeknight Dinner Project: The Second Commandment of Weeknight Dinners

  1. Allison Graham says:

    I love that idea. I plan for meals on the weekend with leftovers to ease the stress durning the week, but prepping ahead would really help that quick spin between getting home and putting Leonora to bed! I will try that next week as I am running out of interesting meals that produce enough leftovers for another day…so cleaver.

  2. Andria says:

    This past weekend, I finally got around to reading the September issue of Parents, and I found the article with you as dinner coach. I was so excited by the recipes and prep-work concept that I ran right out and bought the ingredients to try out your 5-day plan. Sunday I did the prep-work you recommended, and so far this week dinner has been fantastic! Your suggestions and recipes have been an absolute lifesaver. My kids have loved the food, even though it’s healthy, and everything has been fast and easy to throw together thanks to the prep-work. Everyone is happy! I’m enjoying reading your blog now, too.

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks for commenting Andria. I’m so glad you found the article and recipes helpful! I look forward to keeping in touch.

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