Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Weekday Home-cooked Meals

I made a New Years resolution for 2003 that I am still sticking to (this may be a first). George and I had gotten into the habit of doing fast food and take-out for most of our weekday dinners, and my resolution was that we should have home-cooked meals. In the prior state of affairs, when the whim struck one of us to cook, it was usually too daunting because there were few staples on hand to work with, and so a prerequisite of any home cooking would be a trip to the store. That would often be enough to kill the whim, given the constraints of weeknights. There just isn't the time to do a lot of shopping during the week, and yet the notion of planning an entire week's menu out in advance seemed rather daunting too. The breakthrough revelation was that I didn't need to plan it all out. I could shop on Sunday to buy a good supply of produce, meats & fish, and other staples, without having to figure everything out, and then I could figure specific dinners out day by day, based on what we have on hand. It's been working out pretty well for 2 years and counting.

As you've probably gathered, I'm the cook in the household. (It's not that George can't cook, it's just become our division of labor. He does all the laundry and nearly all the gardening, and I do the cooking and the accounting.) When I started this in 2003, I had a job where I worked from home much of the time, so it was quite easy for me to do little bits of dinner preparation throughout the afternoon as needed, thawing any frozen things out early in the day, starting slow-simmer soups or stews in the late afternoon, that sort of thing. Now, I have a different job where I have need to be in an office roughly 8:30-5:30-ish Mon-Fri, about 40-90 minutes away, depending on traffic. I'm usually home between 6:45-7:15pm, and need to "hit the stove running" to get dinner on the table, ideally before 8pm. I can still make it work, but it takes a bit more planning ahead. Last year when I worked at home, dinner could get planned about 6 hours in advance. Now, I need to have the basic idea the night before (so any frozen things get thawing), then on my way out the door in the morning I take a quick scan of the vegetable bin, and then as I drive home I'm working out the plan in my head. George and I are the sort that like our routines, and now that we've got the routines adapted to the requirements of my new job, we continue to enjoy home-cooked meals. It definitely takes a bit more planning and effort, but it certainly saves money, and more importantly, we're happier and healthier for it.

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