How I'm Getting Dinner on the Table with Less Stress in 2019

As I embark on the “year of nourish”, I’ve been thinking about how I’m spending my time, and what is truly nourishing me. What is bringing me life, and what is dragging me down.

Can I be honest? Dinner time has been a really tired place for me lately. I know, part of my job is to inspire and encourage others to get in the kitchen and cook a healthy meal for their family.

Well, kind of. A big part of my job is helping people navigate changing seasons or “phases” or life. I have found that most people go through times when they’re inspired and times when life is too chaotic and times when they’re burnt out and times when they just don’t know if they can make one more dinner. It’s part of my job to meet them in all of those seasons and help them navigate making healthy choices for themselves.

So I took myself on as a client.

I realized that I couldn’t justify the time I was spending preparing dinner to the time I spent enjoying dinner.

I realized that dinner was becoming this looming thing for me - I loved cooking, but I was spending too much time looking for recipes, grocery shopping, prepping, all of it. Because the reality is that my toddler throws half her food on the floor, and I usually eat dinner huddled over our kitchen island, in between picking up said food and trying to handle the nighttime routine. Keeping little humans alive is delightfully exhausting. I realized that I couldn’t justify the time I was spending preparing dinner to the time I spent enjoying dinner.

Anyone feel me?

I came across this great article in the NY Times entitled “How to Eat in 2019”, which has the same underlying premise as my personal musings - too much time in the kitchen, not enough time at the table (thanks for sharing, dad!). It ultimately ends up a slightly different place than where I went, but it was a nice reminder that I’m not alone during this season.


How did I coach myself?

I decided that I’m going to try an experiment for 2019. Or at least January, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping it will be a success and that it will take me through 2019 feeling more rested and inspired in the kitchen, but maybe it will just be a month-long thing to get my mojo back.

We chose 5 dinner recipes for the month of January.

That’s it.

Dinner is planned for January.

Plan Once

I loved that I could still go through cookbooks, food blogs and recipe sites to pull dinner options. This is my favorite part of cooking, but also the one that tends to suck the most time from me. I didn’t want to just settle on pasta and red sauce (nothing wrong with that!), because I still wanted some element of variety, the opportunity to serve these meals to guests and to expose my toddler to a variety of foods and flavors.

Save Money

I was able to create one master shopping list and buy many of the items in bulk. I bought all the meat at once and am freezing it until needed. I also tried to find a couple recipes that used similar fresh herbs and things like that so that I wouldn’t waste those ingredients. This allowed me to purchase some items in bulk from Costco without feeling like I would never get through them.

Save Time

Some of the recipes that I chose can be cooked ahead and frozen. So I can double up on a recipe and freeze a batch for later in the month. True, I could be doing this ANY OTHER TIME, but I don’t. For some reason, I need a “plan” to help me do this. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who could use a new way of thinking about some obvious things ;)

Flexibility

Things come up. Plans change. I get it. Cooking each of 5 meals 4 times throughout the month assumes there will be leftovers and assumes there will be nights when things change at the last-minute. I’m saving my breakfast for dinner and easy things like Chicken and Orzo Skillet Dinner for such occasions. Or our favorite takeout options.


What am I making?

I have chosen the following 5 recipes for January. I wish that I had pulled in a fish recipe, but otherwise I feel good about the balance of meat and plant-based meals. You can also follow along this year on my Pinterest board, if you’re interested.

Roman-Style Chicken (Giada, Food Network)

Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas (Cookie and Kate)

Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet (Belly Full)

Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole (Oh My Veggies)

Chipotle Port with Pineapple Slaw (Primally Inspired) - we made these into tacos


What do you think about this approach to dinners? Is this something that you’d consider trying? What are your barriers to dinner in this season of life?