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Taking the What Out of "What's For Dinner, Babe?"

    It's the age-old struggle for couples; the back and forth of the "what's for dinner?" question. Without a plan, this is a question that can tear relationships apart. Before Kilton and I started meal planning for dinner, the conversation almost always went like:

Kilton: "What's for dinner, babe?"
Me: "I don't know. What are you in the mood for?"
Kilton: "I dunno. What are YOU thinking?"
Me: "Well I don't know. We might have something in the freezer but it will take a while to thaw:
Kilton: "Let's just order pizza."
Me: ..."Hello, Domino's? I'd like to place an order."

     We were stuck in a dinner rut all the time, relying on pantry staples (more on this a little later), take out (which meant spending money) or Frankenstein-ing a meal together that was just meh. It also meant eating a lot of the same things over and over again, and the last minute planning often meant last minute and frequent trips to the grocery store.

     Frustrated by the last minute-ness of everything (ya girl is a Type A who is big on planning) and worried about the grocery budget, I decided that it would be smarter to just plan out dinners for Saturday-Friday, with grocery trips on Saturday mornings. I use the memo app in my phone to build the menu and shopping list, and we work to make the meals mesh wherever we can. Two weeks ago we got 4 out of 6 meal ground-beef based and was able to stretch 3lbs of ground beef, which was on sale. We often work with things we have on hand, such as chicken we bought in bulk one week, which could be used for meals the following couple of weeks. So, we don't always have to shop for each meal.
A sample menu/grocery list
    Of course, we have to add staples; milk, bread, eggs, etc. for other meals etc. Lunches are easy to make with staples on hand and Monday through Friday I do intermittent fasting so I don't really eat breakfast, and neither does Kilton. We save big breakfasts for weekends (you can pry my French Toast from my cold dead hands). This just takes the guesswork out of dinner plans. I now just have to worry about setting reminders to take things out of the freezer etc. but having the menu means I can set reminders to do so. Thank you Google Home. And sometimes we rotate on what we'll serve with it for veggies/starch but we at least have a meal foundation.We also have scheduled pizza night and each week, generally on a Bruins game night, and I've become pretty good at making pizza.
I mean, look at her!

     Having a well-stocked pantry and fridge is always important, as is taking advantage of sales for those items. Pasta is often on sale for $.88 a box and when it is, we stock up for the future. Pantry & fridge staples allow for flexibility with side dishes (or mains, sometimes!) and make recipes easier.

Here are the things we always try to have on hand:

-Pasta & pasta sauce
-Canned & frozen veggies
-Rice & rice-based sides
-Cans of tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, etc.
-Potatoes (they last a while!)
-Breadcrumbs; I realized I always seemed to need some for recipes, so they are in rotation (regular and panko)
-Milk
-Butter
-Eggs (so many eggs- I eat a lot of hard-boiled and I'm big with "put an egg on it!")
-Pre-minced garlic in a jar because who has time to chop garlic, and we use so much of it!
-Spices; if I did not have *real* Hungarian paprika stocked at all times, my dad would roll over in his grave

     I wold be remiss if I failed to mention that this menu planning thing has also been fun and since Kilton and I enjoy cooking together, it's another way for us to spend time together after our busy days. We don't cook every meal together, but when we do it's always a good time. He's good in the kitchen too, so it works.

    If planning a whole week out the gate seems daunting, start with a couple days, or for the weekend. But honestly, taking the guess work out of dinner is refreshing and helpful, not to mention good for your budget. If you do start, let me know! I'd love to see your menus!


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