Since I finished that last post, I’ve thought of a few additional things that I should have added. I apologize if I’ve said some of this before – I think maybe I’ve talked about it briefly on some of my Instagram counter photos, but Leslie’s comment about cooking dinner with three little kids underfoot made me think of it again.
I’ve talked a lot about menu planning and shopping with a list, and you can read that here if you missed it and are interested. If you’re not interested, I completely understand. Grocery lists are not that riveting. Unless you are our friend, and you write a book about them, and you get to appear on The Jimmy Kimmel Show to promote it. Otherwise, sort of a snore.
Knowing what we’re going to have for dinner and having the ingredients on hand is half the battle. I have a really hard time tossing make-at-home dinner plans to pick up takeout, even when I find myself tired and hungry at the end of the day – and sometimes at the end of a hard gym class or a long run. It’s not the easiest thing to walk in the door at 6:30 or 7:00 and start the process of making dinner from scratch. This is what helps me stay motivated, and on track.
1. My husband cooks dinner as well, but he does the afternoon kid shift, so he’s often doing pickups and shuttling around to activities, which means about 60% of the time I’m on deck for dinner. We typically email or text each other at some point in the day about dinner plans, and if there is a long lead item in the mix (like roasting vegetables or hard-boiling eggs), he’ll get some of that prep done before I get home. He used to do the majority of the cooking, but I’ve really grown to love it, and find it calming at the end of the day.
2. I walk in the door, take off my shoes, wash my hands, and immediately start pulling ingredients out of the fridge. If I stop to read the mail, or change clothes, or sit down – even for five minutes – I lose all motivation and suddenly feel like I might starve to death that instant. If I get all of the ingredients out, within two minutes I’m in the groove, and even if dinner takes another forty-five minutes, it doesn’t bother me.
3. Sometimes I have a drink while I’m cooking. It can make the task feel like a more pleasurable one – like I’m doing this for fun, and I’ve come to regard it as just that.
4. Ingredients out, produce washed, big strainer in the sink, ready to go. I do all the prep on my 15″ wide countertop between my range and my sink. It’s tiny. I chop vegetables and swipe the scraps directly into the strainer in the sink. I put everything into glass bowls and ramekins, and most nights they fill the countertop and my cutting board when I’m done. I carry the strainer with the scraps to the trashcan, open up the dishwasher (that I’ve emptied over breakfast), snap a photo of the ingredients to keep track of what I’m making, and get started.
5. I fill the dishwasher as I go, and I try to keep things clean as I’m cooking. Some nights I’m still a disaster, but I’ve improved over time. I set timers for everything, just in case I get distracted. I call for help when I need it, and for the table to be set. If there’s a lull in the action, I wash and slice fresh fruit, which we pass around the table each night.
6. The house starts smelling really good, and dinner is ready. We crowd four people around a table for three, and practice our manners (and our patience). Some nights it’s just a mess, most nights it’s okay. Some nights it’s perfect, like the best sort of family dinner you could imagine. Everyone clears their spot except for the little one. She feigns exhaustion at the slightest hint of a chore.
7. We never leave the kitchen without completely cleaning up, and packaging up leftovers for lunch tomorrow. (I love leftovers.) Most nights M and I do that together, while the girls move into their bedtime routines. Sometimes one of us accompanies them when meltdowns seem close at hand. I love the feeling of a clean kitchen at the end of the day. Turning out the light and climbing the stairs to the bedrooms above is one of my favorite things about our days. It’s nothing and everything all at once.
Glamour shot of the inside of my refrigerator, with all my leftovers lined up in a row. We also have a lot of cheese sticks this week. And a lot of cheese in general!