I took a sick day this week. Because I was JUST so sick. Tonsils. But that’s not the point. The point is that I was home, alone, while Aaron was at work and Leo was at school, for the first time since I took a full-time job almost 4 months ago. It was a walk down memory lane: How lovely the house looks with afternoon sunlight streaming through the bay windows. And what a difference being at home makes to dinner. Even when I was working from home. Even this week when I was mostly just lying in bed feeling sick, I still had a fighting chance to produce a real meal. From scratch. Here’s why:
1. We had some ingredients, but no plan, so as I lay around feeling crummy, in the back of my mind I was thinking hmmm, rice noodles, ground turkey, cabbage. Hmm.
2. I was able to do a few minutes of prep here and there throughout the day, so I mixed up a quick turkey meatball mixture, and chilled it. Then balled the mixture and baked it later in the afternoon.
The result was Turkey and Chive Meatballs with rice noodles, stir-fried cabbage, and steamed broccoli stems and kohlrabi for the cabbage-denier amongst us.
I picked up Leo and felt relaxed. The house wasn’t a disaster. I wasn’t a day late and a dollar short on dinner. Sure, I felt like crap and didn’t have much energy, but Leo was glad to have my attention, and together, we enjoyed a quiet wind-down to the evening meal. Just like the good old days. Except then I was angsting about my career and sick of being home alone with my freelance woes every day.
Right, so what’s the take-away? Wondering what’s for dinner is a stressful time-suck. You just can’t make things up as you go when time is tight. Henceforth, I shall embrace the need for serious simplicity and structure in our weekday menus by implementing the following Big Plan:
Monday: Noodle Night (pasta, sauce, steamed veg)
Tuesday: Salad Night (crudités and hard-boiled egg for Leo, bread)
Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner Night (cold cereal for mommy! eggs/pancakes/waffles for everyone else)
Thursday: Sandwich Night (mozzarella, salami, roasted peppers, steamed veg or side salad)
Friday: Leftover or Take Out Night
Soon we’ll have a job wheel, underwear labeled with the days of the week and an automatic clock that wakes you up by brushing your teeth, reciting the weather and making coffee. Do they make those?
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.