“If we were taught to cook as we are taught to walk, encouraged first to feel for pebbles with our toes, then to wobble forward and fall, then had our hands firmly tugged on so we would try again, we would learn that being good at it relies on something deeply rooted, akin to walking, to get good at which we need only guidance, senses, and a little faith. We aren’t often taught to cook like that, so when we watch people cook naturally, in what looks like an agreement between cook and cooked, we think that they were born with an ability to simply know that an egg is done, that the fish needs flipping, and that the soup needs salt. Instinct, whether on the ground or in the kitchen, is not a destination but a path.” ~Tamar Adler

gettingdinneronthetable

I guess I should start with a confession—we had Sonic for dinner last night.  It was overall a bad decision and a bad experience, exacerbated by the fact that we waited 22 minutes for it.  I know, because the particular Sonic near our house is just about as SLOW AS MOLASSES so I’ve learned to elevate my stress level by watching the clock.  Last time we went through for fruity drinks I told my girls to enjoy them because we we were NEVER going back.  You see how that worked out for me.  When Sonic used to have skaters bring your food, you would be forgiving of the tardiness because well, someone is bringing your food to you ON SKATES.  Apparently, you can either bring bad food to me fast or on skates and I won’t complain.  There were no skates at this Sonic and the wait and food were equally bad.  Sonic used to seem like fun to me but something about turning 40 and needing to properly digest food interfered with all that.  Also, fast food should be fast.

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I’m really not a food snob and we eat out some, but we often regret it, either then or sometime that night.   I ADORE good food.  I hoard chicken stock and other things in my pantry and I cook a lot.  After 25 years or so of trying to feed myself and my people, I’ve learned a valuable secret to getting dinner on the table most nights.  And when I fail to take my own advice, I end in a state of hangry (hungry+angry) at somewhere like Sonic.

And here’s the kicker—it wasn’t because I wasn’t prepared to make dinner last night.  That’s the saddest part.  I had my menu planned and I had ALL the ingredients sitting on the counter most of the day. But I kept putting off starting it.  I procrastinated it 47 times until there were no more times left to procrastinate it.

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So, here’s my secret for getting dinner on the table—DO IT EARLY IN THE DAY.

Now, stay with me, because you’re going to tell me you don’t have time to make dinner in the mornings.  My gentle reply is you don’t have time not to.  When I worked, I almost always got dinner started (or finished) before I left for work OR we ended up eating out.  It’s so daunting to think about starting dinner at 5’oclock with hungry short people pawing at you.   And the truth is? I actually find the temptation to procrastinate worse since I stay home most days.  I keep thinking I can do it anytime, but if I don’t do it in the mornings, the chances are high that it won’t get done.

You also have the added benefit of getting a lot of the initial mess cleaned up and out of the way and I’m much more likely to be enthusiastic about doing dishes at 7 or 8 in the morning than at 8 at night.  And do you know how much momentum it gives you for the rest of the day to know you have dinner started or even done before you leave home for the day.  SO MUCH!! You’re a hero.  You’re super woman. No matter what else happens throughout the day, you can whisper to yourself, well at least I have dinner figured out.  I would venture to say that it doubles my productivity during the day if I get dinner going early.  It’s a quick win, which usually leads to other wins.  It makes you feel so responsible and grown up and capable.

Here’s how it works for me……

  • Slow Cooked Meats—  My general plan of action is to season and brown the meat (this could be chicken breast, pork chops, beef roast, pork loin, beef stew meat, chicken thighs, etc) in oil in a dutch oven.  I almost always add 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s. It’s great on all meats.  When they’re brown, I sometimes add a few onions or some stock, but usually I just layer the meat and then cook it covered all day (at least 5 hours)  at 250 degrees.  If you’re going to cook it longer than that and it doesn’t have much fat, you’ll need to add stock to it or it will dry out.   Almost any meat will be delicious by the end of the day and then you can do whatever you want with it—add it to soup or pasta or tacos OR you could serve it with potatoes or rice or veggies.  We did this earlier in the week with a huge family pack of pork chops that were on sale.  We ate them that night with cooked apples (which I also precooked before I left for my afternoon errands).  I do this ALL THE TIME.  Even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do with the meat, you’d be surprised how wonderful it is to come home to the smell of slow roasting meat.
  • Crock Pot Cooking—I do the same thing as I mention above and then put the meat in the crock pot.  Add stock and veggies and you have dinner when you get home.  Add a jar of salsa and you have tex mex.  Add mushrooms and wine and you have a French-inpsired dinner.  Just be creative.  Dinner is not to be feared.  Food is your friend.
  • Soups—Do you want me to launch into full abandon with my love for soups, because I can and I will.  Almost EVERY soup I can think of can be made in the morning and then reheated.  It’ll taste way better if you make it in the morning.  I have a plethora of soups at your disposal so try them all out.  Just today, I made soup from those pork chops that I slow cooked earlier this week.  I chopped up the meat and added it to my Pumpkin Chipotle soup, that technically is supposed to have chicken in it.  But nobody’s watching to see if you put the right meat in so use what you have!
  • Pizza—oh, how I love homemade pizza night!! Get the dough started early in the day and let everyone make their own supper.  It’s magic!  Use my no fail pizza crust recipe and there’s dinner once a week.
  • Weekend cooking—I like to do this same precooking thing on Fridays so we go into the weekend with goodies.  And I almost never cook on Sundays because we go out after church and eat leftovers or pizza.  Cooking on Friday morning is my ace in the hole.  Today, I’m making this soup, pizza bianca, and Elea’s making these cookies.  It’s a way to go into the weekend!

And what if you did a slow cooked meat on Monday, a crock pot recipe on Tuesday, leftovers on Wednesday, a soup of Thursday, and then pizza on Friday.  There’s you easy peasy meal plan!  I have a techy version of my meal plan that you might enjoy too, but sometimes I think we can overcomplicate it. Use whatever works for you but the game changer for me was when I started making supper at breakfast.

I know that not everything can be cooked ahead of time but SO MANY THINGS can.   I hope this helps you get supper on the table and saves you from being hangry at Sonic.

Mwahhhhhh!

p.s. I’d love to know your favorite trick, too!

 

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50 comments on “My Best Trick to Getting Dinner on the Table”

    • The slow cooker saved my life during pregnancy. EVEN BETTER- buying a ton of meat, throwing together all of the ingredients for a crock meal with the (already prepped) meat and freezing it. All I had to do was remember to thaw and toss the whole bag in the crock pot:)

  1. My crockpot is my best friend! It makes my entire day less stressful knowing dinner is ready when I get home. And only one pot to wash up 🙂 Your honey garlic pizza has become a family (and beyond) favorite too. I make my dough in batches on the weekend and freeze it. Take one out in the morning and it is ready to go when I get home.

  2. hands down the best advice for getting dinner on the table! i have made quite a few of your soups, and they are favorites around here. thank you so much for sharing them. also, your new hair cut…..LOVE. makes me want to chop mine all off!

  3. Hungry + angry! Exactly! I just read most of your post to my hubby and asked, “Does this sound familiar?” He agrees. Planning ahead, and then following the plan works for us, too. And, when we fail to stick to it…well…we end up eating out. Often that leaves us unhappy & uncomfortable, with a large hole in our budget.

    I’m SO gonna try your all day slow cooked meats. We don’t own a crock pot, but we do have a pressure cooker…I’m just usually not happy with the watery results when it comes to most meats.

    Thanks edie – even grandma’s can learn from you. Several of your posts lately have given me ideas and insights. Enjoy ’em a bunch

  4. Love this! We had take out WAY too much last week because I was under-prepared and stressed. I felt guilty spending all that money on food that was mediocre at best and not even slightly healthy for my family. I need to stock up on some chicken breasts to cook in my crock pot and go ahead and start my rice cooker in the morning too!

  5. Just opening the freezer/refrigerator/pantry in the morning and knowing what I’ll be having for dinner always eases the stress for me. (I have never stuck with menu planning, though I would love to create that habit.) I do love the crock pot, too.

  6. YES!!! I am a homeschooling mama to six, the youngest being an infant. This fall my goal has been to prep supper as soon as I clean up lunch. It has been the best decision ever! Just like you I had been procrastinating it all day. Another thing that saves me angst–I have four menus each two weeks in length. I carefully go through each recipe and type the grocery list up on my computer and SAVE it. When I am shopping for “Menu One” I just go hit print and I am good to go–all the meals in that menu will be covered! It took me a lot of time to set this all up, but it has been so very worth it.

  7. Twenty – two minutes —- Never -ever!!
    This is so timely…. only a few hours ago I was thinking that a Sonic Supper would be a great idea today — just for a change – but really didn’t give it a second thought because my pantry and freezer are just as full as yours.
    I wasn’t a Girl Scout – but ‘be prepared’ is a great motto for any cook.

  8. You’re totally right! Thanks for the tips.

    When I don’t feel like cooking or am tempted to go out (which we usually regret, too), I just make pancakes. I figure if I’m willing to eat unhealthily and spend money doing it, I might as well stay home, save money and eat some delicious homemade pancakes. My kids love it.

  9. Oh, I totally agree! It is great to know that dinner is at least halfway done-frees the day up and allows me to work with a clear mind, or something! Here are some things I’ve been trying as I go from being and working mostly at home to working almost fulltime.
    When I make freezer friendly foods like chili or meat sauce and even some casseroles (and your quiche!) I make at least a double batch and freeze it. There’s something so nice about just knowing most of the work is done and you just have to add pasta, or cornbread, or whatever! I do the same with carnita meat and pulled pork for bbq’s. Unbaked casseroles are nice to have-I line my 9×13 with foil then when it is frozen solid I can remove the pan, taking up less freezer space. This is also good to have on hand for giving away. I am trying out Ruth’s (Living Well Spending Less) method for freezer meals-nice to have the meat marinated and ready to cook! But I also give myself permission to order pizza or drive thru once in awhile-everybody needs a pressure release valve. Bummer yours was such a bad experience!

  10. First, your haircut is awesome! Second, your Greek Lemon Chicken Soup is one of my favorites and I have thought (drooled) about it all summer long. Not that I can’t make soup in the summer, but I don’t usually. Thanks for sharing this secret….feel free to share any secrets you have, because you are an e-mentor to me! My only trick is to make brown rice in the microwave ahead of time and chill it, then it is easy to chop veggies ahead and make a quick fried rice for dinner. Also, if really pressed for time, scrambled egg sandwiches on yummy bread, with baked-ahead bacon, tomato and arugula is never a bad idea. I love my crock-pot too!

  11. It’s a great tip I mostly implement and when I don’t, we eat out. So I really like this plan. The only thing I’d add is, I stopped asking what people (my husband) want to eat. Now, I’m not stewing all the time wondering what he wants. It speeds up the process for me!

  12. Great post Edie, thanks!! Coming home to a clean house with savory meat cooking slowly is DEFINITELY a favorite habit here. Love it.
    Something else I do it keep a big, crunchy, veggie filled salad in the fridge at all times so we always have that ready, plus a bowl of hard boiled eggs. Just in case.
    And my husband likes to hear in the morning what we’re eating that night (he’ll set his appetite) so that motivates me to be ready. Haha
    Love to you ma’am!! So excited for your soup cookbook.

  13. When I got to Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute I couldn’t stop smiling. I think I have 4 jars! I try to plan the week’s meal every Saturday morning and then shop for all the ingredients and go out to the local organic form and buy our week’s produce. I use the Cozi Gold app for menu planning and shopping. It shows the night’s dinner too. I love it and it helps tremendously.

    I too have my days–like tonight when my husband called Round Table because I’m just too tired.

    Thanks for your soups! I’ve made two of them and my family has gone bonkers (with love, of course!).

  14. I’m not a fan of fast food- I always regret it. I am a fan of your recipes, however, and have tried a few since we met. I agree that coming home to the smell of slow cooking is amazing, and your pot roast has my heart. Have a good weekend and see you this summer!!!

  15. We must not allow the average American worker to educationally decline to such a degree that even incentives of low taxes and lack of union protection prevents foreign investment. This story, of Toyota deciding to open a factory in Ontario instead of southern US, is a foreshadowing of whats to come. By 1826, after a number of attempts to fix it,UL 1990, an attempt was made to move it to a safer location. Unfortunately, they commissioned a man who specialized in moving frescos to move The Last Su

  16. Edie, I love the slow roasting idea! That’s how my mom used to fix meat and I haven’t thought about that for years. Definitely will try it soon since we have a freezer full of elk and deer from husband’s archery hunting! When we are hungry and there’s no dinner, we usually do Papa Murphy’s Delight pizza…the Mediterranean is my favorite! I I’ve just discovered your blog and am so enjoying reading past posts! I’m a Lutheran believer also. Thank you you for your authenticity.

  17. Well, it’s official; I now know we were seperated at birth! “Hangry”…gotta love it! Sonic, been there…done that. Procrastinated to the nth…..done that, too. I usually make double whatever we have for dinner and put one in the freezer. I love being able to walk to the freezer and pull out the main dish…it’s easy to fill in the gaps. I, too, am a “soupaholic”. Thanks, for the inspiration!

  18. I’m new to your blog and trying to learn to cook. You have such great ideas! When you say to layer your meat what does that mean? I like the idea of slow heat because getting the meat texture right has been a problem for me. Thank you.

    • Well, when I’m slow cooking meat, I always buy a big family size pack so it won’t all fit in one layer in the pan. I just arrange them on top of each other in layers! Good luck in the kitchen, Jennifer!

  19. Edie, you are so awesome to share all your recipes with us! I just pulled two loaves of your Choc. Chip Pumpkin Bread out of the oven and lauws uh mercy! They smell so good and rose so nice! Can’t wait to try them. I know you love to bake so I thought I’d share a real easy recipe I saw on FB. If you love pecan pie you’ll love these Pecan Pie Muffins. 1C packed lgt. brn. sugar. 1/2C All Purpose Flour. 2C chopped pecans. 2/3C softened butter. 2 eggs, beaten. 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Spray muffin pans generously with Bakers Joy. In med. bowl stir together brown sugar, flour and pecans. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and eggs together. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups. (I use the mini muffin pans) Fill 2/3 full. Bake for 12-13 min. for mini’s or 15-17 for regular size muffins. If you sprayed them well they will just fall out of the pan. Delish! Enjoy 🙂 Have a great weekend! ~Cindy

  20. Love your Hair !! Can’t wait to see you my friend ! I’m a Crock-Pot gal. With our crazy schedule its the only thing that helps. Last night at 10:00 pm, I put Beef-Stew in Crock for David tonight. He’ll be a happy man !!! P.S. Have left over Chocolate Chip, Pumpkin Muffins call me !! My guys would love, love it !! Love you

  21. Edie…pretend I’m standing beside you. Now smack, smack! That’s me making you settle down! You look gorgeous! I love the haircut. Now keep in mind the last time I went short short I looked like a Bay City Roller. You know… ROCK in the USA? So I know the anxiety a haircut can bring about. I think you should go back and have it styled again. Find out what products were used. Leave feeling like you have a grip on how to get it styled that way again. Then, OWN it! You seem like a pretty self confident woman. I think sassy describes your haircut. Own it, babe!

  22. Such a helpful topic— I have three children (11,8,2) and just went back to work full-time (on-site) for the first time in 10 years. We hit a new all time low this week when I fed my kids dinner in a Target. Already printed out the potato soup recipe – have the ingredients on hand (thanks to your stock the pantry tips). Keep ’em coming! Us less experienced Mama’s get to benefit from your willingness to share your tricks of the trade.

  23. “It’s so daunting to think about starting dinner at 5′oclock with hungry short people pawing at you.”

    Bahahahaha!!! I can so relate. Except at my house it’s 5:30, with one hungry short person asking/hollering for a meal as a snack before his dinner, and one hungry as-tall-as-me preteen wanting to know how much junk food and soda he can have. YES, planning ahead helps, when I manage to do it. I’m only recently back in the world of working full-time, so dinner prep is a work in progress. Thank you for this post!

  24. Hi Edie, I really want to try your slow cooked meat recipe, but I’m a total cooking newbie and don’t even know what it means to brown your meat in a dutch oven. If you have time at some point, could you please go into a little more detail on that? I think I have a ‘dutch oven’ from pampered chef. Its the stoneware one. But I am clueless as to how to brown meat in it. Thank you!

  25. The sign of a great homemaker: ALWAYS thinking ahead! You are absolutely wise about starting your meal in the mornings. My mother, who worked full time, used to start a pot of dried beans either the night before or the morning of and let them simmer while she was getting ready for work. Now this was 40+ years ago! The decision here is to not be lazy about preparing a meal. And a trick we’ve started is placing all leftovers in serving size in ziploc bags so the next morning you can just grab whatever you want to take for lunch and heat it up on a plate at work, then toss the ziploc and not have to worry with the tuppermaid thingees. The leftovers last much longer because there’s almost no air and the food is already proportioned into servings. We’ve saved many times over what we’ve “wasted” in ziploc bag costs just because we’re not wasting food.

  26. Hi there, great post! Have a quick question about your “Slow Cook Meats” section. When you say “cook it covered all day (at least 5 hours) at 250 degrees” do you mean put it in a crock pot on low for 5 hours? I assumed you were referring to this but then the next bullet is about Crock Potting… Just wanted to clarify how you slow cook in case you do so using the regular oven or some other method. I’m am new to all of this but trying to learn! Thanks 🙂

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