I read in a magazine a couple of years ago that the average American family only ate around the table once or twice a week. I was totally shocked by those numbers. Who were these people? I was not sure I knew very many of them, and I wondered how they could even afford to eat out almost every night. I was cooking every night it seemed, and probably felt exactly the opposite of this “average American family” which was when was I going to get a break from cooking! I am sure there are people who live in a financial realm where dinner out every night is of no monetary consequence. However, I think that God has blessed us with a certain amount of money to live within the boundaries of, not outside of. I realized over time that my temptation was to eat out more often when I could not see a break in my cooking routine. When there was no relief in sight, I would want to go outside those budget boundaries. So, over the course of time, I came up with this schedule to keep me on track. It helps me to get two dinner breaks a week and keeps us on budget every time.
Monday is just a regular dinner night. I make the usual stuff or family favorites such as spaghetti, hamburger steak, casseroles, etc.
One day a week I like to try a new recipe. I get a couple of cooking magazines, and always have recipes I have torn out to try. I make the recipe and only if it gets high marks all around the table is it a “keeper” recipe. It goes in the recycling pile if only one or two liked it or if it was just “okay”. There will always be more recipes to try.
Wednesday-Easy and/or quick dinner
This is the night that I try to make something quick if the kids have activities or if there is an evening school activity, etc. It is also hump day so I might start to feel a little burned out on the dinner routine and want something quick. These are the days I love to put something in the crockpot in the morning so dinner is ready in the evening. Some other ideas would be frozen deli pizzas and pre-bagged salads, chili dogs and waffle fries, or a freezer meal.
Make any kind of meal your family likes.
Friday-Eat out night
This is the night that we eat out. We grab some fast food or order a pizza or go to a restaurant, and I get a break. TGIF
Saturday-Hard and/or time-consuming dinner
Saturday is the day I have more time to make a nice dinner. Carl is usually home to take care of the kids if I need to do extra meal preparation. This is the night I might make chicken spaghetti, because I have to stew the chicken, debone it, and then shred the chicken. I might make enchiladas, because I have to fry each corn tortilla separately before putting the filling in it. You get the idea. On Saturday I am not having to bother with homework and after school activities. And if I don’t feel up to a big dinner, I will just make a regular one this day as well.
Ah, Sunday leftovers. One of my favorite days. The bible says in Exodus 35:3 “Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” As a Christian, I know we are set free from the law, but I also know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He wants us to observe the Sabbath and to rest. I actually love the idea of resting one day a week. So for lunch and dinner, I pull out all of the leftovers from the week and put them on the counter. Everyone is free to pick and choose what they want. Most of the time, everyone gets their favorites. This serves several purposes for me. I don’t have to cook on Sunday. The fridge gets cleaned out every week. There are no hand dishes (pots, pans, etc.) to wash. We save money, because we usually eat most of the leftovers with very little going to waste. If the average family has $20 worth of food in the fridge by the end of the week and doesn’t eat any of it, they might as well have taken a $20 bill out of their wallet and thrown it in the trash. There is no difference.
Every schedule has to have some flexibility. Some weeks I don’t make any new recipes. Some weeks I don’t make any time-consuming meals. If my busy day is going to fall on a Monday one week and Wednesday the next week, those will be my easy meal nights. I will make dinner on Sunday if there aren’t enough leftovers to feed all of us that week or if we have company. It is a schedule that works for me. I have home cooked meals for my kids the majority of nights with a couple of breaks sprinkled here and there, and we stay on budget. And according to what numerous studies say, kids who eat dinner around the table are less likely to be obese, do better in school, make better grades, have less incidence of teen pregnancy, have less incidence of drug use, and are more emotionally well balanced. Those are the kinds of statistics I like, and the kind of statistics that can make the drudgery of cooking worthwhile.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9