{pulling back the curtain} What Becky Really Eats

If I am being honest I will tell you that dinner is my least favorite meal to make {and eat}.  And by least favorite, what I am nicely trying to say is “I hate making dinner.

 There, I have said it.

What I would rather make {and eat} is muffins or pie or cookies or donuts. Or how about, cakes and pop tarts and lots of sweet treats. My house is never lacking in snack options come mid morning, mid afternoon, or even late night.

I also have no problem with lunch time.  I make our own peanut butter and jam and sometimes bread. We are pretty big munchers at my house. Lots of grazing and snacking going on. So, I make hummusbaba ghanoush, and various types of salsa for snacking on throughout the day. There is always fresh fruit on the counter and in the fridge.

But, what I can’t get excited about making, is dinner.

One reason that I dislike dinner, and even dinner-time for that matter, is that I am tired and hungry and want to take a nap at 5pm, not motivate myself to make dinner for 3 other people. See, I am being honest.

The other reason that dinner is on my list of dislikes is because often the response from my family does not match the effort I exert.  My children often look at the vegetables steaming, or the stir fry simmering, and say, “what is THAT?”, or, “I don’t like that”.  While my tendencies lean more towards baking than meal making, I do still make a lot of good meals. But, if I wait until dinner time to come up with a meal plan for dinner, then it can quickly spiral into a bad scene.  I quickly loose motivation, everyone gets hungry, and I consider pulling out the chips and hummus and letting everyone fend for themselves.  So, you can see why I try really hard to plan ahead with meal ideas.

And this is how I do it:

  • At the beginning of the week {or every other week}, I try to pick out a bunch of meals that I think my family will enjoy and I try to choose meals that will make meal preparations as straight forward as possible, and fairly easy to prepare.
  • We all eat the same thing for dinner at our house. {I don’t make my kids a separate meal.}  So, I take into account what everyone likes, what I have handy, what is in season or on sale, and pull a bunch of recipes from my recipe binder. {See note: recipe binder, at bottom}
  • Then, I make a shopping list and ….ta-da. I am half done.
  • The other saving grace to all of this “planning ahead” stuff is that I write down the recipe names on a white board in our kitchen.  Sometime I even cite the magazine or website the recipe was from, if I haven’t printed it out.
  • I just have to look up at the white board and pick out one of the meals listed. Then get the recipe and ingredients together.
  • I pull dinner together while my kids play outside, watch a show, or help me in the kitchen.

But, there are nights when I am not motivated, or we are running late, or I am just out of ideas.  For those nights we either go out to eat, or we have “Topsy Turvey” dinner.

We have many variations of Topsy Turvey dinner at our house.  The first, and most common, is that we all go to the store together around dinner time and each person picks out one item.  Whatever they want, but it can’t be a dessert item.  Back at home, we combine all of our picks into a meal of sorts. It is fun to see what everyone comes back with and how it will shape into our dinner for the evening.  Here is a peak into a recent Topsy Turvey night at our house: my husband picked out Kielbasa, my daughter picked out assorted olives, my son picked out hummus, and I picked out a huge loaf of bread.  Not only did everyone get one thing they really wanted, but it was fun to try to combine the things and make them into a meal.  We ended up eating our items in an appetizer style.  Everyone piled their plates up with the items and happily munched.

I will let you in on another secret. Our other version of Topsy Turvey night is dessert for dinner.  Yes, yes, it is true. I let my kids have dessert FOR dinner once in a while. Not just before dinner. But in place of dinner.  One time we went out for ice cream, another time we made brownie sundaes at home, and another time we just at the ice cream first and had sandwiches later.  My kids go absolutely nuts when we do this, and honestly, who wouldn’t?  It is fun.  All of the variations of Topsy Turvey have become a fun way that we mix up dinner time, and have a good time together as a family.

So there you have it, my secrets for surviving my least favorite meal.  

MY LIFE LESSON: Although I would love to make all of our food from scratch, I realized that there are days and weeks when that is not possible for me.  Even when I try my hardest I still can’t make it happen all of the time.  And I decided that is ok.  So, my ideal has been tempered by the reality of what I can handle, and I have come up with a balance I am happy with.  There are home-cooked meals as well as meals from local restaurants.  There is food picked from neighboring farms as well as purchased from grocery stores. There are packaged cereals and homemade pancakes. There are savory meals and sweet ones. And there is fun and laughter and sometimes even eye rolls.  Its all a part of how my family eats.

***********************************************

MENU PLANNING TIP: RECIPE BINDER

If you use cookbooks and written recipes when cooking:

When on a blog and you see a recipe you like, print it out right away.  If you are flipping through a magazine and get hungry looking at the food photos, tear that recipe out (ok, only if it is YOUR magazine).  Then, go to an office supply store and buy some sheet protectors and a three ring binder. Place your newly found recipe in a sheet protector (so you don’t ruin it with your ingredient laden hands while cooking), and put it in your new pretty binder. Also makes a great gift idea for a friend or family member.

If you use a computer, iPad, phone, etc. when cooking:

 Similar to above, but compile a bookmarked list of favorite recipes from your favorite blogs and recipe sites.  Use this list as your go-to source for dinner planning each week.

Now, when it is time to come up with a handful of dinner ideas, you can flip through your recipe binder, or list, and have recipe options that you actually like the sound of. Soon you will have a whole collection, and the recipes will all be at your fingertips, making it even easier for you to make a from-scratch meal for your family.

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Categories: How You Do It, Kitchen Basics, Menu Planning

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18 Comments on “{pulling back the curtain} What Becky Really Eats”

  1. September 4, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Yes to the binder! I have a 2″ binder filled with great recipes from magazines and the internet. I’ve enjoyed this series, thank you.

    • September 4, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      I love the binder too, Julia! I use mine constantly!! Glad you are enjoying this series…there are more “pulling back the curtain” posts to come….stay tuned!

  2. September 4, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Can I be a kid at your house? Topsy-Turvy dinners and dessert dinners sound AWESOME… I know your kids are going to look back as adults and remember those moments fondly.

    • September 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      awww, thanks Deanna.

  3. September 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Nothing wrong for dessert as dinner!

    • September 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

      seriously. i fully agree. for my bday, I was like “ok, lets not fool around here. Lets just eat ice cream and skip the dinner.”

  4. Kim F
    September 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    How old were your kids when you started doing Topsy Turvy dinner? I wonder how this would work for a 4 year old

    • September 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Kim, my kids are 7 and 4 right now. We have been doing it for 2 yrs…

  5. September 4, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Totally stealing that Topsy Turvey dinner thing! And I’m so glad I’m not alone with the effort to make dinner IS NOT equal to the enthusiasm of the family thing, even if they do end up loving it, the grumpiness and static make it unpleasant to have to go through!

    • September 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

      awesome. hope you have as much fun with it as we do at my house!!

  6. Heather F.
    September 4, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    This is why I love Becky!

  7. September 5, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    A little tweak on the recipe binder idea… I have become a HUGE fan of Evernote. If I see a recipe on a site that I like (foodwishes.com has become a personal favorite of late) I hit my Evernote button, and it goes into my recipe notebook.

    What makes it even cooler is that I can share my recipes notebook with people who want it (and they can even add stuff in)… AND if I see something in a magazine, I can scan it in and the scanned pdf is searchable!

    If you can’t tell, I am a fan… and NO, they did not pay me to type this.

    • September 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      Matt…i love your response. I am so very UN techie (which you knew) but i really love your idea of using Evernote!! I use it once in a while but always forget about it. Thanks for all the info of how you use it and even the idea of scanning a recipe from a magazine and making it a pdf that is searchable!!! love love love it.

  8. Annie Barnett
    September 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    I love the Topsy Turvey dinner, I love the whiteboard and the planning in moderation, cooking from scratch as able, without the pressure. You rock, Becky. xoxo

  9. Barb Schiro
    September 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Dessert for Dinner is such fun…but I’ve never done it. Too traditional, need my protien and green vegetables first. Boy, would I like to be a kid growing up in your household. Good job Becky.

  10. September 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    This is a great site, Becky, and I really enjoyed your article and your honesty about not liking to make dinner….and your solutions to that “problem”. I have recipes from Foodnetwork that I’ve copied. They would easily fill a 4 inch binder. Anyway, thank you.
    I would like to come back here and get some ideas and just be encouraged around food preparation and eating.

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