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Sometimes It’s Best If You Schedule These Things.

Confession time: over the past year or so (maybe even eighteen months: I’ve lost track!), Jim and I have been in a rut. I never thought it would happen to us, but it did. We used to have plenty of time, and plenty of desire. In fact, on the nights when I didn’t feel like it, he took charge, and vice versa. As of late, our busy schedules and pure exhaustion at the end of the day turned the tides. When we least expected it, something we used to do almost every single day became an afterthought, a rarity.

Of course I’m talking about cooking dinner.

We used to have the ability to think about what we wanted for dinner in time to pull something out of the freezer or at least have a plan, but once we started letting our schedules get in the way of thinking ahead, it was all over. For the past twelve to eighteen months, we’ve held old standbys close: salad, pancakes, frozen pizza, fajitas, grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, and even omelettes. All of these dishes are super-easy to make and don’t require more than twenty minutes of thought and/or preparation. Occasionally on the weekends we’d prepare something a little more elaborate, but generally…we didn’t. Sometimes we’d just throw in the towel altogether and go out to dinner, which is great when you’re planning for it but it doesn’t feel really nice on the wallet when you’re doing it because you failed to make a better, more economical plan.

Things have turned around here recently, though. Due to an unfortunate circumstance brought on by the sucky economy, my sister is living with us for a while. I love having my sister around for many reasons, but one big one is that she has inspired this house right out of the no-cooking doldrums. She loves to cook, and when you add her specialties and sense of adventure with recipes to Jim’s and my repertoire, you get…FANTASTIC FOOD. A couple of weeks ago she and I made a four-week meal plan and posted the calendar on the refrigerator. Now we have a plan, we all know when we’re cooking, and grocery shopping is easier, more logical, and more reasonable since I’m not just tossing random items that “look good” into the cart.

Just in the past week, we’ve made Rachel’s migas recipe, grilled chicken salad, Pineapple Rum Chicken, taco bowls, Jambalaya (we now call it “Jimbalaya”, since it’s his specialty), baked tilapia with salsa fresca, and some outrageously delicious “21 Club burgers” (recipe from the NYC restaurant famous for selling the burgers for $30) topped with a “salad” of heirloom tomatoes and onions:

I can’t express how good they were. *wiping drool*

What I can tell you is, I haven’t had frozen pizza in a couple of weeks now, and I don’t miss it one bit.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • TheNextMartha September 20, 2011, 8:17 am

    Thank god this ended with a burger because when I started reading it? I was afraid to scroll.

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:54 am

      That’s what I was going for!

  • Liz September 20, 2011, 8:25 am

    Jules is MORE than welcome to come live with us or we could just, you know, share her. Dibs on Mondays and Wednesdays!!!

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:53 am

      I have a better idea: why don’t you come for a visit? 🙂

  • Sally September 20, 2011, 8:35 am

    I’ll bet Jules would love a nice trip to Cape Cod. It’s beautiful this time of year! If she wanted, she could bring along her cooking skills. They would be well used in our rutty kitchen. 🙂

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:53 am

      No! She’s staying here!

  • Shannon September 20, 2011, 8:43 am

    Well, sometimes you have to have a threesome to shake things up.

    No, but seriously, I have many nights where I fail to plan something for dinner, and it’s like, well, I guess it just didn’t occur to me that tonight would be one of those nights when we’d have to eat dinner.

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:53 am

      Okay, first sentence: gross.

      The rest of it? Hilarious. And so true.

  • Momo Fali September 20, 2011, 8:46 am

    I, sometimes, hate making dinner, but I love it when my family had “real” food to eat. Making a meal plan and shopping once a week has made things much easier on me.

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:52 am

      You totally sound like a commercial, Momo. I love it.

  • Mom24@4evermom September 20, 2011, 8:57 am

    Awesome! Good for you. I know when I meal plan and grocery shop, everything else just seems to go smoother. You’re right, it feels awful to spend the money to go out just because you don’t have a workable alternative. We usually end up getting something we don’t enjoy, spending more than we should, and it just feels wrong.

    So glad you were talking about meal planning! I was feeling very inadequate. 😉

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:52 am

      I know you’ve been meal planning for a long time. It’s so funny that it takes so much motivation to actually do it, but once you do you find out how easy it all is…

  • Colleen - Mommy Always Wins September 20, 2011, 9:41 am

    Yeah, I’ve been in a no-cooking stint myself. Broke it Sunday when I spent time making meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad & corn. Sounds lame now that I’ve written that out but MAN was it good! Looking forward to a cooking class I’m taking tonight for inspiration!

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:51 am

      That sounds delish! I hope you had a great time at your cooking class!

  • megryansmom September 20, 2011, 9:45 am

    Tony and I are in that same rut. Is your sister available to spice things up for us?

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:50 am

      No, she isn’t. 🙂

  • Patty @ A Day in My NYC September 20, 2011, 10:13 am

    I think you are on to something with that 4 week menu plan…I might just try that for October since I still have a few days. Everything sounds yummy! Enjoy 🙂

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:50 am

      You should definitely try it, Patty. It’s saving us so much time and effort, and once/week grocery shopping rocks.

  • Carrie B. September 20, 2011, 11:00 am

    I totallly knew you were talking about making dinner… ahem.
    And, I wish I had ‘said’ Shannon’s comment! 🙂

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:50 am

      Shannon was too quick on that one! and…GROSS.

  • Katie September 20, 2011, 11:12 am

    My boyfriend and I just moved in together a little over a month ago, and it was so bad the first couple of weeks that we didn’t have a plan. Now we made ourselves a cookbook, and bought a few more… and every weekend, we go through our recipes, and whatever veggies we have in the house that need to be used up, and we make a meal plan for the entire week.
    It’s worked out SO well so far, and I’ve tried so many recipes, already, that I’ve been meaning to make for ages!! (Check out the tandoori chicken that I posted on my blog earlier this morning!) 🙂

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:49 am

      I totally did, and that’s going in our October rotation. 🙂

  • Michelle September 20, 2011, 1:02 pm

    I knew EXACTLY where you were going with this one. As I’m sitting here realizing Mister Man has to be out the door with my husband at 5pm for Cub Scouts, and so … why should I make a REAL dinner. Ahem. Awesome for Jules – can she come over here one day soon, too? 🙂

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:44 am

      NO! haha

  • HouseofJules September 20, 2011, 6:05 pm

    I will be happy to cook for any of you… for a price. 😉

  • Grandma W September 20, 2011, 7:54 pm

    Good thinking Jules. I miss your cooking too, you can come here any time.


  • Hyacynth September 20, 2011, 9:39 pm

    You are going to post that burger recipe, right? … Right?!

    • HouseofJules September 21, 2011, 12:44 am

      …for a price.

    • Melisa September 22, 2011, 6:44 am

      Wasn’t planning on it, Hyacinth! But maybe I will afterall. Or maybe I’ll email it to you!

  • Heather September 22, 2011, 3:55 pm

    YUM! That burger looks awesome! Unfortch, I can’t really do “standbys” anymore like frozen pizza. I miss it. hahahah. Instead, I do salad as a standby- easy to make and quick for the nights that I get home super late and don’t feel like doing anything. I need to start really remembering that whole COOLER idea you had 😉

  • cookingwithkary October 26, 2011, 11:16 am

    Just ate home made chicken salad sandwich with avocado which I thought was tasty, but I am now craving a burger! Great job!