What to Do When You're Too Tired to Cook

Everyday Cheapskate


June 2023 Issue
Everyday Cheapskate by Mary Hunt

If money is leaking out of your household and you aren't quite sure where it's going, I have an idea: fast food. Busy households mean tired parents, and that can easily result in getting takeout two or three times a week. Does anything here sound familiar?

The last thing you need is for someone to tell you to get a grip and plan ahead! So I won't. Instead, I'm going to tell you what worked for me when I was in somewhat your situation (two boys 17 months apart, self-employed, debt-ridden) and a few things I've learned since.

Come up with five simple menus you know your family will eat, one for each night of the week. These don't have to be gourmet or anything fancy at all. Example: Monday: Spaghetti, salad and bread. Tuesday: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, green beans, and so on.

Ask your spouse to handle one weekend dinner and give it a name like Daddy's Delicious Dinner, or let the kids give it a title. That leaves one family fun night or some other reason to order in pizza.

Post your weekly menu on the refrigerator. Now everyone knows what to expect, including you. This will simplify your grocery shopping, too. As the children get older and you get more courageous, you can expand your repertoire, but for now stick to the five-menu rotation.

Once you have your base menu, as you are able and have sufficient ingredients, double the recipe. Example: Meatloaf. (By the way, I have the world's best meatloaf recipe for you at EverydayCheapskate.com/meatloaf. Seriously, even the biggest meatloaf hater will beg for seconds, it's that good.) It takes the same amount of time and effort to double the recipe to make two. Bake one for tonight's dinner, freeze the second for next week. See where I'm going here? Time off for the cook.

I know you're going to think this is nutty, but it really works. Set the dinner table for the next day before you go to bed at night. I learned this from Emilie Barnes, author of "More Hours in My Day" (Harvest House). Waking up to a nicely set table sends a silent message that dinner is important; we eat around a table, not in front of the TV. And it will help you to start thinking about dinner long before you run out of steam. Hint: Even a 5-year old can learn to set a table, so delegate.

Thank you, Marla Cilley, author of "Sink Reflections" (Bantam), flylady.net. Before you go to bed, clear out the sink of everything (either wash the dishes or load them in the dishwasher), scrub, rinse well and then shine it with a towel. Five minutes to a new attitude. There really is something magical about waking up in the morning to an empty, clean and shining sink no matter what condition the rest of the house is in.

Surely, there's no more difficult job in the entire world than parenting young children—and nothing more rewarding. Make dinnertime an anchor in your day now while your kids are young, and the tradition will come back to bless you as they get older. Even though they'll never tell you, dinnertime will become something they know they can count on in an otherwise uncertain world. Enjoy these precious days, and take it from me: It gets easier!

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living. ©2023 CREATORS.COM

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