If there is one thing in my recovery I am proud of, it is that I cook dinner. There is a dinner at home every night available around 5:30.
I thought I’d share with you how I get this done, even when I am feeling pretty bad. Once again, this isn’t something you maybe can do at the very bottom of depression, but is something you could work up to.
I highly recommend a slow cooker or Crock Pot. They sell for only about $20 and I’ve seen them at garage sales for a lot less. Once you get cooking with it, you’ll wonder how you did it before. I don’t cook every night in the slow cooker, but there is a good feeling when you get up and load it. Then you know no matter bad you feel during the day, there will be a dinner waiting.
So once you have a slow cooker (ask around in your extended family if you can’t afford one…someone will probably give you their old one….), it’s time to menu plan. Take a look here. This is a good form to use or you can find your own.
This looks overwhelming, but once you’ve done it a few months it gets easier I promise. Just start listing meals in there. I list them in simple form like “hamburgers”, “pot roast”, etc. Mix up the nights so you have some Mexican food, some Italian, different kinds of meats, main salads. My family loves breakfast food for dinner, so we have that. List all of the meals YOU know how to make that are reasonably simple. When you are listing the meals, make sure to write underneath where to get the recipe. Did you print it out, is it on a website, from a recipe book? What page is it on?
Now you are not going to fill all of those squares up. I always leave all Sundays blank. Why? Because it seems like every week there is a night we don’t need a dinner for some reason. Maybe we are going out or my husband will be gone or whatever.
Once you fill in as many squares as possible, you’ll need some more recipes. Here is a great slow cooker blog. I also highly recommend slow cooker ideas on allrecipes.com. I print recipes off there all the time and add to my collection. They are also great for main salads for summer dinners. Also check the Pillsbury site.
So get your monthly squares filled up. Ask your kids and husband what they like.
Once your squares are full, look at the first week. Check what you have and write down your shopping list for the next six days. You don’t have to cook these in order, but have all six days worth of stuff on hand. ONLY GO TO THE STORE ONCE A WEEK! (I find the grocery store to be very difficult for people with emotional challenges.) If you can find someone to go for you or with you, this is even better. When you get home, freeze any meat you won’t use in the next two days.
So you get up on Monday and look at the choices. What do you feel like making? Do you feel like loading the slow cooker? Do you feel like cooking right before dinner time? Is there something your husband or kids could cook? Hamburgers, pancakes? Pick whichever one of those six dinners look good to you and get it ready. Maybe get help chopping things or whatever you need. Here is where you remember to KEEP YOUR DINNERS SIMPLE. This is not the Food Network. Do anything you can in the morning to make dinner easier that night. USE A SLOW COOKER LINER! These are available by the foil in your grocery. You simply lift it out and throw it away. No dirt on your slow cooker and no cleaning unless you want to give it a good rinse.
Keep an eye on future dinners and thaw meat as needed.
My dinners are not always perfectly balanced. But it is a dinner. I cheat a lot on side dishes. Canned vegies, frozen vegies, fresh vegies cooked in a steamer…all are good. Pre-made mashed potatoes or mac and cheese sold in a tub is good. My Costco even sells already cooked brown rice. Canned or fresh fruit can be dessert. I don’t make a lot of weeknight side salads. I have a dinner main dish salad about once a week. I hate cutting crap up.
Use your own judgment on paper or china plates. But if someone else is eating, have them help with dishes. Get the dishes cleaned up before you go to bed. We eat early…anywhere between 5 and 6 o’clock so I don’t get too tired.
Get into a routine with this planning. Do the next month’s menus around the 28th. Make that weekly list the same day each week and go shopping the next day. FREEZE any significant leftovers and label them with item and date. Have a leftover night a few times a month. Or give your leftovers to an elderly neighbor.
Here are a few simple dinners:
Roast: Put your slow cooker liner in. Add one bag baby carrots, some quartered potatoes (skins still on), and a roast on top. Add some water to onion soup mix and pour over. Cook all day on low.
Oatmeal: (My family loves this!) Use two cups steel cut oats and 4 cups water. Let it cook all day in the slow cooker. Get out leftover nuts, coconut, butterscotch morsels, blueberries…whatever you have. Let them make their own oatmeal mix when it is done. Get creative.
Chicken: Put the amount of boneless chicken you’ll need in the slow cooker. Pour cream of mushroom or chicken soup over it. (Mix the soup with water). Serve with a tub of the mashed potatoes. You can use frozen chicken if you like.
You will find an INCREDIBLE amount of slow cooker recipes. Did you know you can make lasagne and enchiladas in the slow cooker? An egg type omelet casserole?
And don’t forget the simple things you can do. Scrambled eggs and bacon?
Remember, this is not a food blog and these are probably not ideas for everyone. But it gives you a start.
This should all work if you are a couple or family. If you are single, give me some comments as to how you do it.
Remember to delegate. Get people to plan, shop, prep, cut etc. If you feel depressed, don’t do it all yourself.
I hope this helped a bit. Ask questions in the comments and I will answer. What are some of your favorite simple dinners?