Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Help! What Will I Fix For Dinner?

The subject of dinner can be overwhelming. Sure, you know that meal planning eliminates the daily panic of what to put on the table, and it’s a great way to control the food budget. But planning a menu that is nutritious, varied, family-friendly and easy-to-make can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, there are solutions – and they don’t include fast food!

Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely is a book of weekly menus that is organized by seasons. The menus capitalize on in-season produce and offer a variety of delicious meals. The shopping lists that accompany each weekly menu streamline shopping. Most meals can be prepared in about 30 minutes. One of Leanne Ely’s strategies for quick meal preparation is to use very simple side dishes: lettuce salads, steamed or braised vegetables. The easy-to-follow menus are great for the beginner and seasoned cook. The Saving Dinner series also include Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way and Saving Dinner for the Holidays. Want more variety? Leanne Ely’s website offers more than 12 types of menus. You can subscribe to a weekly menu mailer for more convenience. For about $30 a year you will be emailed weekly menus complete with shopping lists.

Another online option is “More Thyme” at “More Thyme” offers yummy, family-friendly meals without grueling menu planning. The personal profile provides flexibility to accommodate the fussiest of eaters or the strictest dietary restrictions. The wide variety of recipes eliminates menu boredom. It’s easy to add your family’s favorite recipes to your collection so your menu can include your personal comfort favorites. The menus also include breakfast and lunch options plus a shopping list -- all for $52 a year.

Don’t cook at all? Check out the “Rush Hour Cook” website: It’s creator, Brook Noel, has called herself the “Queen of Incapable Cooking” so you know her recipes are super easy. A monthly email brings you four weekly menu plans complete with shopping lists for $24 a year. You will need to add your own side dishes to the plan. Brook Noel’s menu subscription is an extension of her book The Rush Hour Cook’s Weekly Wonders Cookbook that lays out 19 weekly menus with their shopping lists.

If regular indecisiveness over the dinner menu overwhelms you, then these tools can simplify your life immensely. Life is hectic. Provide balance by taking the time to slow down, relax and refuel. Dinnertime is a natural opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and connect as a family: to nourish the body with wholesome food, and nourish the spirit with togetherness. And you can make it happen – with just a little planning!
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