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August 19, 2019

Dinner Ideas for This Week | Organizing for Weeknight Meals

Family Dinner Season is back.  You know this is my favorite part of Back to School... besides getting back to work again : )   I'm embracing the back to routine enthusiasm that comes this time of year - easy meal plans, grocery lists, and simple weeknight table settings to create that evening magic of sitting down together.  

We actually do sit at this table for dinner most nights.  We don't really sit at the island for dinner, though it seems like an easy option, it is actually easier to talk when we're at the table.  So we are usually here, with real cloth napkins, and something pretty in the middle of the table.  I know, it seems like a big ta-do to put on every night, but when it is your routine, it really isn't.  I always have a pitcher of flowers, or a bowl of apples, or something simple sitting on the table that doesn't take a lot of maintenance.  And, well, I own a table linen company (wink), so we have enough cloth napkins to last us a month (or a year!) without laundering them too often.  Emma sets the table, I make the dinner and Mike gets home at about 6:30 and we all get to enjoy each others company for at least 30 minutes each day.  Though it might seem fancy, it really isn't.  It is casual and comfortable because we're so used to our routine.

We play little games to keep the conversation going, like Rose & Thorn, where we share about our day.  It was something I learned in college, but we called it Highs & Lows.  We go around the table and tell the best (The Roses) and worst (The Thorns) parts of our day.  I love it the most because we usually laugh so hard about the "Thorns," though they are what frustrated us most when it was happening.  They become a shared "look at what that crazy world threw at me today" moment that seems silly in the comfort of our little dining table.  

My original love for Family Dinner Inspiration Post here >

For recipes, I try to plan variety, leftovers for lunch the next day, a nutritious mix (not all Mac and Cheese and Pasta, though that's what I love), and things that can be made in around 30 minutes.  I've included my personal favorites below along with some essentials I keep in my kitchen to make it all easier.

I would love to know your weeknight meal strategies and family favorites.  We're all in this together and I always appreciate fresh inspiration : )

*I'll be making individual Chicken Pot Pies tonight, per Emma's Request. I'll share a photo of them later this week.  It is how I usually make them.

Bacon, Eggs, Tomato, Carrots and homemade "Ranch"

I make a big batch of meatballs once a month and use them for so many quick meals during the week.  Here is my meatball recipe, though it is also included in the links above.

This is an old post I wrote and might give you some insight to how we got in the habit of daily family dinners.  Not that it is too late for you to start now : )

All time favorite.  I just the soup gun on this one and will add this to our rotation early in September.  

We make big batches of tomato soup to keep in the freezer, but there are so many good ones in jars now - gourmet tomato bisque that is just as good.  Nothing better than a grilled cheese and soup.  I serve it with Rainbow Soup, too, to add some indulgence to an otherwise very (too?) healthy meal.  

Organizing for Weekday Dinners

Staying organized is essential for being able to easily execute dinner every night.  I haven't tried grocery delivery services yet, but might start when our busy fall and holiday work schedule picks up.  For now, I really like going to the grocery store a couple of times a week.

I make my list on my Grocery Tablets (photo below) that I keep running throughout the week.  If I am really organized, I remember to bring my Tote Bags - and always feel very put together when I do : )

I use this tablet to get an idea what the week looks like.  I plan for dinners, after school activities and my work day.  It helps me to find breathing room in our schedule and helps me plan for what nights to eat at home and what nights we'll eat out.

Almost ever one of my recipes uses sheet pans and parchment paper.  It makes a world of difference in cleanup and it is naturally non-stick.  Everyone that has tried them says they're a game changer for them.  Even my brother is obsessed!

If I am eve stumped on a vegetable side dish - I throw whatever we have in the fridge (broccoli, carrots, potatoes...) on a sheet pan and drizzle it with olive oil and salt.  Seems to always turn out great.  

Do you know what the best part of these is?  They all use the same lid!  And they aren't too precious (18 for $8).  I use them for organizing my pantry (chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles...), for leftovers, and for freezing everything.


We love these at restaurants, why not at home?  I like to box up lunch for Mike in the boxes, or sometimes we'll take a picnic dinner.  The Soup To-Gos are great for individual servings of soup or chili.  I've even scooped ice cream in them, then put them back in the freezer to get out for parties (isn't it so annoying to scoop ice cream in the middle of a party?!).  I put out toppings and everyone makes their own sundaes in their own prepackaged cup. 

Again, I would love to hear your favorite family recipes and your strategies for make it all happen.  I hope you are all having a great start to this new season : )

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