Chicken, beef, fish, lamb, and pork are all customary traditional main courses of most family dinners. And even though there are innumerable ways to prepare each of these foods as a main course, I’ve learned to think about them in three different groups: dishes that require little attention but longer cooking times, dishes that require a lot of attention but take little time to cook, and dishes that can be made in advance on a meal prep day and reheated.
A good rule of thumb when planning out dinner, is to plan your dinner around what you have time to do. A roasted chicken may take an hour and a half to cook, but once I’ve done my10 minutes of prep work, I havethe time to address my side dishes and prep them. Serving a main course like this will give me an opportunity to get the rest of the meal together, do personal paperwork, blog, talk on the phone and talk with the rest of the family.
If you’re making fish as a main course for your family, it only takes a few minutes to cook, but requires your full attention. This means making the side dishes and setting the table ahead of time. (Kids could help set the table.) If you make a stew or meat loaf in advance, all you need to do is reheat it and prepare your side dishes.
By coordinating my meals so that all of the different elements of the meal are done at the same time is probably the trickiest part of making dinner and will take some practice for those of you who have never meal planned before. That’s okay. Start with the food that takes the longest to cook, jot down the cooking times of your other dishes, and map it out from there.
You should avoid any planning of a meal in which too many dishes require last-minute preparation. As a busy mom, you can’t fuss over a mainb course that needs sautéing, a sauce that needs stirring, and a broiled item that requires your watchful eye all at once. A good example of this: if you are broiling fish steaks (such as Halibut or Salmon), make rice or microwave baked potatoes as a side dish. That way you’ll be free to focus on the Halibut or Salmon cooking while the side dishes pretty much tend to themselves.