4:30 nearly every day, my iPod timer bings and I know where I’m going: to the kitchen.

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If dinner preparation is simple, I can make dinner within a half hour. But more time, more freedom for interruptions, for listening to a podcast, decanting a glass of wine and quietly, gently, preparing the evening’s repast is much more relaxing.

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Might as well make it enjoyable, since I do it Every. Single. Day.

I’m sure you do too, unless you’re like some families I know where hubby actually enjoys cooking and has more time than you to prepare it. I kind of like it.

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It’s a creative endeavor that the more often I attempt, the better I become. And I’m one of those people that acknowledges I. Like. Food…how could anyone not, really?

During the study season, it has to be planned in advance to be a pleasant, unscrambled experience though.

Since I still haven’t bought a stand-alone freezer, meat has to be purchased fairly weekly (no Costco membership for me, and obviously, hubby doesn’t hunt wild game on weekends, or I’d have a freezer). Meat has to be previously defrosted, because I’ve also chosen not to buy a microwave. So it’s easiest for me to purchase and refrigerate for the upcoming week.

It took me eight years to stop experimenting with our meals.

I had a fairly predictable eating routine in college, as I couldn’t afford anything. One roommate remembers me making peanut butter toast and wrapping it in a napkin for the drive to school  every morning. I remember thinking perogy and pork chops with a side of sautéed peppers was fancy. Times, they have achanged.

The first six months of marriage I assumed my husband wanted a hot breakfast prepared a la pancake or waffles with a side of pig. Lunches were packed. Suppers were hot: meat every night, bread on the table, alongside the rice/potatoe/pasta side. And one can’t forget dessert.

Within months, Jim asked if we could please lighten up meals.

Now I was wife and I assumed the notion that I was “husband caretaker”. So I tried ethnic foods of all sorts, combinations of veggies that pre-marriage I would never have looked at sideways, meats I had previously considered too expensive, ingredients I had to ask the grocer to find.

Eight years later I had expanded my repertoire and attempted an awful (aka awe-filled) number of recipes. Our oldest was four, and I had just begun to create a repast routine. Because I didn’t also want to become a short-order cook, instead of convincing my daughter that sautéed peppers in peanut sauce was yummy (which of course, it is), I chose to forgo the experimental for the familiar.

Eight years later, and my mental space is filled with interesting tidbits from the days’ study activities, whirring from one child to the next to the next to the next, correcting four math workbooks, recording daily activities and I don’t have a lot of creative meal preparation left in my brain.

So I default to routine standbys:

Fish Monday,

Chicken Tuesday,

Meatless Wednesday,

Leftover Thursday,

Fun Friday,

I’m Not Cooking Saturday


Fancy Dinner Sunday.

No, it’s not always like clockwork, like the timer on my iPod at 4:30. But creating a predictable meal schedule gives me freedom from having to plan one more thing…even if it is something non-negotiable, like eating every day.

For the next few Fridays, I’m going to share an easy menu plan that might inspire, and organizational tips that might make things simpler the hour before dinner.

Happy Cooking!