Your original plan was to come home from work, get in the kitchen, and cook dinner, but here's the thing about even the best-laid plans: they don't always pan out the way we expect. After working late, sitting in traffic, dealing with subway delays, or just feeling tired, tackling dinner sometimes feels like an uphill battle.
To make sure I stick with my plan of cooking dinner instead of reaching for a takeout menu, I've found that adding one or two simple tasks to the morning routine makes a big difference.
1. Take food out of the freezer to thaw.
There's nothing like coming home and realizing the pork chops you planned to cook for dinner are still in the freezer. Talk about throwing your plans way off track. Whether you're relying on a freezer meal for dinner or need to defrost some meat, take the things you'll need out of the freezer first thing in the morning and put it in the refrigerator. (Tip: Pop it into a casserole dish or tray to make sure you don't come home to a puddle in the fridge.)
2. Read through tonight's recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients.
Take a quick glance through the recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients you need. Better to know you'll need to make a quick stop at the store in the morning than realize you're missing ingredients after you've already starting prepping dinner.
3. Get one step ahead with the dishes.
Otherwise known as one less thing that stands between you and getting dinner together. Now, this will mean different things for different people — maybe it's washing the dishes in the sink, putting the dry dishes away, or unloading the dishwasher before leaving for work in the morning — but either way, doing this in the morning means it's one less thing you need to do before starting your dinner prep.
4. Start up your slow cooker.
Let your slow cooker do the work for you! Take out your slow cooker in the morning, get it fired up, and come home to a dinner that's already prepared when you walk in the door.
5. Set your dinner table (and your expectations).
If you have an extra moment, set the table with plates and glasses and napkins so you come home to a table already set. As you set the table, think through your expectations for that night's meal. After a busy and hectic day, the last thing you'll probably want to do when you get home is to start making a dinner that requires a lot of prep and time at the stove. If you know that's the kind of day that's in store for you, plan dinner accordingly. Go for quick and easy recipes, or rely on a freezer meal instead.