Cooking on the fly. Why I scrapped meal planning.

My job schedule varies from season to season, but through my ease of being adaptable, I’ve still been able to stay pretty on schedule for each passing day. With the different seasons, I know which hours I’ll be in office and which hours I’ll be out and at events. That part never changes.

However, each day can still be pretty unpredictable. Case in point? An event I was supposed to be at tonight has been taken off of my schedule. With just minutes left, an early-out-of-the-office day has become a regular day in the office. Which is hard, not only because my son is at an age where he understands “Mommy’s coming early to get you so we can go do xyz…” and will know that Mommy’s late when she doesn’t come around the start of nap time, but because it can throw a wrench in the whole days plan.

My job makes it so you can’t plan, but with a small child, you kind of have to have some kind of a plan.

A child who is a bit sensitive first thing in the morning sets you back ten minutes. Then an unexpected doctor’s visit, a trip to the pharmacy, sets you back another 45 minutes to an hour. Walking into the grocery store after work to get your child’s milk, and only two registers are open, the lines going all the way to the back of the store. You’re now two hours behind in your day. That two hours is just enough to put you smack dab in the middle of the heading-home-from-work traffic flow, instead of just ahead of it as you usually are. Now you’re two and a half hours behind.

That means dinner will come later. That means bath will come later. A later bedtime. Wake-up time the next day doesn’t go over well because, well, you still have to be at work at the same time, so your child has to be at daycare at the same time as every other day…

It ends up one big mess. Despite a plea for 24 hours worth of schedule notice, it doesn’t always go that way. Today is the prime example of that.

The easiest thing for me to change on days like this, or even days like the other day when I found my hours slipping farther and farther away from me, is to start with dinner.

This is why I stopped meal planning too.

What did I have in mind that night for dinner? It’s usually something I thought of the day before based on what I had for proposed time and a collective of ingredients. What can be changed? How can I make it easier or faster? The last minute things make a sudden crockpot meal impossible because, well, I’m at work and my crockpot is at home. I haven’t developed the ability to send telepathic messages to my home appliances (although, that would be kind of cool), and teleportation doesn’t exist. Yet.

wp-1483723785361.jpgI’m all about fresh, whole foods. The less processed, the better in my personal opinion. BUT, I’m not above a box of mac ‘n cheese, some Hamburger Helper, calling out for pizza or even frozen meals like the Bird’s Eye dinners (their steamable sides are yummy and they take only five minutes in the microwave).

In attempt to calm the anxiety that was kicking into full swing the other day at the thought of essentially bringing my son home to feed him, bathe him, then put him to bed and having no time to actually spend with him just interacting with play, I scrapped my dinner plans.

Instead, I did a one dish gig and used a pre-made sauce (gasp!). Instead of 15 minutes of prep and an hour in the oven, which was what my original meal idea was, I had not even ten minutes of prep and maybe 15 of total cook time. Did I just save myself almost an hour of time? I think I did…

A double win was, my son ate it all (well, except the meat, because we’re at that stage right now. If it’s not baloney or a cold cut, he doesn’t want it), including the tomatoes.

The recipe:

1 lb of meat of your choice (I used stew beef because I had it on hand and it was already cut)
1 packet of Campbell’s Sauces in Creamy Parmesan Sauce
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 medium tomatoes
4 handfuls of pasta of your choice (yes, I used my hands and that’s how I measured, wp-1483723785360.jpgprobably roughly 3 cups)


Chop tomatoes and spinach first and then set aside. Cook pasta to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, cook your meat on medium until done, drain off any fat. Add in the sauce, tomato and spinach, stir together well. Drain and add pasta, stir together. Give it another minute on the stove top to heat everything together and voila! Fin.

You get a super easy to make, short on time, creamy dinner that the entire family is sure to enjoy! If I hadn’t already cooked it this week, I’d do it again tonight.

Posted by

Mother. Photographer. Writer. Founder of Fit Fridays for Mental Health. Former powerlifter turned weightlifter. Coach & Nutritionist. Spondy/PCOS/Endo. Bully breed advocate.

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