Dang’s trick is to only partially make the vinaigrette. “I don’t add the oil until I’m making the dish,” she explained. She just keeps the mustard, sweetener and vinegar mixture in the fridge because the oil tends to harden if it’s chilled.
When she’s ready to use it, she whisks the vinegar mixture with the olive oil right into the dish she’s using before adding the other ingredients (for one less thing to wash!). One vinaigrette starter with balsamic and one with red wine vinegar is always in her fridge.
Roast a bunch of vegetables
Roasting veggies is mostly passive, Dang said. “If you just have an hour you can kick back and watch Netflix and have a timer to go and rotate.” And by roast Dang means air fry.
Once you have a good batch of vegetables (think sweet potatoes — favorites because they’re affordable and good for diets ranging from Paleo to vegetarian — cauliflower, and baby carrots), you’ve got the makings for all sorts of good stuff. Besides just having them on your dinner plate as-is (maybe drizzled with your vinaigrette), you can add them to burritos and quesadillas, said Dang, not to mention grain bowls. They also make great snack or finger foods, especially for kids, she said.
When you wind up with extra, random bits of fruits and vegetables or weird amounts of greens, you’ve got the makings for smoothies, Dang said. She keeps a freezer bag with extra fruit and vegetables leftover from other dishes. “We’re not particular,” she said. “We keep it all in a bag and just dump it all in the Vitamix. It’s like keeping a stock scrap bag but for smoothies.”
She even includes leftover fresh herbs. You might not do a lot of say, cilantro, she said, but a few snips would be good, and mint would definitely be a good addition to a smoothie.
Make freezer meals and batch cook meats
OK, this isn’t a revelation, but if you’re making a meal that won’t take much additional work to make extra of, just double it, Dang said. The key here is to not plop an entire lasagna or casserole in the freezer, but to portion it into one or two servings at a time. And voila: your own homemade TV dinners!
When you’re preparing meat, especially something that comes in a large cut, make some more, Dang said. Especially if you’re using an Instant Pot, or throwing chicken on the grill, it doesn’t take a lot of time to double up. “Pulled pork is one of those meats I think people should always be doubling — it comes in a huge portion. Your first iteration can be tacos, then freeze it and use it in soup or sliders.” Extras can also go on sandwiches, in salads or in grain bowls, and of course in fried rice!
If you make it, they will eat it?
Of course none of this does any good if your fridge and freezer are full of mystery containers. (Guilty, because I always convince myself I’ll know exactly what that block of ... whatever is.)
Dang does not have a freezer that belongs on Pinterest, she insisted. It’s not even particularly organized. What she does have is a system. The necessary ingredients? Masking tape, a magnetic white board and markers. Everything gets labeled, and to make sure that without fail everything is logged when it goes in, markers are right there with the white board on the freezer in a magnetic pouch.
She breaks the whiteboard inventory into four categories: proteins, carbs (including partial bread loaves), prepared foods (like lasagna), and miscellaneous. For things that are constantly coming in and out like sandwich bread, she uses tally marks.
Not only does this make mealtime so much easier, she’s wasting less food. “I know that I’m tossing so much less than if I didn’t have the system in place,” she said.
And that’s what it comes down to. “So much of adulting is realizing you have to have systems in place,” Dang said. “You have to treat domestic stuff like a job. You don’t walk into your job and try to fly by the seat of your pants. It would make your life so much better to have your process in place whether that’s cleaning or meal planning.”
And if you just can’t bring yourself to do it. That’s where Dang comes in with her meal planning service. “Every week we send you a menu that’s optimizing to minimize food waste,” she said. Meals can be mixed and matched to be gluten free, Paleo and vegetarian, so diet-blended families can all find something.
“When you talk about doing yourself a future favor," she said, “having someone do your meal planning is one of the easiest pieces of self care anyone can be doing.”
More family dinner ideas
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