I must confess.
I used to resort to serving things like frozen chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, and other not-so-nutritional-but-easy-to-prepare options on the craziest days of the week. There, I said it. Whew!
I didn't do that with every meal, but definitely more often than I should have. Why? Well, at the end of a busy and exhausting day at work, I would open the fridge, stare at the contents, and ask myself the age-old question: 'What's for dinner?'
As it turns out, being tired and hungry, and knowing that homework and evening activities are still ahead, does not put one into the best frame of mind to make good food choices. At that point, I was just looking for the quickest way to get tummies fed. Plus, since I didn’t plan ahead, there was a good chance that I would not even have all the ingredients needed to whip something up, even if I wanted to!
I was in a dinner rut, big-time. Help was needed, and help came! Enter Cozi.com!
I found Cozi initially when I was looking for an online calendar tool ...something the whole family could use to keep track of appointments and activities. Cozi is great for that, because the calendar is super-easy to use and there is an app that works with all our phones, so the whole family can access it from anywhere. You can even set up Cozi to send an email to everyone in the family on a regular basis with a list of what is going on for the week ahead. There is also a shopping list that the kids or DH can update if they have grocery requests for the upcoming week. LOVE IT!
Then, BONUS!, the good people at Cozi added a recipe box and meal-planning tool that works right with the calendar and shopping list. I decided to try it out, and found that it was exactly what I needed to be able to stop resorting to quick but nutritionally questionable food. You can see in the screen print (I used a future month so it would not be so crowded with all our activities) that it shows my family calendar and meal plan side-by-side, which is a HUGE help in determining which dinner will work best on which night. The column to the far right (partial view) is my recipe box. Adding a dish to any particular day is as easy as dragging it from the recipe box and dropping it in the dinner plan column! Then, I open up the recipe, and with a couple of clicks I can add the ingredients to my shopping list. And, believe it or not, Cozi is free! (Although I have the paid, ad-free version called Cozi Gold, that has some other perks as well. I use Cozi every single day, so the paid version is definitely worth it for me!)
So how does this really help me? Every Friday, I sit down for a 1/2 hour or so with Cozi to take a look ahead at the next week's schedule and plan meals accordingly, and then I add the corresponding ingredients to my shopping list right from the meal planner. There is also a To-Do List function that I use to plan all the other chores and errands for the upcoming weekend. With all of that planned and organized, I can relax, knowing that nothing will be forgotten or missed no matter how busy the weekend gets. Easy peasy!!
So now, during the week when the kids and I get home at the end of the day, tired and hungry, I don't have to do any thinking. I have the meal scheduled, I have all the required ingredients, and I am ready to go. This approach was exactly what I needed to get out of the dinner rut I was in!
There are other Cozi functions, too. It has a birthday calendar, a family journal, and more! I find it super-useful for keeping the family organized and informed. Plus, Cozi has a dinner club that publishes family-friendly meals every month and sends them right to your inbox.
And here is a recipe that was planned and executed with the assistance of my Cozi.com site! This recipe is meatless, so it is a great alternative to pizza or fish on Fridays during Lent. It is also really flexible... you can change up the sauce, or trade the spinach for broccoli, or come up with your own variation!
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cook ravioli according to package instructions.
- Before draining ravioli, stir in the spinach until wilted. Drain ravioli and spinach mixture.
- Combine the crushed red pepper and marinara sauce.
- Spread about half of the marinara mixture over the bottom of an 11x7 baking pan.
- Spread about half of the ravioli/spinach mixture over the sauce. Sprinkle about half of the cheese on top.
- Add another layer with remaining ravioli/spinach, then top with remaining sauce.
- Cover baking pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove foil and top with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
What tool(s) do you use to keep your family organized and running smoothly? Leave a comment and share your strategies!