A reader recently emailed me an excellent question on making last minute meals:
Q: It's 2:45 PM and I have no clue what to make for dinner tonight. What do you do when you're in this situation?
A: I order a pizza.
Just kidding! Seriously, this is a common problem that at times strikes even the most experienced cooks, and it brings to mind that wonderful quote from former Gourmet Magazine editor Ruth Reichl about dinner planning: "if it's 4 o'clock and you're in your office and you haven't figured out what you're having for dinner tonight, the battle's half lost." The bottom line is you usually need to plan your dinners with at least a few days' lead time. There's just no way around it.
But most Casual Kitchen readers lead extremely busy lives, and inevitably there will be days when a pre-planned dinner just isn't possible. For those situations, we have a few solutions here at Casual Kitchen.
First, we always make double batches of whatever foods we cook. This way, we almost always have a stash of leftovers available in our fridge. There's no easier way to get a decent dinner on the table than to reheat something you've already made.
Second, try and keep a relatively well-stocked pantry, and focus your pantry supplies on food items that you can use to whip up a simple recipe at the last minute. Which recipes and which items, you ask? Well, start by perusing The 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes at Casual Kitchen. Pick out the easiest recipes that appeal to you the most (I suggest starting with Black Beans and Rice, Chickpeas, Pasta and Tomato Salad, Red Lentils and Rice or Smoky Brazilian Black Bean Soup). Then, stock extra supplies of the key ingredients to those recipes in your pantry at all times.
This way, you'll always have an option or two for a simple meal, and you'll be able to get dinner on the table in half an hour or less--even on those days when you have absolutely no clue what to cook.
Readers, what ideas would you add?
Help support Casual Kitchen by buying Everett Bogue's exceptional book The Art of Being Minimalist. (This is an affiliate link for an e-book I strongly recommend to my readers--and if you decide to make a purchase, your purchase will help fund all of the free content here at CK!)
If It's So Cheap to Cook at Home, Then Why is My Grocery Bill So Huge?
Spreading the New Frugality: A Manifesto
Guess What? We Spend Less Than Ever on Food
Finding Inspiration In an Uncluttered Kitchen
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from Amazon.com via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!