4 Smart Habits to Make Dinner Stress-Free When You Get Home Late
Figuring out what to make for dinner when you have a lot of projects on your plate can be a challenge. And getting home late doesn’t make it any easier. I feel your pain as I used to have that issue frequently during my former 14-year career in corporate America. I was very focused from morning until early evening at work, handling major projects—trying to make things happen. But what would also happen is, my hours would slip through my fingers and next thing you know, it’s past 8:00 PM and I’m still at the office. This affected my evening wellness activities which would’ve consisted of exercising, learning something new, reading spiritual literature, spending time with my people, and eating a delicious healthy dinner. Instead, I would get home with very little time for any type of nourishment. I know that a lot of professionals face that same issue, so here are 4 smart ways you can start enjoying a stress-free healthy dinner on those late work nights.
The first thing that you may want to do when you get home is to change out of your work clothes into your home clothes. I advise you to hold off on that initially and do this instead: Greet whoever’s home first, of course, then go straight to the kitchen. The purpose of getting to the kitchen ASAP is to start the pre-work, so dinner can be done sooner. At this point, all you’re doing is setting the stage for a quick and easy meal, because when you get home late, you’ll want to use the time you have in the most efficient way possible. Feel free to invite your loved ones along with you to the kitchen so you can catch up on the events of everyone’s day. This is another way to use the time you have for dinner efficiently, without compromising quality time with the people around you.
Hunt and Gather
If you hadn’t figured out what you’re going to make, find out what’s in your freezer and fridge that will be the fastest and healthiest things to make. Here’s a formula you can use: 1 Vegetable + 1 Complex Carbohydrate + 1 Protein = Dinner. Now that you’ve selected your items, it’s time for pre-prep. If anything is frozen, you’ll begin the defrosting process. If anything requires boiling, you’ll add water to a pot and get it started on the stove. If anything needs to be roasted, pre-heat the oven. If cutting is involved, do that now—chop, slice, cube, etc. Once the pre-prep is complete, now you can go and change out of your work clothes into something comfier. Allot no more than 10-15 minutes for the pre-prep process.
Make it a Team Effort
I know you may be used to being in charge at work or you may even be the type of professional that would rather do everything yourself because “no one will get it done like you.” Maybe that works for you, but when you leave the office, let all of that go. If you have people at home that can and are willing to help with dinner, get them involved. It’s late so allow your housemates, kids, husband, or whomever, help you out. Are you making a meal that requires the ingredients to be cut, rinsed, peeled, etc? Someone can jump in and take care of that. You’re a part of a unit when you live with others. When one person is late, tired and hungry, then all hands go on deck. If you live alone, however, don’t worry. That was me for most of my 20’s and 30’s so I wouldn’t leave you hanging. You’re going to love the next tip on preparation.
Prep Like You Mean It
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that Meal Prep is the way to go if you want to eat healthily and have less food-related stress. If you’re new to Meal Prep, however, it’s a process where you select a day, set aside at least 1 to 2 hours, and you use that time to cook food for the week in bulk. You’ll refrigerate a portion of it for the first half of the week and freeze the other portion so it doesn’t go bad, for the end of the week. It helps you avoid getting caught without something cooked, delicious and nourishing for your body. This method is especially helpful when you have very little time to work with. But let’s say you weren’t able to Meal Prep one week, or your food has run out. What do you do to avoid having no food options if you get home late from a long day at work? Always have an emergency meal in the freezer. I’m not referring to a Meal Prep dish, I’m talking about LDE’s – Late Dinner Essentials.
LDE’s consist of a cooked and frozen protein, a cooked and frozen complex carb, and a raw and frozen vegetable. When you have frozen food that you’ve prepared ahead of time in your own kitchen (not store bought foods), stressing out about late night dinners will become a thing of the past.
My Recommendations for Late Dinner Essentials (LDEs)
Vegetables (raw + frozen)
- Green Beans
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Brussels sprouts
Starchy Complex Carb (cooked + frozen)
- Brown Rice + Beans
- Sweet Potato (roasted or boiled)
- Red Potato (roasted or boiled)
- Yucca (boiled)
- Organic Corn Meal (Mayi Moulin)
- Plantain (boiled)
Protein (cooked + frozen)
- Wild-Caught Salmon
- Wild-Caught Tuna Steak
- Wild-Caught Haddock
- Wild-Caught Cod
- Wild-Caught Porgie
- Wild-Caught Mackerel
Clearly, I’m a fan of fish, but you can have any other protein you wish as Late Night Dinner Essentials like the following:
Pwa: Black Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Edamame, or any type of bean you favor
If you prefer a meat protein, I recommend Organic Free-range Whole Turkey or Ground Turkey / Organic Free-range Grilled Chicken.
All you’ll need to do is heat up your protein and complex carb—and boil your veggies, or sauté them with garlic and olive oil. If you decide to skip an LDE one night and opt to prepare something fresh on the spot, here are 10 delicious and stress-free work night ideas.
- Zucchini Lasagna
- Vegetarian Tacos or Organic Free-range Ground Turkey Tacos (that was a mouth full!)
- Veggie Burgers or Organic Free-range Ground Turkey Burger
- Grilled Chicken Burrito Bowl
- Veggie or Turkey Meatballs and Zucchini Noodles – aka Zoodles
- Vegetable Casseroles
- Loaded Fall Stews
- Omelette with onion, spinach, and mushrooms
- Chunky Bean Soup
- Grilled Fish on top of Salad
It’s all about focus, being resourceful, getting help when it’s available, and with most things in your career and life—being prepared.
Do you have dinner strategies of your own when getting home late from work? Please share in the comments below! Visit YardleyMesseroux.com for more tips and information on Yardley Messeroux.