Lakewood BubbleLife -
Busy Families Can Save Time, Money & Energy On Dinner Meals With No More 'To Go'

Parents in this day and age rarely have time to breathe as they’re waking up early to drop the kids off at school, commuting to work, picking up the kids only to drop them off at soccer practice before finally getting home for some rest and relaxation. But then, once they get home, there’s another problem: what’s for dinner?

Nowadays, there are several options for dinner. Families can eat cheap fast food but it definitely isn’t healthy. Families can also eat at nicer establishments but that can quickly get pricey. Lastly, families can eat meals prepared at home. This is usually the best option as it’s cheaper in the long run and healthier, too. But making dinner at home requires preparation and time, neither of which parents want to think about after a long day of work.

While many parents are busy, there are probably very few that can claim to be as busy as Stacey Stabenow. She works for her family’s business doing medical insurance recovery work, she’s the president of the J.L. Long PTA and she’s a mother to three children. She’s also been president of the Lakewood Early Childhood PTA, a board member for the Lakewood Elementary PTA and makes clothes for a booth at the Lakewood Home Tour. Calling her an involved member of the Lakewood community would be an understatement. Still, she insists on her family having a sit down dinner every night and in order to forgo the hassle of trying to whip up something new daily, she plans it all in advance – a week in advance.

“The reason this came about was because I’ve always organized my meals for my family and that’s because I want to know what we’re eating and I don’t want to eat junk,” Stabenow said. “I want to eat something that tastes good and in order to do that, I have to plan it out.”

On Saturday mornings, bright and early, Stabenow peruses food magazines for recipes and ideas. After deciding which five meals she’ll be serving that week, she posts the recipes on her refrigerator and buys everything she’ll need for the week over the weekend.

“The key is having all your ingredients and only going to the store once a week. That’s the whole deal and that’s why I’ve always done it. I don’t have time with everything else that I’m involved in – taking kids on carpools and doing my PTA stuff and my job – I don’t have time to go to the grocery store every day.”

Several of her friends saw her recipes and shopping lists and convinced Stabenow to post them online for others to use. That, according to Stabenow, is how No More ‘To Go’ was started. For a low monthly fee, Stabenow does all the work in preparation for dinner. Exactly how she does it for her own family, Stabenow selects five varying recipes and writes up a grocery list for the week; she has very strict standards for the recipes she chooses.

“I do five meals a week,” Stabenow said. “Every meal has a meat, so I don’t have a vegetarian version right now. I’ve got to keep it simple – I’d love to do a vegetarian, I’d love to do a more low-calorie, low-fat version – but right now, I have one menu plan. Every meal includes a meal, a starch and a fresh vegetable.”

She also tries to do at least one Chinese, one Italian and one Tex-Mex meal a week, as well as having a pasta dish to mix things up. However, Stabenow steers clear of casseroles and canned soups.

She also doesn’t put up recipes exactly as she finds them. Stabenow first tries everything she makes before she puts it up on her website and sometimes uses her husband and children as guinea pigs for new recipes. And Stabenow isn’t afraid to change up recipes and adapt them if she believes it will make them better.

“I usually adapt stuff. I don’t put it exactly the way it is; it’s too hard sometimes. I know from cooking for this many years that there are ways to condense things, so I try and do that.”

No More ‘To Go’ may not be the perfect solution for all the busy parents but it provides a blueprint that can be followed. Or, if the idea of planning and preparing on the weekend is nauseating, then take a look at No More ‘To Go’. Your health and wallet will thank you.

Photos courtesy of Stacey Stabenow

Tuesday, November 22, 2011