Dinner Makeover: Ideas for a Flexible Dinner Menu
One mom learns how to craft a dinner menu without cramping her improvisational cooking style.
Amy Gray, 46
When it comes to deciding on dinner, Amy, a middle-school English teacher and a divorced mother of two, tends to wait for inspiration to strike. “Growing up, I was exposed to lots of different foods. My family wasn’t the type to eat roast beef every Tuesday,” she says. As a result, Amy likes to throw together eclectic, last-minute menus for her sons, Noah, 17, and Evan, 14. “We might have fettuccine primavera one night and shrimp curry another,” she says. Problem is, Amy usually doesn’t have the ingredients that she needs, so she is forced to do a grocery-store run most weekdays around 4 p.m., when she leaves work. And even with all those trips, she often discovers that she’s missing staples—say, onions or olive oil—while making dinner. Her disorganization takes a toll in other ways, too. “I like to take an exercise class before dinner,” says Amy. But, she laments, there’s no time to hit the grocery store and the gym if she wants to put a meal on the table. Her sons are old enough to help her out, but Amy worries about kitchen safety. “I don’t want either of them to lose a finger,” she says. “Still, I realize that they should know how to fend for themselves.”