Dinner Makeover: Help With Menu Planning
Opposite schedules and a lack of menu planning make dinnertime a struggle for the Muse family. Here, Real Simple steps in.
"Eating Out All the Time Is Blowing Our Budget"
Michelle Muse, 31
What does dinner usually look like in the Muse household? Fast-food burgers, frozen lasagna, or take-out pizza. Michelle, a registered nurse, knows that’s not a healthy diet. “Plus, going to restaurants gets so expensive,” she says. But she and her husband have exhausting, polar-opposite schedules. (Michelle clocks in from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. three days a week, and Steven, 34, also a nurse, works the overnight shift.) So that leaves little time for planning and preparing dinners. On the days when Michelle is at the hospital, Steven’s mother watches the children—Andrew, 12; Alexis (Lexi), 8; and Emily, 3—and is willing to pitch in with cooking. But she often relies on Michelle for meal plans, which are rarely forthcoming. “Explaining what I have in mind always feels like too much work,” says Michelle. That’s not surprising, since Michelle finds the kitchen a bit intimidating. “I never really learned to cook,” she admits. “And I avoid buying fresh produce, since I worry it will rot.” But now she wants to set a good example for her kids, who tend to be picky eaters. “I hate shopping for food and making meals. Dinner has become my downfall.”