The Lost Art Of Cooking Weekday Dinners

Photo: Jenn Stone.  

Before takeout became so convenient and easy; and before takeout containers started to pile up in landfills and destroy the planet, people cooked weekday dinners. They had no choice. There wasn’t takeout joints on every corner or Uber Eats to bring food straight to our door. Pizza was one of the few takeout and delivery items, and that was only if you lived in an urban location. Pizza, for us, was a rare treat. It was rarely in our budget. Relying on takeout food for meals was not the boomer experience.

Really how difficult is it to cook during the week? Honestly, a person can broil chops or a steak in the oven or on the BBQ in about 12 minutes. A pork tenderloin will cook in 20 minutes. You can also grate a coleslaw, or toss a salad during that time. It takes only an hour to roast cut-up chicken pieces, less if you have a convection option on your oven, which a lot of newer ovens have. You can toss in potatoes to bake at the same time. You can stir-fry veggies in minutes or pan fry haddock. Baked salmon or trout can take less than 20 minutes. Mac & Cheese with veggies or other goodies thrown into the cheese sauce or just with a salad on the side can be on the table in less than an hour. My point is that the excuse of not having enough time is just that… an excuse. Not only that, the amount of kitchen gadgets available that make preparation and cooking quicker and easier is pretty much unlimited these days. Cooking is not that complicated when the latest greatest appliances can do all the work.

In reality, cooking a weekly dinner isn’t that complicated even when you don’t have all the gadgets. This is something my generation and my parents generation figured out a long time ago. Weekday dinners don’t have to be fancy, just healthy. Cooking weekday dinners requires the desire to do so and some basic planning and organizational skills. Skills that many twenty, thirty, and fortysomethings seem to be lacking. Please don’t get offended. I didn’t say all… I said many. It does makes me think that Home Economics should be reinstated as a compulsory course in school with cooking and meal planning offered to all genders. These days, when both partners are working, both partners should also be working on meals and meal planning.

I hate to pull that “when I was younger,” line but I can’t think of a better statement to make my point, so here goes. When I was younger, people went to the grocery store with the intention of purchasing several meals worth of food to have in the house. Enough to get them through the next week or so. People of my generation still do this. Oh look. chicken pieces are on sale. An observation that would prompt a couple of meals of chicken for the freezer. The amount of things you can do with chicken pieces is unlimited. Personally I like them seasoned and roasted. Little or no prep required. I get really excited when chicken wings are on sale because chicken wings with home-made Caesar salad is one of our favourite meals. We can have it on the table in less than an hour.

Not only is there meal preparation and cooking gadgets galore, there is also an internet full of meals-in-minutes recipes at one’s beck and call. These days The Doc and I love to use the internet for recipes; and when we find one that we like, we print it off and put it in a binder so we can eat it again without having to search it online. This binder is a mixture of tried-and-true recipes from our past and new-and-yummy options we found through Google. We enjoy eating good food and rarely spend a lot of time preparing our meals even though we don’t own any modern cooking gadgets other than the oven with a convection option.

We also rarely order takeout. Maybe a donair, or another quick meal that doesn’t arrive in plastic, a few times a year. When we don’t want to cook, we try to go to a restaurant where we use real plates and cutlery that will be washed and reused. Most of those plastic and Styrofoam and foil takeout containers that people bring home to make their lives easier, end up in the trash and eventually the landfills where they can take hundreds or thousands of years to breakdown. Some of it, in particular some plastics, will be around indefinitely. Plus the major raw materials used to manufacture all plastics are oil and natural gas. The production of oil and gas is considered one of the most environmentally harmful processes in the world. The production of plastic from these products is also an environmentally messy business. All in all, this adds up to a pretty hefty price for convenience. For more on this topic, read: Consumers Need To Take More Responsibility For Climate Change (

I get it, sometimes there are circumstances that do make weekday meal prep difficult. Sometimes we all need a break from cooking. When this happens, all I ask is that people think a little deeper about their options and the repercussions of these options before they make a choice. One choice could be to sometimes make sandwiches or eggs on toast and invest that takeout money in a retirement fund. I often wonder how many people have added up how much money they actually spend on takeout. I wonder how many of these people would like to retire someday in a world that has not been destroyed by bad choices.

Thanks for reading.

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(Pictured above: pork tenderloin, stir-fried veggies & tomato bruschetta)

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