Win over dinner without an extra trip to the grocery store


By Tamara L. O'Shaughnessy


If you're like many busy moms with even busier kids, getting a made-fresh dinner on the table night after night becomes just one more chore on a long list of unpleasant tasks.

Kelly Donlea has been there, done that.

When she first got married, dinner every night with her husband was an event. She shopped for fresh ingredients every day for one of her special creations served with a glass of wine. Then along came baby. Strapping Sidney in the car and heading to the store every day became impossible, she says.

That impossibility set Donlea on a mission to figure out a way to help all moms and dads have dinner success without all the stress. For two years she quizzed play groups and just about anyone else she encountered about how to get dinner on the table. She heard lots of tips about using convenience foods out of a box and found cookbooks filled with recipes that required a lot of ingredients she didn't necessarily have-or want-on hand.

Video by Liz Hoffman

She wanted fresh ingredients. She wanted easy. She didn't want to go to the store more than once a week.

Out of that research came her self-published book, 70 meals, One trip to the store, filled with enough go-to, easy recipes she says can help every mom win with dinner.

"Approach dinner on the offensive, not the defensive," says Donlea, 39, of Barrington, mom to Sidney, now 9, Brian, 7, and Elise, 2. "It's going to come up every night. Being prepared for it, not with a meal plan, but with strategies for success, is a relief. It saves you time from running to the store, it saves you money and from all the ingredient clutter."

That message is catching on. Her company, Organizing Dinner, has now grown to include in-home sessions and cooking classes with recipes that favor fresh over processed with enough flexibility to make them work for your family. Because her phone still rings nightly from parents with a dinner emergency, she recently launched a Dinner 911 forum on her Web site, www., to help with the "How do I do this?" and "What if I don't have this on hand?" emergency questions.

"By approaching (dinner) differently, ... you are going to be more at peace with the dinner process," she says.

  • Organize your kitchen. Give your kitchen a good reassessment. Box or give away utensils or appliances you no longer use, and better organize the things you do. For example, if the items that most often go in the dishwasher aren't in the cabinets closest to it, move things around.
  • Keep a plastic grocery bag on the counter where you cook. All the garbage from meal preparation goes into it.
  • Put ingredients away after you use them. Take some time to clean up while you cook and you will be surprised at the manageable state of your kitchen when you are done.
  • Buy in bulk. Keep dry goods on hand that you know you will use frequently to avoid last-minute grocery store trips.
  • Clean a dish. Sure, there will be dishes to clean after the meal is done, but if you can clean some of the prep dishes while you're simmering or in between stirs, there will be less.
For more tips, visit Donlea's Web site at

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