Who knew that “What’s for Dinner” would be such a loaded question, I thought that family dinner time was supposed to be a time of enjoyment with the kids? Maybe that’s more for when they are older, I mean there is not much dinner conversation going on with a 4 year, and 7 month, old to contend with. Forget about the fact that;
- The oldest says I don’t like that”, at least once a meal even before trying whatever “that” happens to be.
- I have to pick-up the kids from daycare, which takes an hour between work, daycare and home, which brings us in the door between 5:30-5:45 PM.
- I have to try to make dinner while taking care of a cranky baby who always wants to eat as soon as she gets in the door, even when I’m told she had a bottle just before I picked her up. Let’s just say, “Sorry, I need to feed your sister too”, is said in my house every night.
All this with myself after a long day of work, and the two kiddos, just makes for a semi-stressful night, and can sometimes (I would say at least once a week), end with me eating dinner at 8:00 PM when my husband gets home (the kids need to eat, but sometimes mom has to wait – gotta take care of those kiddos first).
To take at least some of the stress out of this, the goal at our house is to try to plan the week’s meals from breakfast to dinner, at least a week in advance (or by Sunday night). Well, the word try is the main thing, we probably succeed at making our list at least 2 out of 4 weeks in a month, which isn’t too bad.
What about those weeks that we do forget? Well, that’s where my friends Google and Allrecipes.com come in hand. I have discovered so many ways to find recipes just based on the ingredients I have on hand.
One day I was looking for a recipe with eggs and found this gem from the Taste of Home, “What’s in the Fridge?” Frittata. It has my favorite ingredients, whatever’s in the fridge (which helps to use up those items that are almost ready to go). I also love the user comments on sites like this and Allrecipes.com, they help avoid mistakes. I print out all of the recipes I want to try and add them to a small white binder I keep in the kitchen, this way I don’t have to go searching if I want to make the recipe again, and I can just recycle the paper if I don’t. I stopped asking for cookbooks after I started this.
Of course, there is my favorite cookbook, the last one I bought or will ever need really, The Joy of Cooking (Google for cooks, before the folks who brought us Google were even born!). I don’t know what I would do without this, well Google I guess. However, currently my computer is in my living room, which is upstairs, the kitchen is not. Sometimes I’m too lazy to Google, please forgive me.
For those nights I’m super out of time, or out of patience with trying to get something together, I stick with the “Kid Friendly” foods we keep on hand;
- Chicken Nuggets (okay, sometimes the “chicken nuggets” are really fish sticks, but my daughter is the one who called them chicken, I just didn’t disagree since it was something she was willing to eat)
- Macaroni and Cheese – the blue box, or my stores version of the blue box only (I make great homemade mac and cheese, but my daughter doesn’t like it, for real, she tried it)
- Hot Dogs (or whatever will pass as hot dogs – kielbasa, some sausages – as long as they’re shaped like hot dogs. Whatever, as long as she eats it right?).
- Mexican grilled cheese – AKA quesadillas with cheese only (I just add mushrooms, leftover chicken/steak, peppers or onions to mine, this way I can use up the older produce we forgot to plan meals with)
- PBJ – Peanut Butter & Jelly is a staple, though I’m from New England so sometimes it’s PB&F – F is for Fluff!
- Chicken Noodle Soup – always have this on hand, always!
- Pasta – I always try to have one pasta night a week even when I forget to plan ahead. This is also a time to use those items that are already to go, by adding in some veggies to the pasta sauce (sorry, we only use canned/jarred sauce, maybe we’ll go more homemade when the kids are older). Honestly, me and my husband are the only ones who use the sauce, as my oldest is a cheese only kinda girl, not even butter (grated parmesan. shredded cheddar or whatever cheese in the deli bin).
To make things a bit healthier I like to add a yogurt, fruit or raw veggie on the side (seriously, my girl likes raw carrots better than cooked – go figure).
Meal planning, or at least cooking, is part of being a parent, even when you don’t have the time or energy. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights (as well as the mornings) we usually aim for our better meals since either myself (I am a Mon. – Fri. 9-5’er) , my husband (his schedule is more wonky, 11-7:30pm Tues.-Sat.) or both are usually home.
In the mean time I will continue to try and remember to plan meals for every meal/day, once I find a strategy that works for a whole month, I’ll share!
Nikki is a full time working mom trying to balance, work-life-family and everything in-between. When she is not working, she loves to spend time with her husband and their two girls. Of course, when she can get some time to herself you will catch her writing for her blog, Growing Up Mom, reading, crocheting (not so awesomely) and catching up on her favorite shows. All while enjoying coffee, lots and lots of coffee.
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