I love to cook. I love to EAT more, but I do love to cook, and I dare say I’m rather good at it most of the time.
I have a few challenges with cooking, though, that tend to minimize the enjoyment that I get from the task. As a mom of 5 kids, I can’t afford to be “off” when food is concerned. If I run out of cereal or don’t have anything prepared for dinner, the situation around here can be quite hectic. Since dinner time is the biggest meal of the day at our house, I figured I’d concentrate on dinner time today.
Common dinner time challenges:
- I don’t know what to cook (I haven’t planned meals ahead of time)
- I know what I want to cook, but I don’t have the ingredients I need
- I cook what I want, but the kids complain and refuse to eat it
- I make dinner but we run out before everyone is satisfied
- I don’t start cooking early enough (which can be a pretty serious situation on those nights when we have night time activities)
- The kitchen is a mess and there’s no room on the counter to prepare the meal
- The dishes I need are dirty when I need to use them
- The kids want to “help” with every step
- The kids are whiny, tired, and underfoot
- I am tired, whiny, and just want to rest after a long day
Ok, after that list, I feel the need to reiterate that I LOVE to cook. I have been trying more and more regularly to share the recipes that my big family loves to eat (and, yes, I mix plenty of desserts in with the main course recipes). Sharing recipes here tends to make me more deliberate about the meals that I cook, and I love that.
The fact is – kids are not very forgiving when Mom or Dad don’t provide dinner at approximately the same time every night. And, the older my kids get, the less they tolerate “quick and easy kid meals” like hot dogs and mac n cheese.
Now that you’ve heard my dinner time challenges, I’m going to share a few tips that make dinner time a success for my family of seven.
Tips for making dinner time a success
- Plan ahead – I don’t always stay on top of meal planning, but when I do, it pays off ten-fold. The hardest part of cooking for me is always deciding what to cook. When I take that pressure off, the meal prep goes so much more smoothly.
- Try new things regularly ….but know what good foods your kids will eat no matter what and keep them around. For instance, all 5 of my kids are happy to eat raw veggies dipped in Ranch dressing. While I wouldn’t serve that every night, it’s nice to know that I can add some carrots or celery to the table whenever I feel like trying something more exotic and suited to older taste buds.
- Have a list of stand-by recipes – Years ago, I wrote a list of 25 recipe that I could make in less than an hour (most in about 30 minutes). I chose recipes that I almost always have ingredients for, and recipes that are always people-pleasers. Some of those recipes are simple things like spaghetti, quesadillas and salad, or baked potatoes and canned chili.
- Clean the kitchen before starting dinner – My kids know that they are responsible to make sure the dishwasher is unloaded and reloaded with dirty dishes as soon as they come home from school. I typically run the dishwasher twice a day. Yes, we go through that many dishes!
- Teach the kids to cook – I’ve talked about the fact that each of my kids can cook several times. As hard as it was to “waste” so much time letting kids measure and stir over the years, the benefits now are worth it. When I know I’ll be getting home late, sick, or just extra busy, I rely on my kids to cook dinner. And because I’ve taught them well, we don’t have to eat ramen when it’s their turn.
Follow my recipes category for updated recipes, full of old favorites and new-found favorites as well.
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