Why is dinner time so daunting?
Kristen shares some sanity-saving strategies she uses to make cooking at home a more feasible task.
Dinner time is crazy time in my house. On the days I work in the clinic I don’t pick up the kids until 5:30. We get home around 6pm and then I have to scramble to get dinner on the table. I do not exaggerate when I say that my kids will cling to my legs or be stuck at my side from the moment we get in the door until they have food on their plates. They will be asking for a snack, to be held, for a drink of juice, a piece of candy…. They want all the things… and they want them NOW. It’s really a mad house and it’s dreadful if I don’t already have a plan to get dinner on the table and do it fast!
Whether you have young kids at home or not, making food decisions at the end of the day can be daunting. Our will power has run dry from already making thousands of decisions, we’re exhausted from the responsibilities of our day, and we might be feeling famished. Not a great combination.
I don’t enjoy the madness of not having a dinner plan ready to execute and it has really motivated me to become more efficient and consistent with meal planning. So here I share what has helped me save time and sanity around dinner. Maybe they can work for you too!
My Two Step Plan and How I Make it Work
- I create a very flexible meal plan 3-5 days at a time. I simply jot down some ideas based on what we have in the kitchen and what was fresh and affordable at the store. This is a good first step if you are used to “winging it” at dinner time.
- I chop and prep as much as possible before work rather than after work. In the morning, before I check all those emails or notifcations popping up on my phone, I take a second to jot down my thoughts, my to-dos, my projects, and what I’m having for dinner. Then I pick out things I can do that morning to get dinner started. Can I chop up some vegetables? Can I use the crockpot? (Chopping and prepping can be done on the weekends, too, if there isn’t enough time in the mornings.) Sometimes mornings are crazy but I’m so committed to getting dinner on the table quickly and making it healthy, that on one occasion I actually brought my vegetables to work and chopped them in the break room on one of my breaks. When there is a will, there is a way. =)
I keep it simple.
I used to think I needed to make a fancy meal every night, especially after using the Blue Apron service for awhile. Fancy and well-plated meals are awesome but a healthy meal does not have to be all those things. Furthermore, when you have kids, you kind of have to keep it simple or they will turn up their nose to whatever you make. For a well-balanced meal, you simply need to toss together 1. a protein-rich food, 2. a complex carbohydrate, 3. a bit of healthy fat and 4. a big helping of vegetables.
I use theme nights.
Having a theme night makes the dinner decision so easy. Everyone knows what to expect and makes planning a breeze. We have pizza every Friday. Some days we order the pizza, some days we go out, and other days we make our own. Taco nights, spaghetti, and pizza can all be healthy with the concept of balance and wholesome ingredients.
Here are some themes to consider
- Meatless Monday – Eating more plant-based meals can help us live longer so why not start off your week with a meatless meal?
- Marinated Monday – Simply throw chicken breast or pork chops in a Ziploc bag with your favorite marinade, like Tessemaes Green Goddess or make your own. Pair them with one cup of veggies and a complex carbohydrate and you’ve got a simple, healthy meal.
- Taco or TexMex Tuesday – This needs no explanation. Just try to keep your plate balanced and not overwhelmed with toppings. We like taco salads so we can keep our veggie portions big. Be mindful of your cheese, sour cream, and avocado as they can add up in calories. Double up on your cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.
- Pizza Friday – have a side salad or pile on the veggies to make it balanced.
- Soup and Salad Sunday – Light and easy!
I’d love to hear from you.
What tricks and tools help you get a healthy, homemade dinner on the table more often?