The dreaded question we get every day
Growing up, my mom was amazing when it came to dinners. She figured out how to feed eight kids with what she had on hand—and she could make a meal within an hour. She is a super good cook and could feed us all on a budget. As the oldest of the eight kids, as I grew older and my personality developed (the nice way of saying it), I grew into the responsibility of cooking, especially if mom was gone. I have found what works for me with a menu planner and do it once a week.
That time of day, however, would start to stress me out. My mind wanted to figure out what we had and what I could make to feed us all. I would open the fridge and try to find something and all I would see was M E S S.
Just a bunch of stuff.
I did not have my mom’s creative ability to just make something up.
Even if I found a recipe, we would not have all the ingredients needed to make it. As a mom myself now running my own household, I now try to avoid having this stress in my life. There has been a learning curve to get here, but I finally have figured out what works for me. It is very personal for each person, but my purpose here is to simply give my perspective.
Recently, I had a lightbulb turn on in my head of why feeding my kids is so important to me. Really, there are several reasons (some I admit are selfish, LOL).
Why I prioritize feeding my children; plus the kind of food they eat
How we choose to spend our time is important, as we simply cannot do it all. Let’s face it, cooking takes a lot of work. So here are some reasons I choose to prioritize cooking.
- I dearly try to avoid having my kids on my back, needing something from me all day, telling me they are hungry. This takes time away from what I need to do outside of my mom life. By creating a meal plan and having set rules, I feel I am able to get a lot more done and my kids are not bugging me all day.
- I want to avoid being in the kitchen cooking and cleaning ALL day as people stagger in and out. As the oldest of eight kids, it was a rare occasion that the kitchen was clean and stayed clean. In my house, I prefer having the kitchen put together so I can function and get other business things done.
- We as moms feel the pain when our kids say “I am hungry.” We never want them to go without and cause pain. The worst situation I could be in is having my kids starve and I could not do anything about it. So I feel I should take advantage of the time I have the means and resources to feed them.
- If I am going to cook, then I am going to do it well. One of my mottos is quality over quantity. It has always been important to me to do everything in my power to raise and keep my kids healthy. This is the only body they get—the one chance they have at this life—and this body is their vehicle for this one life. The health of their bodies will greatly affect the quality of their life here, as well as the lives of their unborn children. I have always thought this way and even tried to eat healthy while I was pregnant with them. All of this to me is giving them the best chance. While feeding my children is under my stewardship, I will give it my all. So I prioritize cooking good, balanced meals in my life and choose to spend a lot of time in this area.
So, the question I would ask myself: How do I accomplish all of these things and NOT being in the kitchen all day?
I have found there are just a couple of simple things to balance all of this:
- My kitchen is “open” three times a day. That’s it; no more. My kids have learned to eat at mealtimes and if they do not eat enough and get full… oh well. You wait until the kitchen is open again, or until breakfast the next morning. I always say, “Not done, but full.” I give them the chance to eat as much as they want and get full. This way, if they come back before the next mealtime and say they are hungry, I can say “You said you were full.” The responsibility was theirs and they made the choice to leave. If they did not like the meal and left before they were full, that was their choice.
- When we eat, we all eat together—or everyone is at least given a choice to come when the kitchen is open. Sometimes my children are busy with friends and do not want to come in. They know they are choosing to skip that meal and they will have to wait until the next one. They do not get to come in and eat at all hours of the day. This is how the kitchen stays clean, and I do not have people eating at all different times.
- You do not get dessert or get to partake in any snacks if you do not eat your meal. Seriously, kids are smart. They will figure out any loopholes and try and get around things. If they do not like the meal, they always have the choice to not eat, but they will not get anything else until the next meal. This is especially key at dinner. Kids will try and skip dinner, only to eat four pieces of cake at dessert. We do not always have dessert, but when we do my kids know they do not get any if they do not eat the meal.
- We have raised our kids to always “try” food. They do not get to decide if they do not like something until they try it. This has helped in them not being so picky with food, especially traveling all over the world. This helps at mealtimes when I make a new recipe.
- On the other hand, even if they have decided they do not like a dinner, they know that ALL dinners can’t be what they like. We have to take turns, so they will still have to eat the meals they do not care for because it is someone else’s favorite.
How I avoid the stress at dinner time wondering what to eat AND it being healthy
Ohhhhh this is a big one. And the solution I found is so simple!
The answer is thinking ahead.
It only takes 20 minutes to think ahead and decide what you want.
Here is how I do it:
I simply pull out the laminated meal planner on Sunday or Monday. This list stays on the fridge so everyone knows the plan. I use a dry-erase fine-point marker so that I can reuse it over and over.
(Here is my FREE PDF sheet if you would like to use it. I laminated mine at my local UPS store for a couple bucks.)
Then I grab the shopping list, which stays next to my weekly planner on the fridge. I keep the list on the fridge so that my kids and hubby can easily write down the things during the week that they finished or is gone.
Then I write a dinner in each day and write down what ingredients I need to get for each recipe on my shopping list. That’s it. Each night I know what to make and that I have everything to make it! All the stress is gone.
A couple of tips I have learned is:
Never go shopping hungry. Just kidding, everyone knows this one… right?
- I keep one day a week for leftovers. This night is usually at the end of the week. Leftover night is important because it gives me a break and nothing goes to waste. Leftovers can be used by hubby for work lunches or saved for the one night that is leftover night. It is fun because everyone gets to choose what they want for dinner that night and the kids learn to like leftovers. Leftover night also works great because the fridge is cleaned out by the end of the week and we are ready to start a new week.
- I balance out my weekly meals with some dinners that are easy to make, a new recipe, and the type of foods. For example: I will be conscious of the meals with pasta, potatoes, the kinds of meats, or meals with rice. This is so we are not having pasta every night or rice at every meal, etc.
- Make more food than one serving per person. I shifted in this when I married my Samoan hubby. Why try and calculate just enough for each person? Just make a lot and then you’ll always have enough—or leftovers for leftover night!
- I think of what is going on that week so I know what kind of meals to put on each day. For example: if football practice is right in the middle of dinner time, I might do a crockpot meal that night or a 30 minute meal.
What is best for you?
My plan for the week is not set in stone; I can move around meals according to how the day has gone. Crockpot meals for days I will be gone or busy all day or the 30 minute meal if something came up and I am late at starting dinner. Either way, it is flexible and I can pick something off that list and have the ingredients.
Another benefit I have found to this method besides wasting less food is that I spend way less. When I only buy what I need for my meals, I have what I need, and it all gets used. This is the opposite of how I used to shop where I just grabbed what I thought I needed or wanted but would then have to throw the produce out because it went bad.
Either way, in this time period there are so many things that moms can put their time into, and it is all a personal choice. We cannot do it all, and other things won’t happen that are also important. We must not beat ourselves up. Find out your priorities and what is for your highest and best good. How others are doing it, and how I am doing it might not be the best for you, and thats okay! 🙂