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The Dinner Blues
I don't know whether I'm failing or trying to live up to unreasonable expectations. I have a 4.5 year old and a 6 month old, and I can't seem to make dinner for my family more than 2 or 3 nights a week. Although I stay at home and my older son is in preschool 3 days a week, shopping and cooking are very difficult for me. My husband expects/wants home cooked meals nightly and rarely helps. Even on weekends when our daily ''jobs'' have been the same, I am expected to provide dinner. When I do get him to cook, I somehow end up feeling like a failure when I should just feel relieved. In my previous life I enjoyed cooking and was fairly competent. Adding to the stress is that my husband is quite particular about his meals, and my four-year-old has become very picky plus we are vegetarians (so much chopping! ) I feel like my job has become family chef, and I can't do my job. I clean the kitchen four times a day. I'm getting depressed looking at this as what the rest of my life will be and starting to resent it. I'd like to add that my husband is not a total louse, but a wonderful, generous, kind man who works hard and is tired at the end of the day. Is cooking dinner 5 nights a week possible with an infant and a preschooler? If I should be able to do this, how? -Burned Out
Planning meals a week at a time has helped me tremendously and cuts shopping down to one trip a week. I have also been trying to double recipes when practical and freeze part for no-fuss healthy meals a couple weeks later. Get your older child involved in preparing dinner. Maybe when the infant is napping, you and your preschooler can prep some of the ingredients for dinner - you chop a carrot and your child puts the pieces into a bowl.
I also took a page from Rachel Ray's show, 30-Minute Meals, and use store-bought prepared foods strategically to cut down on some of the work without compromising the nutrition. And I try to approximate amounts of ingredients instead of measuring them exactly when precision is not required (and it ususally isn't with dinner).
We tried an arrangement where I wrangle the kids and my husband cooks what I have planned, but he just gets home too late to make this work.
I've become aggressive about finding and recording new recipes that are easy to put together. Epicurious.com has some fabulous recipes that are easy (and some that aren't - you have to be picky). I also like www.allrecipes.com. I've never become a crockpot person, mostly because it seems many crockpot recipes use processed foods for seasoning but www.crockpot.cdkitchen.com would be a great place to start searching for healthier recipes. When we like a new, easy recipe, I print it onto an index card and put it in my recipe box for easy access later.
Finally, you probably need to negotiate some slack with your husband for the next 6 months. With both of my kids, the first year is just so hard to get routines established as things are always changing and they are so high-maintenance. As your infant settles down, you will be able to do more. Working at it, too
To make things easier for you all week long, you could cook big meals on weekends and freeze left overs so that one or two nights a week all you have to do is reheat the meal. You might also try shopping at places like Trader Joes where they have lots of almost ready meal ingredients that take little prep time and yet are healthy and delicious. Those kinds of things, AND regular help from your husband will go a log way towards making meal time more enjoyable for all of you. Besides, how cool is it to have a dad who cooks? Carolyn
You need Dr. Phil. Your husband needs to GET REAL!!!! You should have known about him before your children and had guidelines set up when you were thinking about having children. I don't care what he does all day, it's his home, his family and his kids. Does he take care of them so you can cook?
I know how hard this will send, but leave the louse and you will have more time for everything. I was so much better off after my ex and I split and I had a newborn and 10 yr.old, had a very supportive family and friends group, found a job, found reliable care and my daughters are 20 and 30 and now I am a full time grandma at 50. I am a young 50 and would love to help you.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP before you lose it and do something that you might regret or worse get so sick you end up in a hospital. Then what??? Who will cook for him. You're a WONDERFUL, TERRIFIC PERSON AND DESERVE TO BE HAPPY AND HAVE TIME FOR YOU AND BY GOLLY, YOU'RE TIRED AFTER HAVING 2 CHILDREN ALL DAY!
Please e-mail and we can exchange #'s and talk. I do have a lot of great ideas and thoughts.
I am sorry for your pain. Karen
The trick is to keep it simple. You don't have to be a gourmet right now in your life.
Why the heck are you cleaning your kitchen 4 times per day?? A quick wipeup around kid areas after meals is fine. Even better is to eat snacks and lunch outside so the crumbs fall to the ground for the birds (less wiping for you).
Instead of making wonderful meals every night (and learning to hate your kitchen), develop a bunch of quick/easy meals, or cook every other night and have leftovers. Your husband may be picky, but he'll just have to compromise. And it's okay to order in!
Some quickies: Polenta (with parmesan or red sauce) - the long forgotten quick meal CousCous with Raisins/Coconut/Plantain Squash Burritos Quesadillas Pasta with jarred sauce Potato with onion, granny smith, milk and parm (bake, fry, roast, boil whatever) Rice made with milk, butter and nuts
You can always serve salads with these meals, or raw veggies such as carrots, snap peas, etc. Or... you can buy pre-cut veggies. Yes they cost more, but... your sanity? Hello, it's worth it. anon
1. Trader Joes has tons of ready to eat healthy frozen vegetables and vegetable dishes. Its cheaper and they have an interesting variety. And tofu chix nuggets, dog s ice cream.
2. Paper plates.
3. Explaining to my husband that its important that he set a good example for cleaning up after dinner for the kids sake. Trying to keep it light.
4. Bath for the kids is every night. One parent does the bath and the other cleans up the darn dinner mess.
5. One night a week is takeout.( more if you can while the baby is so young).Better if hubby can pick it up on the way home from work.
6.Do a family conference and talk about how everyone can help, what the ideas are. 4 year old can help too. 1x a month set up a calendar of dishes ala the old cafeteria. What each person can do.
And the old perky ' hey lets clean the dishes before we leave the house'!
Another great save is hiring someone to come in and clean at least 2x per month. Lightens the load a lot.
We are all working hard!
Perky hard worker.
So, here are my thoughts. First I would get clear as to what your own priorities/expectations for dinner are. Do you want to cook each night? Would 4 nights a week work? Can your husband help with the dishes? Can he committ to cook 1-2 nights per week (weekends)? Can you eat out once a week? eat frozen Trader Joe's Pizza (it's not bad). We also eat a lot of Amy's frozen cheese enchiladas (cheap at Costco). What about leftovers? I often cook a big pot of something and freeze some for another night when I am too tired to cook. Really sit down and figure this out. I think once you are both on the same page on this issue, or are clear that there must be a compromise until your infant gets older (goes to college?), then it may be easier to focus on getting the food on the table instead of the multi-layered issue it has become.
Second, I have found that in order to get dinner on the table, you really must do some planning. I know some folks who prepare a weekly menu, shop for those items, and know exactly what they will eat on each day. What I do is I buy tons of meat and freeze it- I don't know what I would do if I did not have a slap of chicken, beef, fish to work with!. I buy whatever veggies I know my family likes, pull out what is about to grow mold for each night, cook a pot of rice, and viola- dinner is served. We tend to go out 1-2 times a week which is not ideal because we can't really afford it. I have also heard of classes and books that teach you how to cook for a week in 1 day, or something like that. Maybe you need a new recipie book with fast and healthy veggie meals?
All in all, you are absolutely not a failure- you are a tired mom with an infant and small child. And it sounds like you have very little help. I hope talking to your husband will help. If not, you may have to decide what you are willing and able to do and just leave it at that. Either way, do what you can to forget the guilt. anon
''Our Menu-Mailer e-menus are made up of fun, easy-to-prepare, healthy meals that often taste like they're from a gourmet restaurant but are for real, every day families with budgets and time-challenged evenings. With new issues published each week, you'll love receiving a menu with 6 delicious dinner recipes timed to the seasons, serving suggestions, and a handy categorized shopping list. Nutritional information is included.'' Helena
I earn more than twice what my husband earns and the belief some people have that work outside the home or the size of ones paycheck absolves one of family and household responsibilities holds no water with me.
tell your husband you need help and tell him specifically what you want him to do (cook x number of time per week or whatever) and then offer to help if he wants (he can pick out a recipe and make a shopping list and you'll do the shopping, for example) partner in ALL matters
Here's one simple suggestion: Safeway brand ravioli -- they have mushroom and cheese, plain cheese, asparagus, etc. They boil up in minutes and are very tasty. You can make it even easier on yourself by doing baked pasta: put frozen ravioli in a baking dish, cover with a couple jars of sauce and bake it (covered) for around 1 hour. It's a no brainer. Add a salad (buy your lettuce prewashed for ease), and dress it with some tomatoes and dressing.
As for feeling guilty: don't. Anything that's quick and nutritious is fine. Sandwiches and soup or eggs and toast are perfectly good foods to serve for dinner. Add an easy salad for some greens, and you're done. You work hard, don't feel you have to go that extra mile because others expect it of you. Talk to your husband and see if you can work out that both of you help with the cooking. Trade off days. Agree to get take out once/twice a week or as you can afford it. heather
There is a fee but minimal she gives you menues for the week and your shopping list (Whew ... even the brain dead can do it!) It has been a life saver ... now of course there are some things that I wouldn't dare try (picky eaters) but, it helps to have even the 2 meals that work that can be stretched out for a leftover night. She also gives one crockpot meal a week. I love this one too great for the days you are going to be out and busy all day. Give the website a look. She also has a book too.
Mommy Cooks Every Night Now
I try to plan out my meals as best as possible and shop on line. Although, it is difficult to get good produce that way. Cooking every night is very difficult. I love to cook and I still expect my husband to contribute to the cooking. My husband cleans up after a meal when I cook and vice versa. Good Luck Love to Cook
I have a 3 1/2 yr old and a 10 month old and dinner has become a huge chore for me even though I love to cook. I totally understand where you are at. So I decided to find every way to simplify my life in this department. Here are a few helpful suggestions that have really helped me.
- I double up on two dinners a week so I can freeze half of it for a future night.
- On Sun night, I plan ahead (based on what I have in the freezer or go shopping for) for at least 5-6 dinners.
- Once a month I go to Gourmade Dinners and pick up or prepare 6 or 12 dinners to put in the freezer. They have great vegetarian meals and it's very cost effective. Go to http://www.gourmadecookery.com
- I try to keep meals I prepare under 30 minutes prep time.
- I do a lot of crockpot recipes because you can throw it in the morning and it's done at the end of the day.
- One night a week I do something very simple like omlettes, mac & cheese or a frozen lasagna.
- Keep meals simple and give your self a break. We moms need it.
- On weekends when your husbands around and you have more time and energy you can make a more gourmet dinner. Hope this helps. Laurie
Here are things to have on hand at all times, all available at TJs. I am sorry I sound like a commercial, but being able to make really good food fast has made me so much happier, and I owe it all to TJs:
Creme Fraiche Garlic Croutons Garlic Olive Oil (sautee any veggie, salt and pepper, voila) Frozen Rice (white or brown) Candied Pecans (sweet and hot, if you like them) Frozen Corn Frozen Peas Frozen Meatballs (veggie if you like!) Frozen Vegetable (pick one you like--I like the haricot verts-- sautee with garlic olive oil, throw on some soy sauce and crumble the hot candied pecans on them) Jar of Pasta Sauce (I don't love any of TJs, though I haven't tried them all, my pick is Bertolli 4 cheese). Frozen Loaf of Undercooked Bread No Cook Rice: They have already cooked brown and white rice. Two kinds, in fact, frozen and in a bag. I prefer the frozen. It saves me from having to 1) think ahead to cook brown rice, 2) rinse and drain the rice and 3)scrub the pot. No Chop Salad: They also have little bags of salad called ''salad for 1 or 2''. These are much more convenient and I waste less salad because anything left in those big bags seems to spoil quickly, whereas I use the whole little bag. I throw in the lettuce, whole cherry tomatoes (try the splendidos---they are on the large side, but truly splendido), candied pecans, goat cheese, and voila, a salad without chopping. Easy Roasted Vegetables and Soup: TJs also sells vegetables already chopped in bags. Take their prechopped yams and butternut squash in a bag and peeled baby carrots, toss them with some good olive oil and salt and pepper and roast in oven at 425 for 35 minutes or so, turning once. Sprinkle with parsley if you've got the time, and serve. They are delicious. Make a large batch and if you have any leftovers puree them in a food processor and mix with TJs vegetable stock (in a box) and you have a fantastic soup for the next day. Garnish it with some of their garlic croutons and a splash of their black truffle oil or garlic olive oil and you have a masterpiece! In fact, you can garnish the Butternut Squash Soup in a box the same way (throw in a dollop of TJs Creme Fraiche to make it extra tasty). I have served this to guests with rave reviews. Emergency Crab Cakes: Do you eat seafood? TJs sells crab meat in a can. It stays good in the fridge for months, which means you can keep it on hand for when you are out of everything. Use the recipe for crab cakes on the side of the can. Except, instead of bread crumbs puree some garlic croutons for extra flavor. If you don't have some of the spices or other ingredients, don't worry, the garlic croutons add all the flavor you need! Prechopped onions for sauteeing: The prechopped onions in a bag are a nice timesaver. Sautee them in some butter. Throw in some prechopped broccoli or cauliflower. Pour on a jar of TJs Korma sauce and throw in frozen peas, corn and tofu. (or use the frozen ''soycotash'' which has edamame beans, corn and red peppers) Simmer for a bit. After everything is cooked stir in some cream, yogurt (the Greek style yogurt is manna from the gods) or sour cream or creme fraiche. Microwave the brown rice and you are done. Or you can serve TJs frozen naan (heated in the oven and brushed with melted butter just before serving---your 3yo will love this job). Quick fried rice: In a pinch you can make do with just the things on the short list, or a couple extra ingredients that are usually on hand, like eggs and onions. Sautee onions in garlic olive oil, scramble an egg in the pan, throw in frozen corn and peas and frozen brown rice and you have easy fried rice. Garnish with fresh or dried parsley. Old standby and child pleaser: Veggie meatballs with pasta sauce. Throw in a salad and a nice loaf of bread (you can freeze one of the ''undercooked'' ones so that you always have it on hand to pop in the oven) and you have dinner.They have a million other things I haven't even tried, or haven't mentioned. The swedish pancake mix, for example (just add water). You could make savory crepes using it. Corn bread mix is a nice side to veggie chili. The one essential cookbook I have is Chez Panisse Vegetables. While it has complicated recipes there are many simple ones, as well. For instance, the ginger asparagus has changed my life. Julienne ginger, sautee it in butter until browned, chop the asparagus on the diagonal and sautee. Salt and pepper to taste. So easy. So good.
I sort of got into the streamlining a good dinner task. Just how fast, easy, and tasty can I make it? Hope this helps. susan
1. Plan to make big batches of freezer friendly food: soups, stews, pasta sauces, and lasagnes freeze well. We actually bought a free standing, non-self defrosting, freezer that we keep in our basement. Food keeps longer and with less freezer burn in a non self defrosting one. When I make a big batch of something, I freeze meal size servings in freezer zip loc bags, date them, and store them flat. Sometimes it helps to put them on a cookie sheet while they freeze. The days when I know I won't be able to manage dinner, I take one out and let it defrost, buy some french bread, make a salad, and there's dinner.
2. When you're too tired to cook, make your back up easiest ever meal: Ours is baked salmon with butter and dill, baked potatoes or steamed rice, and steamed broccoli. This takes about 3 min to prep.
3. Plan your menu for the week: I was terrible at this before having a child, but now find that the weeks I do it the stress level drops dramatically. I always plan one night for leftovers or a freezer meal and another for take out. My husband always cooks at least one night on the weekend. Try to buy all the ingredients at once so you have everything on hand. If you find yourself with a spare 10 minutes, do some prep work and stick it in the fridge.
4. Buy a cuisinart. Great for chopping onions and other veggies.
5. Be easy on yourself: Don't always feel like you have to make gourmet food. Bean burritos are easy, kid friendly, and take no time. Save the gourmet cooking for the times when you are rested and feel like being creative in the kitchen. Also, don't fret if your toddler becomes picky and won't eat what you've made. It's not the end of the world if s/he eats scrambled eggs or mac n cheese for a week straight. Someday, s/he'll eat like a regular kid and appreciate more food. Until then, it's not worth fighting the battle. Good luck! anon
Fortunately my hubby has low expectations, and is pathetically grateful if there happens to be food available when he comes home. He understands that with little ones it's just really hard to buy food and cook it. You have my sympathy and understanding.
Don't feel bad about it--it's too bad your husband isn't a little more understanding, but what can you do. Hang in there.
Don't be hard on yourself. There's lots of us out here who are struggling with all the day-to-day chores (did I mention my house is a disaster?) I'm sure there are plenty who cook every day but I don't understand those people :-) jennifer
trader joes sells lots of short cuts, like premade organic brown rice frozen, great organic frozen pizzas, and sliced stir fry veggies.
visit savingdinner.com. It provides you w/ a shopping list and coordinated menu for the week.you can just browse the sample menus which change weekly or so, or subscribe and get regular emails w/ the shopping list, menu, and recipes.
prechop on weekends. have carrots, peppers, brocoli etc. prechopped ahead of time. send hubby and kids to the zoo, turn on the tunes and fill the ziplock bags. you can also make spaghetti sauce and curry type things ahead and freeze.kids' mac and cheese, too.
stop cleaning the kitchen 4 times a day. just make sure the dishes are done or in the dishwasher. do counters and other clean up once a day.
get a neighborly 10 yr. old in to entertain the kids at the witching hour while you tune out and cook. or a neighborly 18 yr. old to cook/prep while you play w/ the kids.
caring for children is work and it is labor and time intensive. your spouse can help with dinner. what if he grills meat a la 1950s and you bake potatoes and open a bag of salad?
if you cook, you decide what the family eats. no complaining from the others.
but on an emotional level I think you have to deal w/ letting go of guilt, perfection etc. and talk to your husband about how hard it is whilst refusing to personalize the problem. it's not you that's at fault it is the set up. the set up might not change, but you have to vent or you'll get really angry.
cooking almost every day
She shops at Trader Joe's alot and sometimes make great already made meals for her family. They also enjoy rice and beans that's easy to make and will last if you store in freezer. I've seen her made gourmet burritos with just rice and beans,with avacodos,delicious ready made salsa and other wonderful toppings which her hurspand really enjoys.
You can find all sorts of wonderful ready made vegetarian foods to cook and make a wholesome meal for your family. This is especially helpful when you're tired.
I was even surprise to find out that there's tofu meatballs and sausages, etc. Our son loves the tofu meatballs with rice or in pasta. Also available at Trader Joe's.
I think the trick is to keep the meals simple so that you don't tire yourself out and having good varieties in your diet.
Also, my neighbor and I have just discover a wonderful book. Check it out for yourself! It's called (FEEDING THE WHOLE FAMILY( by Cynthia Lair. It's also important to have meals planned for each week, this doesn't take much time and it also gives you motivation to cook for your family. Also, ask around. Ask your friends or family if they have easy recipes that can be cooked in half an hour and if these recipes are not vegetarians, think of how that can be transformed into a an easy to make vegetarian meal. This is what I like to do. I home this helps a little, Mai
I have a 2 month old and a 2 year old and I cook dinner just about every night. The only way this is humanly possible is that I use the plan on flylady.net. Each week I plan the menu for the week, write it out and plan a shopping list accordingly. I used to think that menu planning was just crazy (I was a look inthe fridge at 6pm and wonder what is for dinner kind of person), but it has turned out to be a lifesaver! Not only does it save money and insure that we cook at home, but I remember to try things that I would otherwise forget.
In the morning when I get up, I check to see what is for dinner (so yesterday it was ''Greek'' pasta-no prep needed). If I need to defrost something (usually chicken, wouldn't apply to you, but sometimes I already have a soup or sauce made) I do it then. Then at the start of naptime I do the prep for the dinner as quickly as possible-all of the chopping, or making a sauce or whatever (so yesterday-put a pot of water on the stove, chop tomatoes, slice zucchini and garlic, pit olives, julianne basil and cover under wet paper towel, crumble feta cheese, get pasta out). Finally about 1/2 hour before husband gets home I try to corral everyone into the kitchen for a snack/''helping'' to do the final steps on dinner (boil pasta, saute zucchini and garlic, toss everything together). Needless to say, I keep all meals very, very simple! We have a lot of one-pan meals and very often I'll make a dinner that lasts two nights and reheat the following night (chili, soup, pasta), so that I'm only actually cooking 4 or 5 nights a week. Finally, we usually go out once a week, usually on Friday when I really feel like I need a break. The other thing you could do is get ''ahead'' on Sunday by making a soup and a casserole (or whatever) for!
the following week--this would le I hope this helps! I think its all in the planning--if I don't plan for some reason it all falls apart immediately! Good luck! Cooking all day, too!
I have three young children (a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 year old) and it is next to impossible for me to make dinner every night. I probably only make a ''fancy'' complete meal once every couple of weeks. And yes, my husband does complain.
At least once a week we go out for something simple (burritos at Cactus for example) -- when we do this, I make sure to pick up a burrito to go for my husband. I also try to use the crockpot once a week. That way I can get it started in the morning -- and it will be ready in the evening. I used to use the crock pot like 3-4 times per week and that was perfect. Lots of easy, low-fat and nutritious meals. But with the birth of #3, it's become more difficult to even do this. It is much easier for me to cook in the beginning of the day than the end of the day. Plus if you cook in the morning, you can get the chopping, mess etc. over and done with. Plus the crockpot has tons of vegetarian meals (bean soups etc) and there are some really good cook books.
It is just too discouraging to try to start something at like 4pm - I'm too tired and I usually feel like I *just* cleaned up the lunch mess.
Other nights I try to just feed them nutritious meals which don't involve a lot of mess and cleaning, such as Ak-Mak with Peanut butter, fruits, steamed vegetables, plain pasta (yes, even mac and cheese), scrambled eggs, grilled tofu, etc.
The hardest part for me is planning menus and then shopping for the food. I figure once my kids are in school, hopefully I'll be better. Good luck - I'll be curious to read your replies! mom of three little guys
I am a middle-aged mother of two who must try to find a meal--or meals--for my family every day against all odds. Over the last 2-3 years, my son, age 8, is becoming a vegetarian, my daughter, age 4, an extemely picky eater, and my husband has taken to walking in the door at dinnertime, looking at the food on the stove, opening the refrigerator door, and announcing that he is ''going up the street'' (where the takeout restaurants are) to get his dinner. Nobody seems to want to eat the same meal. If I simply try to make one thing--like a pasta dish or even some kind of ''tapas'' like display, I can always count on at least 2 family members to not eat it. I then have to search for something else and make it asap. This happens almost every day. It has affected the amount of food I buy (lots) and increased the grocery bill several-fold. Most demoralizing is my husband's reaction, since it sets a bad example for the kids, who then want to sample his carry-out food instead of my meals. For the four years before we had kids, I was the cook everynight and my husband ate the same food that he now rejects. I am so tired of trying that some days I just cruise the restaurants and load the refrigerator with Chinese takeout. Is there anyone out there who has dealt with this problem and found a solution? Lonely cook
My kids both eat different foods, don't like what I'm making for me and my husband, eat at different times, etc. A friend suggested we do the following, and it works great for us:
On Sunday evening we make a dinner chart for the week. Each kid (2 boys,9 and 13)get to choose what they want for dinner 2 nights each. So for example, the 9 year old might choose Monday to have pizza, and Wed. to have hamburgers. The 13 year old may choose Tues, pasta and Thurs, salmon salad. So, that's what I make for them on those nights (they each have to eat what the other chooses). If they don't want what is made they can make their own dinner, which could be frozen pizza, peanut butter and jelly, cold cereal. I always make sure those things are available so they can do their own.
This solved the huge dinner problem at our house. Friday, Sat and Sun is my choice...often we are out, or have guests over or just have a family dinner together.
What this did for me was give me sanity over dinner prep. I found that even though I love to cook and am a good cook, I dreaded dinner time, trying to make 3 or 4 different dinners. I'd be in the kitchen for hours catering to everyone else. I felt very taken advantage of, which I had allowed by trying to please all of them.
During the week we often all eat at separate times. I usually eat my dinner when I'm hungry and my husband can help himself when he's ready....but he does eat what I've made. Maybe you have to disconnect from your husband eating take out. Let everyone know that you're willing to go just so far. They have to eat what you've made (within compromisable reason) and if they don't like it, they can get their own, especially your husband. Good luck. no longer in the kitchen for hours at a time
How do other moms do it? I go grocery shopping once a week and buy lots of good stuff (fruit, veges, milk, eggs, bread, and then frozen organic pizzas, pasta sauce, frozen and fresh veges, ect.) but *somehow* most nights I cannot find anything interesting to make for dinner...I DREAD dinner time...the slow walk to the fridge at around 5:30 p.m. to open the door and wonder ''what's for dinner tonight?''
To add to my problem is that my 3 year-old is going through the picky-eater stage so most nights she doesn't like what I make. Also, my husband works long high-tech hours so I'm on my own at dinner. I used to like cooking! Are there some cookbooks out there that are really easy to follow, using healthful ingredients, and somehting that tastes yummy to adults and acceptable to kids? Would also love to hear from naturally organized parents who could maybe share a few secrets. Thank you am
The only way I can avoid this problem is to make up a list of about 5 or 6 meals before I shop. If I don' t have any brilliant ideas, I spend about an hour looking through cook-books and browsing Epicurious.com for recipe ideas. Our meals are often simple (baked potato, roast chicken, pasta dishes, polenta with a sauce, rice and beans, risotto, hummus and baba ghanoush, burritos, etc.), and I certainly don't always use recipes to cook from. But I always know that when I get home from the store, I'll have ingredients for 5 good dinners in the fridge. ANd I always post my list of meals on the fridge, so that at 5:30 I remember our options and don't just open a box of Mac and Cheese.
As for your picky-eater problem, I'm a big believer in the idea that you put good food in front of your kid and don't worry about how much they eat. I have a 2yo and a 4yo. We serve them small portions of whatever we're eating, and the only concession we make to preschooler finnickiness is we add hot sauce or chili or salsa to our own portions, rather than mixing it into the foods. Some meals they ask for seconds and thirds. Some nights they eat one bite and then they're done. I figure they won't starve. I don't offer to make them other food. I just let them eat as much or little as they want with a minimum of discussion. We don't push them to eat food they don't want. We do ask them not to say bad things about other people's food. The result (and I believe the causality is fairly clear) is that they actually have quite broad, non-picky eating habits. Eating is *not* an area of power struggles in our house. In any case, I believe that (paradoxically) the less you pay attention to your 3yo's eating habits, the better they will be. Judith
I am big on vegetables and we eat a lot of steamed zucchini -- slice, steam 3 minutes, voila. Ditto green beans or broccholi. Very easy, and works as finger food for a little child as long as the zucchini are still firm.
A little more work but a wintertime favorite for us is yams -- get the delicious garnet variety. I got this recipe from the Chronicle, paraphrased here:
Preheat the oven with a cookie sheet in it to 400. Peel and slice a garnet yam; my slices are about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. Coat the slices with olive oil and salt them. When the oven and cookie sheet are ready, lay out the yam slices and bake for 15-20 minutes; then turn them over and bake 15 min more. These are delicious -- caramelly sweet, and can be eaten as finger food.
I rely on yogurt or cheese/cottage cheese for proteins most evenings, but I also make bacon & eggs as an easy supper pretty often. Letitia
Our kids are much older now but I remember what you are experiencing. I always wanted that Norman Rockwell family sit down to dinner experience, but with two active little boys, 3 years apart, it was impossible. Plus a late working husband and my own exhaustion from working made it worse.
Here's how I approached it: The kids needed to eat earlier and go to bed earlier. Plus they had their likes and dislikes. I accomodated that with an early kids' dinner. They loved what we called ''nursery food'' til they were about 5. They ate oatmeal and fruit, or mashed potatoes and brocolli or plain pasta and cheese and sliced chicken during those times. They ate at around 5:30, leaving time for baths and stories and the ususal routines, with bedtime at 7 or 8. Dad would arrive home during bathtime. Then, the grownups got to have dinner later - something we liked, and it was blissfully quiet. This was a lifesaver - calming, a routine that worked and everyone was happy. I made something simple that we that we adults would eat together on the late shift. Key word here - simple.
Gradually the kids' bedtimes extended along with their increasingly adventurous palates and vocabularies (!) and now we have a civilized four person dinner with everything you can imagine.
We also used a delivery service called Jessie et Laurent (see their website at JessieetLaurent.com) on and off for many years. Fully prepared, healthy dinner foods for a whole week. It was wonderful. Then i realized I didn't need it anymore and i wanted the boys to learn to cook.
Now we shop the farmer's market together and they are my capable sous chefs at ages 13 and 10. It's so much more fun to cook for a hungry, appreciative, participatory audience and when they help it's a different world.
I promise you it won't be difficult forever. I hope this offers some hope. Debby
Trader Joe's also sells a fun variety of coooking sauces that make dinner time easy. Just add tofu, chicken, veggies, whatever and serve over rice or noodles. The Spinach Sauce is a favorite of ours - we add chickpeas and maybe some chicken or tofu if we have it and some fresh or frozen spinach.
Happy Eating! Jen
Monday - pasta, bread (and when really on top of things: salad) Tuesday - fish with chips or rice, plus veg Wednesday - soup (sometimes homemade) and/or leftovers Thursday - chicken or egg dish Friday - stir fry Saturday - husband cooks (otherwise known as cheap dinner out!) Sunday - roast pork/beef/chicken with potatoes and vegIt might be a bit boring, but it makes the shopping lists easier, AND I don't hunt in the fridge for something each day of the week. Most dinners don't take more than 20 minutes to make (but you have to remember to put the Sunday roast on...just like Grandma used to!) I change the kind of pasta, use different meat in the stir fry, make either white or brown rice, use fresh or frozen veg, mash/bake/roast the potatoes, etc, etc so we still have variety. But the dinner 'idea' has already been decided, so the rest is easy. And, funny enough, the kids almost appreciate knowing what dinner will be ahead of time. And everyone just has to try what I make... I do not go into being a short order cook. It is a bit of tough rule (especially if my son cries at the sight of a SPOON because he likes FORK dinners), but I can't make any more food than I already do. He ends up eating what he likes...and eats a larger breakfast the next day if he has boycotted last night's dinner. I leave it up to him.
Note that I also put in a cheap dinner out. I think everyone deserves a break in the routine, so this has been our 'ritual'. We usually just get burritos or order a pizza, but BOY do I like Saturdays!
I have been doing this since I had my second child four years ago, but I also just noticed the magazine ''Real Simple'' has an article in the February 2003 issue on how to set up a menu a little more sophisticated than what I have. Check out http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/meals/022003_mls_dinner_index.html (Although if you buy the magazine it has a month calendar with menu plus a shopping list, which could get you started that much easier.)
I hope this helps a little. Oh, and I never knew I had so much to say about dinnertime..... Caroline
-Plan out all dinners (meals, actually, but that was too much for me to do) for the week and buy groceries accordingly. If you know the 5 meals you want to make over the week, you will actually have all the right ingredients.
-Keep your dinner lists for the last few weeks so you can make sure you are rotating enough. Variety was definitely a problem in my house.
I'm sure you'll get lots of advice for healthy meals. I hope this healps with the organization. Good Luck. Elizabeth
1. Collect all the recipes that I like and have cooked before and know that will be at least somewhat appealing to my family.
2. Sort them for seasonality - like now I'm cooking root vegetable recipes and other winter fare.
3.Make up weekly menu plans. This includes:
a. one soup, enough for accompanying dinner several nights (soup is a great way to get in the veggies for little ones!)
b. a pasta dish with seasonal vegetables
c. a stir fry of chicken or tofu with seasonal vegetables over rice
d. a fish night e. two grains dishes with seasonal vegetables
This makes 4 nights of what I consider "real" dinners: a soup and main course of protein and vegetables, and a starch.
One night a week in our house is homemade or dressed up frozen pizza.
Two nights, spread throughout the week are called "A Festival of Past Favorites", i.e. leftovers. And if it is served on a different shape of pasta, it qualifies as an entirely new dish! And that pretty much takes care of a whole week, not to mention the occasional dinner out.
I write down the menu plans and shop for them. I try and hit farmer's markets and pay attention to what's on sale at safeway. Keeping a "price" book, where I note what things sell for so that I can recognize a better-stock-up price, is also helpful.
I don't believe in pandering to a toddler's taste buds too much; I offer a variety of foods that aren't too highly spiced, encourage my 4 and 2 year old to at least try it, and offer them bread and butter or pasta if they don't care for what I've made for dinner. They've come to like some surprising things this way.
I would love to try dinner exchanges with other families in my area (near Terrace Park in Albany), where I cook one night a week and deliver dinner to, say two other families. Then two other nights a week, I would get dinner delivered to my house! Sounds pretty sweet.
As to cooking with little ones, I don't have any magic bullets, except to try and do prep earlier in the day. My 2 year old likes to pour dried beans into pots on the floor near me while I'm chopping and cooking. Truthfully, it's often hard, and what saves me is my husband usually gets home at a decent hour and gives me a hand, wrestling with the kids in the living room while I finish up dinner. I'm very interested to hear how other folks handle this. nickatia
Secondly, sit down and make up a menu for the week, before you go shopping. I know this sounds dreadfully June Cleaver-ish, but it will eliminate a lot of waste and you simply have to follow the list at night after a long day.
Find the kid foods your child likes: pasta? Fish sticks? Mac and Cheese? Soup? Can you tart these up for a grown up (like Pasta and Pesto for you, plain pasta for your daughter?)
A Mediterreanan (sp!) spread is always nice: fresh bread, cheese, olives, hummos and wine. Easy to make, nutritious, easy to clean up.
Never overlook the eggs. All kids eat scrambled eggs (don't they?) And you can make Huevos Rancheros for dinner, or a fritatta, or a nice feta cheese and red pepper omlette...hmmm.
Never overlook the soup. Fun to make, or get it out of a can and garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh bread.
We've gotten much better over the six years we've had kids. But we still have ''burrito'' night at least once a week.
Happy dining! Julie T.
As far as serving food to a picky eater, well, that is a whole other issue. But, I firmly believe that it is your job to put good healthly food on the table. It is your child's responsibility to eat it. I make sure there is at least one healthy thing at dinner that each kid will like. Our menu has certainly changed over the years. For the most part, there are just a few things we all like so I tend to concentrate on those. They sort of encompass various regions (we're vegetarian):
- Mexican (tacos, burritos, mexican pizza) - Italian (ravioli, spaghetti or other pasta) - Japanese (miso soup, sushi, rice, edamame) - Other Asian (rice or noodles with veggies, tofu and different sauces, favorite is a Thai peanut sauce) - American (veggie burgers, veggie hot dogs, fries, corn) - Soup and grilled cheese is a winter favoriteIf your more specific suggestions, email me. allison
Look around the net, decide what YOU like to eat (my partner also comes home after dinnertime) and make that. I try to make lunch the big meal of the day and dinner more like breakfast. I also start getting dinner together right after cleaning up breakfast.
I really rebel at the organization of making menus, but it really helps with the dinnertime blues. Good luck! Kathy
that said, i feel that i was once a gourmet cook, and my child has robbed me of it! so once a week i cook something new and daring (well, maybe once every two weeks!) to live a little :) jessica
- chicken-apple sausages in the freezer - frozen ravioli, frozen tamales - store-bought pesto in the fridge - lots of packages of different pastas - rice & polenta & couscous (couscous cooks in 5 minutes!) - frozen veggies (try different stuff like okra, limas, etc.) - frozen fruit (blueberries are great for supper pancakes) - store-bought spice mixtures ("Lemon/Herb" and "Rotisserie Chicken" and "Montreal Chicken" are good.) - frozen entrees, mac and cheese, etc. - canned soups and brothI stock up on this kind of stuff at albertsons.com every few weeks. My husband goes to the Berkeley Bowl on the weekend and buys 4 or so meat courses (fish and chicken variations mostly) and fresh veggies and fruit, dairy etc. I make out the list for him. I cook. "Cooking" involves putting the meat into a roasting pan, spraying it with olive oil, and then sprinking some kind of store-bought spice mixture on it. Then just stick it in the oven and it cooks while you make rice or pasta (It's nice to have a rice cooker), fold the laundry, clean out the dishwasher, yell at the kids to practice piano, do homework, set the table, etc.
Sometimes I make plain frozen veggies (w/lemon juice and butter); sometimes we eat raw carrots/cauliflower (kids like that) sometimes fresh brocs or asparagus in the microwave. Cooking veggies in the micro is key - it is very fast and you also don't have to watch it if your micro has a "Vegetable" setting. I cook 5 nights a week usually and we go out or get takeout the other 2. I rarely cook anything during the week that requires more than 5 minutes of continuous attention. Either it's rinse-and-microwave or spray-sprinkle-put in the oven. Sometimes I don't even feel like doing that, so we have canned soup or husband makes pasta and canned sauce or everyone picks out a Lean Cuisine. I do like to cook, but during the week, I'm tired when I get home from work, and I just want to cook something that's fast! Not the french chef
As for the actual prep: I take a few hours after grocery shopping to prepare some meals and freeze for lazy nights. I usually chop up some chicken and place it in a freezer bag and in another freezer bag, chop up some veggies. Voila...stirfry. Just throw on a pot of 5 min. rice. I also prepare spaghetti, lasagne, and soups. Soups can also be put in a freezer bag for a quick drop in a pot of boining water. And when all else fails, its a can of soup, applesauce/sliced fruit, and tuna/pbj/grilled cheese or breakfast-for-dinner. Since I'm a student, I can't afford ordering pizza so another favorite is homemade pizza. The kids have control (and the fun) of placing the cheese and toppings on it. Perhaps getting the kids involved in the prepwork would also help them understand how hard it is to cook and how to prepre a balanced meal. My 2 1/2 yr. old loves to help (keep them away from the stove of course).
And the last rule I have is that they are required to eat one bite of everything I serve. If they don't eat the rest, I never force them. BT
After I shop I try to cook a big stew with meat, potatoes, carrots, green beans, onions, tomatoes, pimentsn (Spanish smoked paprika). It's pretty easy, no fancy chopping, its virtue is the flavor developed by long-simmering. Also it tastes as good or better reheated through the week, unlike many foods that decline over time. My toddler and I have it for lunch almost all week long, it's one food she will almost always devour even as other foods go in and out of favor in accordance with some toddler system I do not understand. It can also fill in as a dinner if needed.
At the same time I sauti ground beef and add tomato sauce for spaghetti later in the week. I prefer to cook meats right away because I start to doubt their freshness after a day or two.
Then I count on rice and beans (un-PC Christians and Moors recipe, EZ and delicious in 20 minutes!). A homemade soup is also great, if made ahead.
That's 3-4 meals, a good start to the week. I write any food ideas on the fridge so I can buy the ingredients, then fill out the rest of the week with frozen ravioli, leftovers, or ''snack dinner'' (baby has tofu, beans, applesauce, other no-cook items, husband and I eat cereal later on). Kristine
Another tip is to precut onions, garlic, carrot, even brocoli, green beans, etc. and put in ziploc bags after weekend grocery shopping. Its alot easier to cook from scratch on weekdays if the "prep" work has been minimized. Makes pasta, soup, and stir fry almost effortless later in the week.
By the way, I also love Mark Bittman's cookbook: How to Cook Everything - its a 21st Century Joy of Cooking Karen
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