3 Ways To Simplify Cooking Dinner with Kids
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4:45-5:30 is the hardest time of the day for my Luke. And that’s usually the time I need to spend prepping or cooking dinner if we don’t have leftovers.
Dinner has gotten the complete shaft since having Luke. I could totally swing it when it was just David, but introducing a second baby into the mix meant that a home cooked meal, even a few times week, wasn’t happening–OR wasn’t happening without great and stressful efforts!
Luke is about 20 months, and David will be 3 in a few months, and I think a few different factors play into that time slot being tough for Lukie.
The boys get up from their afternoon naps between 3:00-3:30 usually, and I’ll offer them a small, light snack right when they get up. My hope is that it holds them over until dinnertime, but sometimes it doesn’t.
So, by the time 4:45 comes around, and I need to be in the kitchen, Luke is either starting to get hungry, or just needs a little extra attention, and I can’t really give him either.
So more often than not, cooking becomes extremely stressful while trying to occupy Luke and encourage him to play with David, and when Justin comes in the door at 5:00 I’m frazzled and Luke is upset.
I’ve tried Blue Apron and Hello Fresh and LOVED both of them. I love the concept, I love the ease, and if we had a more predictable weeknight schedule, I would be a subscriber. We like the flexibility though of going out to dinner, or meeting friends, and I couldn’t manage scheduling deliveries around Justin’s work travel or our spontaneity.
I also love to cook! It’s enjoyable for me, and I that’s why I’m trying hard to find a system that works for us. Often we’ll have friends over for dinner and Justin will request, assuming it will take stress off of me, that we just keep it simple with hot dogs and chips, but I remind him that making the food is really fun for me, it’s the managing the kids part that make it stressful.
But lately I’ve made a few conscious changes to allow for more consistency with dinnertime, and I thought I’d share them here!
- Prep when you can. Morning is the easiest time for my kids, so I can get a good deal done in the kitchen in the morning. So, if 4 cloves of minced garlic is in my recipe for later, you may find me putting garlic in my press at 7:06am. It’s not the smell I desire at that hour, but I know it’s setting me up for success later in the day.
- Set out dishes and utensils you need. This may be eye-rollingly simple, but one of the things I noted from the cooking class was that everything was out on the trays and ready to be used in the recipes we were trying. It may not take long to open a drawer and grab a spatula, but having all your tools/pans/bowls out and ready helps me feel like I can be more efficient. I’ll even put a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet and place it on the stovetop just so that’s ready to go when it’s cooking time!
- Create leftovers, or in other words: make big dinners that you can eat the following night. Justin is a champion of leftovers, and frankly some of his concoctions he makes from what he can find in the fridge is a bit questionable. In fact, just last weekend he cut up leftover chili-lime flank steak, arranged it on a piece of white toast, topped with colby jack cheese, and microwaved it for 30 seconds. He topped it with another piece of toast, and managed to eat every last bite. I applauded his resourcefulness, and turned to an apple and a piece of cheese for my own lunch. I can totally do leftovers, especially if I have one extra thing to add to the meal. Like a fresh veggie or something.
I refer to my Delicious Pinterest board a lot during the week to find easy and flavorful meals, and there may be some ideas on there that help you too!
Do you have a cooking routine or system that works? I’ll take all the suggestions I can get!