You get up in the morning and rush to get yourself and your children dressed, forget to brush your teeth (good thing you keep a spare in your purse – not the first time this has happened), out the door to school and daycare drop off, and off to work. Or maybe you work from home, or you don’t work. I can tell you from personal experience, the daily rush is the same!! The kids still want breakfast first thing in the morning, there is still school drop off and pick up, and they still don’t want to get dressed or brush their teeth.
If you’re out of the house all day, there is obviously no time to prepare dinner. If you’re home with the kids, do you really want to spend nap/quiet time chopping carrots? I don’t – I want to lay down in complete silence!
That being said, children (unfortunately) still need to eat! That witching hour around dinnertime can be the most difficult time of the day with our kids as they can be overtired, hungry, and fussy.
First, if you’re not already online shopping and picking up your groceries… start there! My absolute best lifesaver hack. Then, these are the five things that I do to make supper time a breeze in our house:
- Sheet pan meals: Everything on one pan, and into the oven. The beauty of sheet pan meals is the hands-off aspect, as well as the easy cleanup! Keep it super simple, salmon or chicken with some salt and pepper and some herbs and spices, like dill, garlic, and paprika. Use pre-cut bagged veggies like carrots and broccoli, and cubed potatoes tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper. I personally don’t worry too much about the timing of everything — if the broccoli is a little overdone, it’s all good. Just make sure you cook until the meat is done!! Easy to dish up, and easy to clean up (ie. parchment paper right into the compost bin).
- Instant pot or slow cooker: Another great hands-off way to make dinner (do you sense a theme here?) Is to use an instant pot or crockpot. If you have time, give yourself 15 extra minutes in the morning to throw something like a chili into the slow cooker and then you literally don’t have to worry about it all day. Vegetarian chili is even easier! If you have an instant pot, the awesome thing is that you don’t have to be prepared with thawed meats! You can literally cook a whole frozen chicken in a pretty short time (and it’s actually good!). Again, the awesome thing with these options is closing the lid and walking away to be able to tend to your babies or kids and not be stuck in the kitchen with little people climbing your legs.
- Breakfast for dinner: This is my go-to meal when I have nothing planned and not a ton of fresh groceries on hand. Scrambled eggs with cheese, toast with peanut butter, frozen veggies, and fresh fruit. So easy, and kids love the idea of breakfast for dinner! It’s like an extra special treat; I remember those days from when I was a kid!
- Garbage Bowl: I know, the name sounds gross, but that’s what we call it! Basically making a bowl or stirfry out of all the random ingredients in your fridge. You’d be surprised at how good they can be! All the random vegetables that you should probably use up before wasting them and a protein can be meat, egg, or a can of chickpeas or black beans! I pull out my big wok, start with some oil and garlic, add veggies and protein and any kind of sauce or seasoning you have in your fridge or pantry. Cook a separate pot of rice, and there you have it! A garbage bowl! Yum yum.
- This last one is NOT a paid ad. But it is a true review of a cookbook that has changed the way we eat in my house. I tell all my friends and moms I meet about this book. It’s called Cook Once Eat All Week by Cassy Joy Garcia.
The book is broken down into 26 weeks, with each week containing 3 recipes. Each of those 3 recipes is made from the same base ingredients. For example: chicken, kale, and corn. The concept behind the book is to do meal prep on let’s say, a Sunday, for that week. It takes me 1-1.5 hours total, and I prepare the base ingredients along with a few other preparations such as chopping vegetables or making a sauce (all instructions are in the book). THEN, you follow the instructions for each of the three recipes on the day you want to make it that week, and the ingredients are already prepared. Basically, it’s like meal prep except you don’t have to eat the same boring thing every day because the ingredients are transformed into 3 totally different recipes. For example, the chicken, kale, and corn is turned into confetti chicken casserole, Mexican street corn tacos, and a chicken salad with green goddess dressing. Sounds good, no?
Like I said, it takes me 1-1.5 hours on prep day, and then literally 5 minutes in the evening before dinner to throw a meal together! SO EASY!!! Can you tell I’m passionate about this book? It’s amazing, and all the meals are so delicious. It takes all the thinking out of meals.
One thing to note, if you find the recipes contain too much meat for you, you can change it up a bit. I tend to cook less meat then what the prep day calls for and supplement with beans or eggs etc. For example, the chicken salad I mentioned, I used half the amount of chicken and added black beans!
I hope all of these tips have been helpful! We understand the struggle that is mealtime and feeding your kids, not to mention food preferences! We are here for you Mama, you got this!