Isn’t it funny how a perfectly delightful day can turn into sheer chaos resulting in tears and frustration between the hours of 4 – 6:30? I was well aware of “the witching hour” from our baby days, and it appears that this will continue for the foreseeable future. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have started to make dinner and instead thrown my hands up into the air and ordered takeout. This is frustrating for two reasons: first, we have unnecessarily spent on two dinners, and second, I always end up consuming many more calories with takeout food than I would have if I cooked at home. I don’t know how things work around your house, but around here all too often dinner time meltdowns turn into bedtime meltdowns resulting in an overall unhappy ending to the day.
I have started using these 6 easy steps to simplify dinner, and (as long as I stick to them) our meal times are down right enjoyable, pleasant, and we even talk about all the stuff and ask all the questions parents are supposed to ask at the dinner table!
Six Ways To Simplify Your Dinners
1. Meal Plan – This can be done 1 of 2 ways: plan your meals then shop or shop and plan meals based on what you bought. 10 -15 minutes of planning can save you from hours of frustration.
2. Keep your meals simple with as few steps as possible – Try to keep your recipes to 5 ingredients or less. Use ingredients you routinely have on hand, so unplanned grocery store runs are not needed. Making intricate dishes with a multitude of steps and ingredients is both challenging and stressful (even more so when your child announces at the dinner table they are no longer eating one of the key ingredients of the dish). Save these recipes for at home date nights.
3. Plan ahead – Making a chicken dish? Remember to thaw your chicken the night before. There is little more stressful than realizing at noon, the meat you want for dinner is hanging out in the deep freeze (or worse, trying to do a “quick thaw” and creating questionable poultry). This is especially easy if you have done your meal planning, you know exactly what you need and when you will need it.
4. If at all possible put together you dinner in the morning or early afternoon – Evenings tend to be so crazy, having this step out of the way and just being able to pop dinner in the oven/instant pot, or out of the crock pot makes life so much easier.
5. Create An Easy Dinners Recipe File – Whether it is on your computer, tablet, or a good old fashioned index card, these are helpful when you are stuck in your meal planning and sick of the same old dinners.
6. If you have picky eaters, make sure your meal includes 1 thing that they are willing to eat – This may be something as simple as peas or macaroni and cheese, but it keeps the please eat SOMETHING, or just 1 bite frustration to a minimum. It may not be the most nutritious meal your child eats all day, but a full tummy at bed time counts for something right? Simple Tip: Try a Fred & Friends Dinner Winner Plate to encourage your kiddo to eat to the sweet treat at the finish line.
I’ll be sharing our meal plans along and along. With a bit of luck, it will keep me on task and hopefully help you come up with some quick, easy and simple dinner ideas. In the mean time, if you have any simple dinner ideas to share, please leave a comment below, I would love to hear your tips, simple recipes, or suggestions for picky eaters.
Thanks for reading, and make it simple!