If your life as a mom is anything like mine, planning for dinner has become almost impossible these days. 5:00pm hits and it's the witching hour. My toddler is having meltdowns, wanting attention and my baby is needing to be held. Man, what was I complaining about back when I had one baby? That was a piece of cake. Having 2 kids under 3 is not twice as hard, it's more like 2 X 2 squared to the infinite power. I've discussed Meal Planning here with lots of choices for calendars and planner printables for you to plan out your weekly meals. I miss the meals we received from friends when we had a newborn, it was awesome!
But how do we manage it ?
Just turn the tv on to babysit them for a few hours. Just kidding!
Lately, it's become more of a challenge as a mom, and being stressed is not fun as a momma. The way I've been handling the 5pm hungers with my kids is to feed them early at 5:30pm. Of course I am starving at this point too so I usually have a snack while they eat. Then as soon as they are in bed and my husband is home, I get down to the business of cooking for us grown-ups. I know, I know, family dinners with the WHOLE family are important, but at this stage of the game, not able to happen right now. My ultimate goal is for them when they are older, is for all of us to sit down at the table and do the Family Dinner like I discussed here.
Whether you are a stay at home mom, or a working mom getting home at 6pm with your kids, the last thing you want to do is slave over a stove. But something's got to give because making 2 dinners and cooking late,
is a lot of work for the evening. And if you are like me, your only
free time is when the kids go to bed and cooking until 9pm is not the
best way to spend free time.
I don't want to be a restaurant where I cook several meals. Like finding some quick toddler food for my 2 year old such as nitrate free hot dogs and frozen veggies, and then turn around and cook a meal for my husband and I, not to mention feeding my baby purees. That's a lot of work to make 3 meals.
So how do we make things easier on us moms? Besides going the fast food and delivery route?
My goal is to have my toddler eat what we are eating, but kind of hard to do when I don't have the time to make dinner so early. So here is what I've come up with the past few weeks, and if you have any other helpful suggestions, please let me know.
1) Crock Pot!! Yes, this is the fastest and easiest way, especially for working moms who can throw it together in the morning, and then walk in the door and plop the food on a plate and it's done! I have found some great recipes on Pinterest or just googling crock-pot or slow cooker recipes. I finally found a good one the other day that involved chicken that was NOT shredded like most and it's Weight Watchers friendly. It's Jerk Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Pineapple, yum, although I would hold some of the spice for your kids. And when you go the crock pot route, then you don't have to slave over the stove at the end of the night and you can finally put your feet up and rest, well, at least for a few minutes before you have to get up and do the laundry and clean :)
2) Left Overs: When I cook, I try to make large portions of things that are great re-heated like lasagna, and that way I can open the fridge, microwave and my toddler can eat what we eat and call it a day!
3) Meal Prepping: Of course, left overs run out and then you have to eventually cook something else. So I have found that prepping on the weekend can help save time, while you have someone at home to watch the kids. Or, if you aren't sleep deprived and can do some meal prep during nap times, then go for it. I am just not there yet, while my baby sleeps like 45 minutes, it's the only time of the day for me to sit down, close my eyes and not hear a baby crying. Because she is STILL not sleeping through the night, like up every 3 hours, the last thing I can handle is standing up in the kitchen working when I can barely keep my eyes open from sleepless nights and busy, active toddler chasing during the day :)
So what can help with meal prepping on Sundays? Drum roll..... I found an AWESOME MEAL PLANNER, Pepperplate!: www.pepperplate.com It's a cool, free, website where you can import recipes by either entering the URL or manually entering. You can also install the bookmark on your bookmark toolbar like Pinterest has, and can pin recipes from the internet into it. It's so amazing! When you enter the URL, it imports it exactly and includes pictures and everything.
And you can add recipes to their calendar for your meal prepping that week. They also have the Shopping List option where you can add things to your list and then use it with your cell phone or tablet to take with you to the store. Another cool function is that it has a Cook Mode for your phone or iPad/nook where it prevents your screen from dimming on your device while you are reading it in the kitchen. AND, okay, I could go on and on about this site, but you can share recipes with friends and family. Love that!
As for the planning part, I try to plan meals on Sunday and sometimes chop veggies (or buy them pre-chopped at the store) and store them for the upcoming week. I try to make a big dish on Sundays too like enchiladas or lasagna that can last 2-3 meals. I also freeze some of them so we can have them the next week too. Then, after the leftovers and crock pot meals are eaten, I will make another big dinner for our family after my husband gets home so we can all eat it the next day and store it again for left overs. So really, it's only one weeknight I am slaving in the kitchen at night.
Yes, meal planning takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, but I guess that's what being a mom is all about. I can only imagine what life was like back in the day before there were microwaves and quick cooking!