"Mom, what's for dinner?"
Sound familiar? While I love cooking, making healthy, tasty and affordable meals for my growing family of six that everyone will eat, can sometimes be stressful!
I have always liked cooking, even from my childhood, so to make my time in the kitchen enjoyable, during the hustle and bustle of life, I do these three things:
Now, this probably started because I only go grocery shopping once a week, but I make a meal plan weekly. My meal plan isn't followed perfectly every week, but by mapping out my family's food needs for each day of the week, I can be sure that I have everything in my house so I can put food on the table.
When making my meal plan I start by looking at my week ahead. Are there going to be some nights that we have a meeting or a ball game, which means I either need to plan on us eating out, or maybe a crockpot meal ready to go for whenever we get home. Or is there a full and busy day that I know by the time supper rolls around I'm not going to want to do anything, so I can plan on a leftover night or a frozen food dish that takes little effort? Think through your week and then start making your meal plan.
Because my kids are currently in school, I make sure I have one "fun" breakfast planned for each week, along with regular breakfast items the kids can make on their own such as cereal, granola, fruits, toast, etc. Then when looking at the noon-time dinner we keep things pretty simple at our house - we eat leftovers, cold meat sandwiches, eggs or salads. Then I fill in each day's evening supper plan by analyzing our week's activity schedule and mixing in family favorite meals, along with trying a new recipe.
Have Themed Days of the Week
Another thing I do to help fill in my menu plan is I have themed days of the week. This helps me think through meal ideas easier and faster. For example, we always celebrate "Taco Tuesday" and "Friday Night Pizza Night". Taco Tuesday isn't necessarily always a taco, but I always make some type of Mexican food dish. Friday Night Pizza Night can be a mix of making homemade pizza, or picking up a pizza from a local restaurant, or throwing in a couple frozen pizzas. Whatever works best for our activity schedule and energy level come Friday night.
I would also add that I usually have Pasta Night once a week because my family loves pasta. And because we raise pigs and always have lots of pork in our freezer, we usually have pork chops or a pork tenderloin or a pork roast each week. In the winter I'll have a Soup Night each week and in the summer I love to grill so I'll have at least one Grill Night each week. Figure out what works best for you and your family's taste preferences. Maybe it's a weekly Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Night, or a Breakfast for Dinner Night, or a Burger Night. You can get creative as you want and it helps you fill in your weekly meal plan.
Get Your Kids In The Kitchen
My last tip is to get your kids involved! Ask your family what they want to eat when making your meal plan. And if your kids are old enough, have them get in the kitchen with you and help cook.
In our family, each week one kid gets to be my "kitchen helper". This means they are my go to child when it comes to setting the table, helping with dishes, etc. And it also means that they get to help prepare one meal for that week of their preference! They usually pick one of their favorite meals so hopefully by the time they leave the house, they will feel comfortable preparing several of their favorite dishes. I will also ask my weekly kitchen helper to be my sous chef throughout the week if I need some extra help in the kitchen. My kids really love being the weekly kitchen helper and are often counting down to their week.
No one wants to be stressed with one more thing to do at the end of the day, so I hope these ideas and tips help you enjoy your time in the kitchen more! Remember, whatever you are providing your family for dinner, you can be reassured that farmers are working hard every day to make sure that your food choice is safe, nutritious and sustainably raised.
Are you a meal planner? What tips would you add to help decrease stress in the kitchen?