Friday, March 11, 2016

Five Ways to Simplify Dinner Prep

Years ago, while on my first maternity leave, I'd make a meal from scratch while our oldest child was having a whopping three hour nap (why, oh why, did my other kids not do this?!) With the addition of a second child, we started buying frozen pizzas for Friday nights yet still I was able to usually make a great meal while one was at preschool and the other napped. Now, with four kids, I feel like Supermom when I put a meal on the table each night. I'm tired and old and just a bit bored of the whole making dinner thing. And by "a bit" I mean sooooooo bored. They would be just as happy with macaroni and cheese as they would be with an authentic Indian meal from Vij's cookbook which definitely deters me from putting in too much effort.

Somehow, dinner does get made each night and is on the table by 5:30 pm.  How?

Five Ways to Simplify Dinner Prep

1.  Theme nights.

Seriously, kids love routine! We have Taco Tuesday and Pizza Fridays. Does this get old? Yes, I'm so bored of it. Is it easy? Yes. Easy trumps boredom. You can mix it up as there are variations of tacos: taco salad, taco wraps and taco soup. We buy the frozen pizzas from Costco because, well, I'm frugal and it doesn't taste as good which means it automatically helps me with portion control. These are meals that I can easily teach Kai to make...hey, why haven't I done that yet?!

2.  Have ready to go meals

We have started filling up on frozen meals at Costco. Whether it's lasagna or broccoli stuffed chicken or ribs, I'm in. It saves me an hour and maybe costs $5 more. Done. My mom always made salad from scratch but YOU CAN BUY THE WHOLE THING READY TO GO, WITH DRESSING, IN A BAG. Love the Baha Salad from Costco. Also, have you tried Mitchell's Soup? We have at least one per week! It requires a bit more work as you do need to add some chopped vegetables and start it earlier but you will feel like a super awesome chef.

3.  Meal plan. 

It takes about five minutes to do this and it's so worth it. I usually meal plan according to what ingredients we already have so it doesn't take too much effort (wow, I'm sounding lazy...let's call it efficient.) Gary, on the other hand, would read recipe books online and peruse Foodgawker for hours on end.

{PS Sushi was written in permanent marker by our hopeful son}

4. Make it in the morning. 

When you have a free hour in the day, use that to make dinner.  If I wait to make dinner at 4 pm, I may be a sweaty, exhausted mess amongst the chaos and high decibel level. If it requires any work at all, I make it earlier on in the day and just reheat. Sanity trumps fresh-from-the-oven.

5. Have your partner cook two meals a week.

Find out what they're good at and encourage them like crazy. I love weekends because Gary takes over in the kitchen. If your partner is unwilling, teach your kids when they are young so they can do it. If all else fails, breakfast for dinner it is.

{2011, I'm melting.}

What do you do to keep sane at dinner time? Or, do you actually love cooking?!


Does getting dinner on the table each night stress you out? Here are five tips to make it go a litle more smoothly.


  1. Love this! SO good to know there's other people out there with the same struggles as me :) I love cooking when I'm inspired or have time but I struggle with the "what's for dinner?" question. It often sneaks up on me even though I have to ask it every. single. day. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. Will have to start implementing theme nights especially as kiddo gets older because you're right I think the kids love it and it makes it easy! I have found as well that cooking whenever you have time throughout the day works best too :) I've started using the crockpot more which has been good. And I try to keep a list of quick easy meals so when I can't come up with something I can look at that and just pick one :)

    1. I need to get my crockpot out more often!

  2. As you know, I currently love cooking, so my mom keeps saying "wait until you've been doing it for 25 years" and "people stop appreciating it" and things like that. Edwin is panicking...hahaha

    1. Edwin just has to keep saying "You are the best cook in the world, SHannon!", that would motivate me!

  3. louise; kai is 5 here? he is jack. i thought it was jack!

  4. Meal planning is essential!!

  5. We are meal planners, absolutely! And hubby cooks on weekends; i know not a lot of people have that so it's something i certainly don't take for granted!