How to Manage Weeknight Meals

We all want our kids to eat healthy, homemade meals during the week. But with long commutes and early bedtimes, it can be tough to get any meal on the table amid the normal evening and bedtime routine, much less a gourmet Julia Child-like creation. Here are a few tips to help you make it happen:

1. Plan Plan Plan! If you wait until you are standing in your kitchen in your work clothes, already hungry, with a baby hanging off your leg and your husband asking “What’s for dinner?,” you will end up grabbing the fastest thing you can find in the freezer or ordering carryout. Spend some time on Sunday looking at what you have on hand and planning at least 4 meals for the week. Make sure you have all of the ingredients so you don’t have to stop on your way home and you don’t have an excuse for not making something (e.g. “Shoot, I was totally going to make this risotto for dinner but I don’t have any broth. Oh well, guess we’re ordering pizza!”- I’m not saying I’ve said this exact line. . . but it’s probably been pretty close).

Photo via Whipperberry.com

2. Advertise Make sure your spouse and kids (if they’re old enough) know what the options are for dinner that week. That way, you’re less likely to have to deal with requests for things you don’t have and weren’t planning to make, which means (hopefully) less whining. I actually painted a chalkboard on our kitchen wall using chalkboard paint where I write the menu for the week. You can also use chalkboard contact paper instead- no painting, but it works just as well! Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own chalkboard menu. Advertising your menu for the week will not only take care of the “What’s for dinner?” questions, but it will make it easier for your spouse to get started on the meal if you are the one that gets home last. My husband is always willing to help out in the kitchen (he’s my soux chef!), but he’s sometimes afraid to start making dinner without knowing what I have in mind because he knows I’ve usually planned meals out. Which leads me to. . .

3. Enlist Help As long as he knows what’s on the docket for that night, my husband is more than happy to start chopping veggies or put some water on to boil, whatever needs to be done to get dinner started. I seriously don’t think I could do it without his help. If I stayed at home and could get an earlier start, that would be one thing, but getting home no earlier than 5:30 and only having 2 hours to walk the dog, make dinner, get everyone fed, spend some time with my daughter, give her a bath and go through the bedtime routine. . . it’s exhausting. But if my husband walks the dog while I start dinner and then comes in to help me finish it up, it’s a lot more doable. If you can’t get help in the kitchen, see if your spouse can help out with some of the other things you need to get done, like giving the kids a bath.

4. Keep a Catalog of Easy Recipes You do not need to get all “Food Network” every night for dinner. You’ll be burnt out in less than a week. The key to keeping up with cooking is to have a library of familiar, easy recipes you can pull from. That doesn’t mean you can’t try new things, but save the overly complicated, involved recipes for the weekend when you have more time to prep. I post quick weeknight meal ideas here on the blog, and you can also trade recipes with friends.

5. Give Yourself a Break!! You don’t have to be Supermom everyday. Nobody is going to call the police if you are just so exhausted that the only thing you can manage is picking up the phone to call Papa Johns. We all do it, and you’re not a bad mom if you do too. And if you work outside of the home, try not to compare yourself with your stay-at-home-mom friends. I know it’s hard, trust me, but they are able to start prepping for dinner a lot earlier. Working or not, it’s no picnic trying to make dinner with little ones running around, but it does tend to be a lot harder when you only have a limited amount of time to get it all done.

Happy cooking!

About mommachine

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and colleague. And trying to balance all of those roles at once can be utterly exhausting. Being the Type A control freak that I am, I try to run my life like a well-oiled machine. But sometimes the wheels get a bit squeaky (or just fly off completely, let's be honest). I have to slow down (yeah right, I know), give the different parts of my life a little tune-up and get back on the road.

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