Perhaps I should try a home improvement television cleanse
Winning

In which I seem to have a Mental Block against Dinner

All right, Therapist Twitter, we need to help me figure out what I'm going to do about something and that something is DINNER. 

Dinner is, and I am not REALLY exaggerating here, the BANE of my existence. Every single week I make a menu, every single week I buy the things I need to cook what's on that menu, and every single week I maybe make two of those dinners. MAYBE.

There are some genuine rough days where the kids get frozen pizza and I am face down on the couch when Phillip gets home. But it's more like yesterday, when I just didn't FEEL like figuring out what to do with those pork chops I defrosted and made scrambled eggs and bacon instead. And tonight, when AGAIN I didn't feel like dealing with pork chops and decided to make Costco frozen potstickers and rice for the kids and texted Phillip to bring home teriyaki. NEITHER of these days have been bad ones. I JUST DON'T FEEL LIKE MAKING DINNER. (PRACTICALLY EVER!)

I'm trying to figure out if this is, you know, some sort of Major Failing that I need to work hard to overcome, or just one of the things I'm not so great at, which is okay because I have this big list of other things I excel at to balance it out. HMMM?

The problem is, me never wanting to make dinner means everyone else suffers. Well... actually the kids love it when I decide to give them frozen whatever for dinner because it's always something they like better than Mysterious Cooked Meat and A Green Vegetable. And I honestly would be perfectly happy eating cereal four or five times a week. It's my poor husband, who works hard all day and loooooves fooooood who suffers. THAT POOR MAN. Every dinner I sucessfully put on the table is out of love for my husband. Seriously. 

(I suppose the kids and I suffer poor nutrition, but I didn't eat ANY vegetables until the ripe old age of thirty and I think I turned out okay.)

And my distaste of dinnermaking is becoming a THING. Like I am embarrassed to invite people for dinner, because I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE ANYTHING GOOD. I also happen to be friends with people who DO cook! Gak. When my sister was telling a friend of hers about a party I was hosting, but someone else was doing all the food, the friend said, "Sounds like Maggie!" And FOR SHAME, people! I am a grown up, I have three children, I don't have to LOVE cooking, but I certainly shouldn't be defeated by it every single evening! 

Part of it, I think, is the fact that three times a day every day I have to think of what to feed people. And I don't care what anyone else says, that's a hard job. A million times I've thought about how easy my job would be if I just didn't have to FEED these kids. My family is in a stage of life where we don't all eat the same things or want to eat at the same time. I often get the kids fed by 5 or 5:30 and have nothing for Phillip and me when he gets home. I feel absolutely thwarted when I've tried to figure out a new recipe and my kids won't eat it (ESPECIALLY when it looks like something they would totally eat.) So yeah, part of it is just the sameness and drudgery and lack of imagination. 

I do like cookbooks. I love cooking magazines. I like food shows! I don't necessarily love FOOD (dessert is in a category by itself) but I do LIKE food and there have been plenty of times when I've been excited to try something new at home. But on a regular basis? No. And when you and your husband are trying to only eat certain things and none of other things? No. When you've spent your day cleaning up after kids and folding laundry and wiping faces and doing breakfast and lunch dishes? No. I would like to lay on the couch with a bowl of popcorn now please. 

How do you manage this? I know some of you are super into making meals, but some of you have to NOT be, right? And we still have to do it. So what do you DOOOOOO? I'm wondering if I just need to stock up on some Trader Joe's stuff for a while until my dinner mojo returns. There WAS a point this year where I was making lots of new things, or at least making a real dinner more often than not. Maybe my menus are too ambitious. Maybe scrambled eggs and bacon needs to be an Actual Dinner rather than a Cop Out Dinner. Maybe I need to make things well ahead of time instead of waiting until 4 to stare unhappily at whatever raw meat thing I've decided I'm making that night. Maybe I should seriously investigate the crockpot. I DON'T KNOW. I just... I NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB THAN THIS. GAH.

Comments

A'Dell

Freezer dinner, Maggie. FREEZER DINNER. 75% of the meals I "make" each night are things I've frozen and heated up.

And they're delicious and nobody complains and I LOVE IT.

Embrace the freezer meal.

A'Dell

Also, WINE. Wine helps with the act of cooking when you actually have to cook to produce the meals you'll put in the freezer.

HIGHLY RECO WINE.

Sonya

I could've written this. Dinner is the bane of my existence. I do not enjoy cooking at all. I know I should be making Sophie healthy balanced meals instead of opening a Lunchable or making sandwiches but I am too tired when I get home from work everyday. Although I'm pretty sure I wouldn't feel like cooking if I was home with kids all day either. I suck at meal planning and cooking stresses me out. I ordered food from my favorite restaurant for my 40th birthday party recently!

April

S your plan "Monday - pork chops, Tuesday chicken Wednesday beef"? I used to meal plan and it didn't work at all. I find I have to actually plan dinners w all specific ingredients: Monday, beef tacos with yellow rice, Tuesday spicy shrimp pasta etc. then I put it on my fridge and if that day I don't want to make what's on the plan for that day I pick something else for the week but I make dinner from the plan.and I try to mix some harder things and some easy things (make your own pizzas?)

Just what works for me. Also I give myself one off night, and push through not wanting to cook. Just like the hardest part of running is stepping out the door, the hardest part of cooking dinner is starting.

Try meal planning the rest of the meals too - maybe if you don't have to think so hard about the other meals you won't be so burned out on it by dinner?

 Dr. Maureen

Freezing dinner is brilliant and I'm always SO THRILLED to remember that I have stuff in the freezer, but it's always by luck because I never plan ahead and make extra. Why don't I plan ahead and make extra?

But here's the thing I figured out that changed my life. It is a thing that perhaps you already know, because it's a sort of obvious thing, but if it hasn't occurred to you then you are just like me, because it was not obvious to me at all. You ready? Here goes: You are allowed to prep food early. For example, if you are going to have a stir fry, you can chop all the vegetables for it at 10am when you are still full of vim and vigor and the thought of chopping vegetables doesn't yet make you want to slit your wrists. And then at 4pm when it is time to make dinner, the horrible annoying part is already done! You just have to put it in the pan!

Also crock pots. Same thing, only without the 4pm cooking part.

Carrie

Also could have written this. Hate dinner with every ounce of my being. 5 o clock makes me want to cry. Plus I have all of Ethan's feeding issues.

I have tried cook books, meal planning, cooking ahead.. nothing works because I flat out cannot remember that dinner exists until it's time to eat right now!

On a happy note, I've managed to get out of cooking dinner every single night since last Friday. I win.

Meghan

Oh my goodness, get a crock pot. I am one person and I have two. Srsly. Love, Meghan

Meghan

Also support wine. Like, you get to have that glass of wine (or gin) when you start dinner!! The one you are going to feed P. Not the one the littles eat.

Jesabes

YES, CROCKPOT. Throw those pork chops in there in the morning with whatever and by dinner they're DONE.

We love this crockpot recipe and it takes like 10 minutes to put in the crock pot: http://mmmcafe.blogspot.com/2008/11/thai-peanut-chicken.html

This one we've actually made with pork chops (and liked): http://myhappycasa.blogspot.com/2012/02/honey-sauce-chicken.html

Also, like Maureen, I do almost everything in the morning. I hate meals where most of the work is right before serving. Casseroles/enchiladas/whatever I make entirely then put in the fridge until it's time to start baking them.

craftyashley

We have a standard running dinner that we circle around every week. Spaghetti, Mac & cheese, (frozen then baked in oven) tacos, and then pancakes. The other days of the week we eat out or I make the kids some chicken nuggets, and I have a Healthy Choice microwave dinner on the couch. I am not a good cook, not do I enjoy it. I am more apt to make elaborate breakfasts... or dessert.

Julie

I feel like I've lost my dinner mojo, too. Sometimes I find a new recipe, or rediscover and old, beloved one, and get excited to cook, but lately, it's been a drudgery. My guess is it stems from my kids having opinions (1. How dare they? and 2. Substitute "annoying pickiness" for "opinions" and that sentence is more accurate)and my severe dislike for making multiple meals for 1 sitting. Such a beat down.

And while I have nothing on any real help to add, I can give you a fervent fistbump and a Solidarity, Sister as I pull more chicken nuggets out of the bag. I do feel certain the tide will turn one day. It has to.

Katie

You totally missed the meaning of Val's comment! She meant, oh yeah, Maggie would totally hire a caterer for a dinner because she's fancy swanky like that.

Elsha

I really love cooking and trying new stuff, but I definitely build in easy meals each week. When I'm meal planning I look at each day's schedule so I know which days I'll be least likely to want to cook. Those days get a crock pot meal I can get done early, or a soup that I know by heart and can be tossed together, or hey, eggs and bacon! Omelets for dinner is a favorite around here.

For more complicated meals I try to get as much dinner prep as I can done while the kids are occupied (either napping or watching a movie) because there is nothing worse than not wanting to cook combined with kids who are bugging you. Also, I'm fortunate enough to have a husband who likes cooking and is home early enough to do it, so he cooks once a week or so. Oh! And if I'm cooking a new main dish I make sure to plan easy sides (and I usually make up a giant green salad that can be set out every day.)

Erica

Hmm, I love planning dinners but I really, really don't love so many other mom-ish things. I agree with April that meal plans have to be very specific to work, but I also don't think you should be too down on yourself for not loving this one aspect of your job. I hate crafts. And picking out clothes and fixing hair. AND deciding what to feed them for lunch. Lunch is the worst.

Laura

Now here is something I can help you with! I really think I can. It's simple:

ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS.

Cook dinner every night? Forget about that. People often compliment me on the amount of running I do, and I like to be very straight forward about what actually happens. I run a lot. I do next to no cleaning, cooking or showering. I am more than a little embarrassed to admit that this is not a joke or an exaggeration.

Anyway, I am a THREE so I understand feeling like you should, but really no. You shouldn't. You do enough. Work the scrambled eggs or whatever that was that you're already doing into the "meal plan." Also good - steamer bags of vegetables that you can microwave, and pre-cut fresh fruits and veggies from Whole Foods. Yes, this is more expensive. But that's okay. Your worth it. Your time, your peace of mind, a break at the end of the day. It's all worth it.

I've also taken to buying sushi from the grocery store the day I shop. So that's like once a week. And then once a week I "cook": bake thin white fish in a little olive oil (like 10-15 min), cook rice in the rice cooker (30 sec prep), and steam pre-cut veggies. Also pasta is always easy, with sauce from a jar and maybe pre-cooked meatballs you just have to heat up in the oven. Or canned soup. Amy's makes some really good ones. Also frozen sweet potato fries are good and not that bad for you.

Anyway, that's a lot of food specific stuff that you can take or leave. My main point is GO EASY ON YOURSELF. In my book that means less than about 1 minute of "prep". Ha! So yeah, non-cookers exist.

Jen (SaitoAbroad)

What Laura said!

And like so many other commenters above I'm the SAME way as you. Food is just not inspiring to me either and the *only* reason I cook is for the kids. My meals are designed almost exclusively for them: a protein, a carb - usually rice as we're in the land of rice at the moment ;) - and a veggie that is typically steamed. Add soy sauce and they are happy and it's generally healthy. And honestly it's a decent meal for me too. Most people (including my husband) think it's boring but it gets the job done.

Oh yeah, not sure if your kids are fans, but tofu and frozen veggies with pasta and tomato sauce is another easy way to put a meal together when you have no motivation.

We're moving back to the US soon and I can't wait to get a crock pot and just get dinner over with in the AM. It's the little things you know?!

Molly

Crockpot yes, you must get one! Breakfast for dinner is on our menu every week, so is pizza. I am a big fan of the prep in the morning or night before too! Stock up on TJ frozen food :) plus summer will be here soon so your husband can grill all the time right?! good luck!

marie

I am totally going to plug the blog of one of my favorite people here: http://mrssmithcooks.wordpress.com/. There is a lot of baking on there, but also a lot of good soups and dishes from all over. And she has a 1 year old and a 2 year old, so none of it takes that much time or is that complicated!

Jen (SaitoAbroad)

I just started dinner prep and wanted to pop back in here with another thought.

In addition to a glass of wine during dinner prep I love to listen to podcasts. I'm not sure how easy it is to do that with your three but just zoning out like that for a bit REALLY helps make it more fun. I've become a huge podcast fan lately - makes all the mindless household work including cooking so much more enjoyable.

Jess

I get it. Even though I do actually like to cook, the children with all their mess and picky eating has ruined it for me! But, like the other commenters have said, go easy on yourself! Next grocery trip buy whatever convenience/easy stuff you guys like. Frozen lasagnas, bagged salad, etc. And go from there. Lately when we're lazy about dinenr I just have romaine lettuce cut up and we make salad with whatever dressing is in the fridge. If you had chicken shortcuts or something in the fridge/freezer you could throw that on there. For me, I work better being able to cook ahead of time. I cook a lot of stuff at lunchtime, stick things in the fridge to be cooked/heated later and then do the prep dishes in the afternoon. But, it sounds like you probably don't really want to do that right now either. So: easy! Survivial! Stick to the bare minimum for a while until you feel like doing something else. Good luck!

Lisa

We buy a whole frozen hog (cut up, of course) once a year, so we have a lot of pork chops. I get tired of being creative, so most often it goes into the crock at the beginning of the day with one of the following: Mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix OR dry ranch soup mix. Cook on low all day and end up with moist, fall-off-the-bone meat that you can throw onto rice and call a meal. So very easy and requires me to not have to think. Try that.

Andrea

When I try to plan specific meals I get overwhelmed. This is what works for me: Sunday - crockpot meal (put in before church, ready when we get home. Big lunch and everyone snacks for dinner). Monday - real meal. Tuesday - breakfast Wednesday (we eat at church). Thursday - real meal and Friday is leftovers or pizza or both. Saturday is meant for eating out!

Hope that helps. And don't be so hard on yourself. Most men are just grateful to have FOOD period and millions of kids are just fine without a green vegetable every day :)

el-e-e

Totally with you -- I go in phases where it's a total phone-it-in week, or else a COOK ALL THE PINTEREST THINGS week. (except on those weeks, by Wednesday I'm all, "Chicken nuggets, anyone?"
One suggestion I don't already see in the comments I learned from Linda at Indigo Girl -- "Sharing Supper." I LOVE this. Toss a bunch of crackers, cheese, grapes, apple slices, maybe pepperoni or deli ham rolled up, maybe carrots and ranch if I'm feeling virtuous, onto a platter. Everyone helps themselves to whatever they want. DONE. :)

The Sojourner

Our meals are very, very monotonous around here. I can get ground beef, pork, and chicken all fairly cheaply, so our weekly menu goes like this: Beef, pork, chicken, meatless. We have about 3 pork recipes (working on expanding this) and probably 5 or 6 beef and chicken recipes that we rotate through. "Meatless" is anything from cheese pizza to vegetable soup to fish. (This is meatless in the Catholic sense, not the vegetarian sense.) Since there are just two of us, I can get away with not making dinner every night--the other nights we eat leftovers.

A typical day of eating for me goes like this:

Breakfast: Eggs

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: As described above

For my husband:

Breakfast: Leftovers

Lunch: Tacos. (he'll happily eat the same thing every day for weeks, so that's what I make him...if I'm feeling fancy, I'll make chicken tacos instead of beef.) On Fridays he'll get a tuna fish sandwich or deviled eggs or some such thing.

Dinner: As above.

REALLY. IT IS THIS BORING. If we have company, then I might make something fancy, like sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast. (Yum...might have to randomly declare breakfast-for-dinner soon...) Other than that, SAME THING EVERY DAY. And we're both happy and haven't gotten scurvy or rickets or anything. When we have children, they'll probably routinely eat nuggets every day for a week. Because why not?

In conclusion: Do what works for you. If what works for you is takeout 3 times a week, go for it.

Jay

I have a total cheat meal. I have chicken cutlets in the freezer always. Fry them in oil with cumin sprinkled in there (as opposed to the marinate in garlic, lime, cumin- which is still not hard.) Tortillas- always on hand, right? Well if not, they should be. Slice fakey fried fajita chicken and wrap it in a tortilla with slices of avocado and tomato and call it a fajita. If you have refried beans smear a few on there. Salad toppings or salsa mean bonus health points. Make your own = bonus mom points. It WORKS.

Mary

Hate dinner more than anything. I even get depressed at lunch Time bc I never know what to feed myself, let alone my kids that doesn't make me more depressed ! Trader joes is my best friend!

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