The only thing that really matters in this post is that I placed my first Boden order YAY
Dinner/Bakery/Books/Decrepit Mental Health Update

Family Dinner NEVERENDING FAIL!

There was a time when I made weekly menus, shopped for only things for that menu, and then more or less adhered to that plan for the week. We ate half decent meals and kept to our budget. I mean, I'm no fantastic cook or anything and these were not at all impressive dinners, but it is good to remind myself that at ONE point in time, I WAS capable of making dinner! 

HOWEVER!

I feel like... I feel like my "capable of making family dinner days" were either when the kids were babies or when they were just weren't in school yet. Or something. I don't know. And honestly I'm not entirely sure what that has to do with anything? Although maybe when they were babies I only had to think about Actual Dinner for Phillip and me, because honestly, it's the What Will Everyone Eat that has driven me into a deep and depressing dinner HOLE. 

I flat out loved the NYT article by Virginia Heffernan: What If You Just Hate Making Dinner?  It was hilarious and tongue in cheek and the comment section took her entirely too seriously, but the truth remains: some of us just don't like to cook! I AM NOT ALONE!

And it's not that I HAAAATE cooking or that I'm particularly terrible at it - there are times when I quite enjoy it and there are meals I think I pull off pretty well. But the neverending undying FIGURING OUT OF WHAT EVERYONE IS GOING TO EAT is a massive weight I drag around every day. And I suck at it. I think of myself as someone who doesn't wallow, who makes a plan and follows through and gets it done, but DUDES. Every day. 4:00 PM. I open the fridge. I peek in the freezer. I open the pantry door with a heavy sigh. I wonder what in the WORLD I am going to make for dinner tonight. 

My other issue is this: The kids usually want to eat between 5 and 5:30. Phillip doesn't get home until 6. There are some days the kids are hounding me for dinner at 4:30 and I throw a frozen pizza in the oven because come on, and then Phillip and I forage for sustenance after they've gone to bed. There are days I've thought ahead and planned a family meal and Phillip texts me at 5:55 to say he hasn't left the office yet. SOME DAYS I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WIN. 

But I've been feeling like... I mean, I WANT to have family dinner. I would say it IS very important to me. I just feel so DEFEATED by it. I mean, no one else in my family is really cooperating, right? My kids pretty much never want to eat anything grown ups want to eat, so I know a Half-Nutritious Dinner With Vegetables is going to be a Spend Half An Hour Insisting They Try One Bite Of Squash Dinner. Not particularly motivating! And Phillip isn't super reliable about getting home on time. It is so eeeeeeasy to set the kids up with chicken nuggets or macaroni or pizza or something else reliably eaten, along with a for-looks-only side of broccoli, and pass out on the couch until Phillip gets home and we eat leftovers. (Or rather, he eats leftovers and I eat cereal. Which is another one of my problems: I DON'T CARE ABOUT DINNER. Seriously, give me a bowl of cereal or a pile of sliced apples and a spoonful of peanut butter or a hunk of bread, some cheese, and a glass of wine - DINNER!) 

I was whining about this to a good friend, who happens to be a terrific cook and for whom food is joy, and she gave me some tips for making quick easy weeknight dinners. And all of these tips were TERRIBLE for the sort of person who is 1) not a terrific cook and 2) food is a slog, seriously, except for the one where on Wednesdays you can get an entire cooked family meal at Whole Foods for fifteen dollars. Sold. 

I think I need to make a list of dinners that all of us are willing to eat, or at least choke down with minimal fuss, and tape them to the pantry door or something so I am not starting from scratch every night. I think I need to stop worrying about trying to eat fewer carbs or less red meat or whatever and just aim for Balanced Boring Family Dinner. Whoever is attempting to "eat healthy" will just have to be responsible for doctoring their own dinners, right? (This is usually me anyway.) 

THEN I think I need to make sure I always have the components of those boring family dinners on hand. Pasta. Canned tomatoes. Ground beef. Chicken. Broccoli. Rice. And cheat where I can. My in-laws bought us a bunch of garlicky quinoa and brown rice that comes in packets at Costco? That stuff is YUMMY. And cooks in the package in the microwave in 2 minutes. 

THEN I will try to feed my kids a giant snack after school and not go crazy waiting until six to feed them dinner so we CAN all eat together. Because I really do want this. This part is just me wanting to shear an hour off the dreaded afternoon/evening shift by sticking them at the dinner table and escaping to watch the local news until Phillip gets home. I'm not sure how crazy it will make the evening/bedtime, but we need to try. It's not like we can just keep waiting until they get older - I hear that when they get older they start having things like after school activities (shudder) and are never home for dinner anyway.

AND if all else fails, make sure I have a stack of cheese pizzas in the freezer. 

(NOTE: the "cook all day on Sunday and pack your freezer full of casseroles for the week" is not a gamechanger for me. I hate doing that much cooking all at once and my kids will eat, at most, two varieties of freezer casserole type meals. I'd much rather spend half an hour every night throwing something together. And! I do have a crock pot and I do try to use it, but I have yet to find a truly awesome slow cooker recipe that everyone enjoys. I feel the "meal that everyone enjoys" only exists at restaurants anyway, where we all get to pick what we want.)

Anyway. Today I considered dinner at 10am rather than 4pm. I took some chicken out of the freezer to defrost. I fed the kids a giant snack. As soon as I finish this blog post I will get started on pounding the chicken flat for panko breaded pan fried chicken, which I will serve with a packet of the above mentioned quinoa and rice, and some sauteed spinach with bacon, which requires no skill or time yet is 1) green and 2) delicious. We will all sit down as soon as Phillip gets home and I will insist on one bite of spinach, but otherwise not engage in a food battle. We shall see how it goes. PRAY FOR ME. 

 

Comments

craftyashley

HAHAHA I am cooking dinner right now reading this, and Maggie! You get it. I nodded along at every single point. I hate dinner, and the fact they happen so OFTEN, and I would like someone else to be in charge of this, anyone rather than me. This week I am trying to go back to cooking. Things that I like, I'm going to ignore the fact that most of this will end up down the disposal! I will, hopefully enjoy some of it. Although day one- and I'm already done with the cooking thing. But hey- I had to get out of the frozen mac & cheese and the lasagna trays... Well maybe I'll be running back into Ms. Stouffer's warm embrace after this week. I JUST DON'T KNOW EITHER, MAGGIE.

Christina

Tonight's dinner sounds really good!! As for us... it's "gourmet" pizza (delivered) because we were out all day and I have a headache and like you I hate cooking in general so I will look for almost any excuse not to cook. I have like 4-5 meals that I know everyone will eat but you can only rotate those in so often before we're all totally sick of them. More often than not I'm standing in the pantry at 5pm singing the "I hate to cook" song. In other words, I hear ya sister.

Kel

Oh I totally get it! I feed my kids a snack at 3pm and we eat around 5pm. My husband gets home 6:30pm most nights, sometimes 7pm and that is just too late for them at 5 1/2 and under. But they do sit with him and talk about his day and takes bites with him ;)

Have you tried the food on the table free app? I really like it. I am not a great cook AT ALL, but they have some super easy recipes like crock pot meatballs (I served with salad and garlic bread tonight), honey roasted chicken legs etc. That is a life saver for me because I have struggled with meals, cooking and planning til my third who is 2.5 was born and I really got a lot better with it after my 8.5 month old was born.

I either prep in the morning while the youngest is napping and older 2 are at school or after lunch when the youngest 2 are taking a afternoon nap. And I have to meal
plan with 4 kids 5 1/2 and under. Also, do you have a Earth Fare by you? Every Thurs buy a adult sandwich or entree for $6-$7 and up to SIX kids eat free! It's semi healthy too...a slice of pizza, carrots, grapes and a bottle of water. And what about breakfast for dinner like eggs, toast and sausages one night?

I have been trying to meal plan to eat healthier and we don't buy as many processed things. We do go out to nicer restaurants for special occasions but I find a good solid meal plan helps me eat out WAY less and avoid scrambling at 4:30pm.

el-e-e

YEP. Hearing ya. I don't hate cooking, but I hate cooking within the 25-minute slot that gets it on the table in time for baths/bedtime but gives DH enough time to get home.

My picky-a$$ kids are starting to grow out of some of their pickiness (STARTING), and the meals that work? The ones like my mom used to make: Meatloaf (w/ketchup=win), Manwiches (yes, the CAN), Stouffer's lasagna (heck yeah, craftyashley!). I know today's moms would scoff at me for serving those things - the horror!, but my kids are eating -- and their broccoli and grilled chicken on those nights, too.

Becca

I really like cooking but after working all day, it's a chore, especially with a 23 month old wanting to "help"! I try to plan our meals out in advance which helps, but kids are on the mac and cheese/pizza/pbj diet as well. Although my 6 year old is getting a little less picky and the 23 month old seems to at least try things.
Good luck :)

K

I hate making dinner and I start dreading it at about 1:53pm. It looms.

I hate making pretty much all meals, but can manage breakfast and lunch because I am: a) less tired and b) there isn't as much pressure on them. Dinner. People expect big things from dinner.

I recently started Plated thinking that would help at least the creativity end of things and nope. It's not. I don't even want to make the Plated recipes.

I don't mind keeping a pristine clean home and it's organized within an inch of its life, but dinner? Dinner is dead to me.

Taylor

I never ever comment (but love reading!) and you didn't ask for advice, but one thing that works for me is to sit down an write a whole months worth of meal plans at once. It also helps to have theme nights, e.g., Monday is grilled meat (chicken or pork), Tuesday is pasta, Wed. is eggs (frittata, omelets, quiches with premade crusts, breakfast for dinner), Thurs. is Mexican (usually tacos), and Friday is crock pot night (pot roast, chicken thighs, pulled pork, red beans and rice). I usually roast vegetables with olive oil and salt and pepper at 425 (broccoli--25 min, asparagus-10 min, cauliflower-25 min, green beans-10 min) or saute greens or make a salad. Everybody has to have a bite of everything before they get up or eat a substantial portion if they want dessert. If the kids are hungry after dinner, they may have an apple. (Keep in mind that my house is a disaster and I have a tower of dirty laundry that may knock me over at any moment, so this is like the only thing I do "right.")

Katie

I grew up in a "real dinner that parents want to eat, pasta or sandwiches for kids if they reject real dinner" household. We all survived. I'm adopting a similar approach with my toddler, which seems to be working ok so far.

Kathryn

I serve raw veggies as an 'appetizer' while I'm making dinner - this way I feel I don't have to include veggies in the dinner if I don't want to, and the kids are hungry so they'll eat more of the veggies than they would if they had other options. I also hate cooking dinner. Usually my husband does it, but he's in the navy so those times he's at sea I have to do it. I generally at least plan out what I'm having, just to try to avoid sandwiches for dinner - although, there's nothing wrong with that, either!

AmyRyb

Ha, this sounds like my whole weekend...and every other day of my life. But having a three-day weekend at home made me crazy because I had to make lunch and dinner EVERY day...and I had no idea what to make. I used to have this problem from time to time of not planning ahead and not knowing what to make and being bored with everything. With just my husband, or even when we just had a baby it wasn't bad, because I could give the baby whatever and make us something I knew we'd like. But now the baby is six and we have another baby (20 months), AND the six year old has Celiac disease. Last year at this time I was overhauling our menus (packed school lunches, weekend lunches, and all dinners) to be gluten-free. And you know, I still haven't recovered. I mean, I have a decent rotation, but between changing tastes, a picky (non-vegetable-liking) husband, and the gluten limitations, it can be so frustrating. I can't use shortcuts like (gasp) Hamburger Helper or processed pasta/rice side dishes (although some basic microwave in the bag rices are OK), and everything from bread to pasta costs more. Bye-bye, 50 cent store brand mac & cheese and rolls or bread that cost less than $5. It's gross. And while we do still eat out once in a while, it is hard and limited to only a few places that we trust. I need to look in more cookbooks and find inspiration or something. And much like you mentioned, initially I created a list of meals I could do so I'd always have a reminder of something doable, but even with that I feel stumped most days. It SUCKS. I can't even really stop to consider how healthy our menu truly is because this is ALL I can muster and still keep my sanity. Oh, and I work full time so lengthy meal prep is also OUT. We're running into bedtime as it is. I totally feel your pain and I feel so stuck. How hard is it to plan some dinners, FTLOG? Apparently very. Tonight I'm actually relieved that my husband has a late meeting because that means breakfast for dinner! Whew. I just hate having to be the creative one and the one making the decisions ALL. THE. TIME. I ask for suggestions and get nothing. I don't even mind the cooking, but geez, people...I'm out of ideas.

lindsay

I FEEEEEEL you. The one thing I HATE about the huge-snack-to-tide-you-over-til-dad-gets-home is that I usually over-compensate and then they won't eat ANYTHING at dinner. It is truly maddening. My husband and I take turns getting up from the table and walking into another room to cool off.

Sarahd

Here's the trick: have your glass of wine WHILE COOKING DINNER! Then you can look FORWARD to the cooking part and by the time the kids don't eat it or Philip calls and says he'll be late, YOU WON'T EVEN CARE! Works for me:).

april

I hope it works out! My children have only recently started agreeing to eat a bite and branching out, but sometimes no also. I make what I'm going to make, I make sure they eat enough through the day and that there is one thing on the plate that there will not be an argument about - blueberries, a side of yogurt, something to that effect. That way, they'll eat something, I can fight over the one bite if they argue, and if they don't eat - oh well.

Also, we do green smoothies for afternoon/before dinner (4pm-ish) snack. It's a good way to get the green in when they would otherwise refuse to eat some.

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