Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dinner Time Without Losing Your Sanity

Most nights, in high school, my mom and I had a dinner time ritual. About 5 p.m. she would come into my room, sit on my bed and ask, "what should we have for dinner". The majority of these nights I gave her some ideas (sometimes I even cooked!).  While my mom occasionally cooked elaborate meals, most of the time we ended up eating tacos, spaghetti or we got take out! She hated dinner time because she couldn't stand figuring out what to make.

So many people out there struggle with what to make for dinner. The brutal aspect of the situation is that it is something reoccurs EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! Dinner time never lets up. 

I found myself desperate to taper this daily stressor. About 4 months before I was married I collected all the recipes I could. My cooking skills got put to good use and I tried out all these recipes. The ones that tasted good went into a large green binder; the ones that tasted horrible were chunked into the trash. There were stacks of cookbooks full of recipes that still needed to be sampled!

So far, I have found myself to be fairly stress free when it comes to dinner time. Here are some of the things I do:

Make a Weekly Plan
While I am not ambitious enough to take on month long freezer meal cooking, I do plan out our dinner menu each week. I write out a detailed grocery list and at the start of the week. I go shopping for the items on the list and try my best not to stray from it. This helps me stay healthy and within a budget too!

Don't Be Overly Ambitious
I don't try to cook a gourmet meal every night. Generally I make 1 or 2 elaborate meals a week and the rest are moderate to easy meals. I plan for weeks that I know will be crazy. For example it helps me a lot to go with simple recipes like quesadillas or spaghetti and canned sauce during midterms.

Mix it Up, But Not Too Much
This tip is a little different than the one above. When I cook a new meal I often feel uncertain about what I am doing. Generally the recipe takes a little longer than it should. It becomes extremely overwhelming to cook many meals that I have never made before all in the same week. When I first started on my dinner time recipe-hunt I did this: a new recipe everyday. Now that I am in the swing of real married/mommy life I would collapse from exhaustion if I did that. I find it enjoyable to find new recipes and even create some, but I limit it to one recipe a week. This keeps me feeling creative, but still sane!

Get Input From Others
A lot of the stress families experience surrounding dinner time comes from family members not agreeing about what they like. It makes wives and mothers feel beaten down if they spend the afternoon in the kitchen cooking only to be told that no one in the family likes the dinner. Sometimes you try new recipes and there is no avoiding how horrible they taste. Other times, different people just have different preferences. I try to listen to my husband when he tells me what he likes and what he doesn't like. I also try to cook meals that I know my daughter will eat. No one can be happy with every meal, every night. Keeping people's (including yourself) preferences in mind helps your family stay happy with dinner time over all!

Eat Out Once a Week/ Enlist Others
I love cooking, really I do. But I loathe cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. If I had to clean up the kitchen every single night, I think I would completely lose it! I only have 3 plates to clear! My husband knows this about me and he helps often helps me clean up. On weekends he also helps by preparing lunch or dinner. It is so wonderful to get this break. If you start to feel overwhelmed with dinner, try to get the rest of your family onboard. It really can do wonders for you and they can learn a new skill!

 We also eat out once a week. We have a small family, but also small budget. My husband and I decided that the change of scenery and the lack of dishes is worth the extra money. We mostly like to spend the money we do have on experiences and making memories, rather than on things. Eating out definitely qualifies as a fun experience! As our family grows we know we may have to limit ourselves to eating out only once every 2 weeks or a month.

Is meal planning one of the major stressors in your life? What do you do to make your dinner time less stressful?
I'm linking up with We Are That Family today!


  1. Wonderful advice! I am a meal planner indeed! I actually enjoy it! Sad, I know... : ) Have a great day!

  2. Partly to give me a night off during the week and also because he likes to cook, most weekends my husband cooks or crocks a big portion of something ~ giving me a guarantee night during the week when I just have to re-heat.

  3. Great tips! I have finally learned to plan weekly meals and it has made life a lot easier! BTW, what is that delicious looking pasta dish?? Yum!

    1. Yah it really has made my life so much easier! Here is the link to the pasta dish recipe: http://coffeewithmamaleigh.blogspot.com/2012/09/garlic-and-tomato-pasta.html. Enjoy!