Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to stress less about mealtime

Welcome! As I think of how to compose this first post, I am snuggled up in the recliner with my youngest daughter, who is full and satisfied. That makes this mama very happy. I actually managed to make a meal that all of my kids would eat, and I did it with little to no stress. I have pieced together several strategies that are working in my family of five, and I only wish to share these ideas with others. I am not a supermom. My house isn't spotless. I yell at my kids. I may not shower every day. I fall short in many aspects of parenting, domesticity, and partnership. But one thing I have figured out is that we can all help each other improve in these areas by sharing what works for us. I am a firm believer in taking what works and making it my own. There ain't nothing new under the sun as they say, and the things I present here may be very simple and obvious, but if you are like me (crazy busy/slightly stressed), then sometimes you just need someone to tell you to take Advil when you have a headache, or how to cook dinner for your family.

My first piece of advice to share is the making of weekly dinner menus. Not everything we discuss here will be pertaining to mealtime, but it is a great centering point, as nothing can really fall into place if you don't know what the hell you are making for dinner. It makes the whole day run smoother. I promise. And this is true no matter what your mommying reality is- SAHM, WAHM, or WOHM. Food is the lifeblood of being a mom. It consumes us all day long, and nothing can be zen if the kids are pulling on our shirts, tripping us up, and hungry for dinner. And why submit to stressing about it when you don't have to? Aren't there enough things that stress us out that we can't control? We have ultimate control over meals and what to feed the family. Here are a few steps to take in beginning to make dinner menus, and thus, making your life just a wee bit easier.

1. Take inventory of what meats/proteins that you have on hand in the freezer. Take note of what meats/proteins are on sale in your grocery ad (if saving $ is important to you). These items are going to be the cornerstone of how you put your menu together. I find it far easier to plan my recipe selections based on the protein instead of the other way around, like finding some great recipe and pouncing on it. You will save money this way to, as you won't be wandering the grocery store buying random ingredients and then figuring out what to make with them. Make sense?

2. Based on your available proteins, make a short list of favorite recipes you can make with these items. Secondarily, take inventory of the cabinets. If you are making your menu on the cusp of the new week, take a gander at the fridge too. This doesn't really work in the long run though because then you are cutting it too close for doing your additional shopping. Keep that in mind for your next menu efforts. I like to make my menu about 4 days ahead of it's start day. So, say I start my M-Sun menu planning on Wednesday or Thursday of the week before. This allows for shopping time and changes if need be. Doing it the day before doesn't reduce your stress an awful lot. Of course, pick whatever shopping day/start day/planning day that works best for your family. I personally shop on Thursdays for the next weeks ingredients.

3. Ask your kids what they might like to see on a dinner menu. My kids love helping with this. It empowers them and makes them feel important, and dare I mention without completely cursing myself and ruining it from ever happening again, makes them more apt to eat what you put before them because they helped in the process. I include them in the cooking and prepping as well. They freaking love that.

4. Gather these dish ideas together in a list in no certain order. Take into account which recipes may be more time consuming and ear mark them for Saturday or Sunday, or whichever nights you seem to have a little more time. Try to space out similar meals. Put meals with perishables earlier in the week to be sure you foods are still fresh. A mid week trip to the store for more veggies is something else to plan for if need be. I tend to use frozen veggie mixes later in the week to avoid another trip.

5. Assign a night to each of these meals. If you cannot come up with enough meals, consult one of the many great recipe sites out there and plug your available protein into their search bar. Try something new! I love cooks.com, personally. Another tip: if routine is really needed, and searching for recipes is too daunting without a little more framework, try this organizational tip that my dear friend Carrie shared with me recently. She has a nightly theme that repeats every week, and then she just plugs in the appropriately themed dish to that particular night, i.e., Mexican night, Italian night, ball park night, meat and potatoes night, etc... GENIUS!

6. Post your completed menu on the fridge and beam with pride in the fact that you just did a totally awesome thing for you and your family. And don't forget to post it all over Facebook and make everyone think you are totally organized. That is what I do!

thanks for reading,


  1. Fab first post! Thanks for taking the time for all of us who need to be told to grab an advil lol. Taking notes....

  2. I also enjoyed reading this! Marked as a favorite now, so you have to keep blogging!

  3. I plan around my proteins too, though I still suck at it! Great first post, keep it up! :)

  4. <3 it Mel! It is so true that sometimes life gets crazy & one needs someone to tell them to take an Advil when one has a headache!

    I added you to my reader..can't wait to read more! :)

  5. I am looking forward to your posts!!! Looks like you have a great start to your new blog! Next to my quilting and sewing, the kitchen is my next FAVOURITE place to spend my time! I LOOOOVE to cook and try new foods and recipes!!! I like to post some of my recipes on my blog from time to time. Can't wait to see what your write about next!

    Quiltingly Yours