Picture this… your family is gathered around the dinner table, your kids are sitting (with their napkins on their laps, of course), happily eating the wholesome meal that you’ve lovingly prepared, all while everyone is participating in thoughtful conversation.
Does that sound like your family? If you’ve got young children, it’s highly unlikely!
There seems to be two major parts of dinnertime that are um….challenging.
First, just getting dinner on the table with little ones around.
Second, is getting them to eat their food (without complaint) and actually enjoying dinnertime with you kids.
So, I have something for you. I’ve put together a two part series on dinnertime, to help you get healthy foods on the table and to enjoy eating meals with your kids.
Today, it’s all about….
Preparing Dinner for Your Family
Here’s some great tips that will help you prepare healthy meals for your family, without losing your mind.
This post does contain affiliate links for you convenience.
Have a Plan! Preparing dinner will be infinitely easier if you have planned ahead. As grocery shopping with young kids can be about as relaxing a root canal, planning several meals ahead of time and shopping once will save your time and sanity. My favorite resource to help make this a reality is The Six O’Clock Scramble online family meal planning service. They do the thinking for you, providing a weekly customizable menu with 5 delicious family-friendly meals and an organized grocery list.
Keep your Kids Captive: It’s better than it sounds. If you’ve got one young enough, keep him or her near you and safe in a baby carrier, an exersaucer or a playpen. Keep them engaged by maintaining a running dialogue with them about what you’re doing in the kitchen. If they’re old enough, give them little tastes of the food as you prepare it, let them smell the spices as you add them, or have them help you.
Consider Convenience: Because your time is limited, consider purchasing items that allow for shortcuts in the kitchen (like prewashed salad greens, shredded cheese and cut up veggies). Also, if you can only manage to get a main dish prepared some nights, keep your freezer stocked with frozen veggies and healthy sides to round out the meal.
Take advantage of naptime or early mornings: Since you already have a plan and have shopped (right??), knock out any necessary prep work like combining spices or making marinades when the kids are sleeping or safely occupied. This will help you avoid trying to accomplish those things during the “witching hours” later in the day.
Become the Epitome of Efficiency: Double recipes and freeze half for a simple future meal; make a big dish of some kind (like a soup, stew or pasta salad) on the weekend and heat up portions for weekday dinners; chop all of your vegetables like onions and carrots on one day each week and store them in containers in the refrigerator; limit your weekday recipes to those that take 30 minutes or less to prepare.
Embrace your Slow Cooker: If you’ve got a slow cooker, you know it can be a busy parent’s best friend. The beauty of a slow cooker is that you can put all the ingredients together in the morning when you have a quiet moment. Dinner will cook while you’re doing other important things like changing diapers, driving carpool or working.
Recruit Help from your Kids: Depending upon their age, they may be able to help you get dinner on the table more quickly (and a bonus is that they’re more likely to eat what they’ve helped prepare). If they’re too young to help much, you can pull a step stool up to the sink and let “help” by “washing” dishes while you cook. While the kitchen may not look exactly as you’d like after this “help” or the cucumbers may be sliced a bit unevenly, your kids will feel good about contributing and it will set a positive tone for your future requests for sous chefs and help empower them to cook for themselves at some point.
I hope that with these few tips, getting dinner on the table will be easier and less stressful for you! Next week, I’ll be sharing more great tips on how to actually enjoy mealtimes with your kids without all the struggle!
If you’re interested having everything you need to find healthy recipes with tips on how to make them quick and easy, I highly suggest checking out The Six O’Clock Scramble. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I love it!
They have a two week free trial, and 3 bonus gifts for all memberships purchased in January.
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