MAKE DINNER TIME EASY: STOP TRYING SO HARD

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After a crazy day of working and balancing all the things, I rushed around to get dinner on the table before our evening plans. I shouted 2-3 times for everyone to come to dinner, they rushed into the room, helped set the table (with prodding), washed hands (after being reminded), and slid into their seats (please sit all the way on your chair).

They looked at what’s been made. Silence. They aren’t happy with what they see.

I could feel myself getting defensive. And frustrated. And, frankly, just overwhelmed. Everyone slogs through eating what was made, some complained, some just sadly shoveled it in.

Why?! Why did I try something new?? Why don’t we just eat freaking chicken nuggets and lame jar spaghetti sauce every night??

Frustrated mom during meal time

I have four boys, all really good eaters. They eat vegetables, salad, chicken, venison, rice, etc. They don’t love casseroles and they all have their foods they really don’t like. I want to try new meals, but there’s nothing quite like rushing to get dinner on the table and then feeling unappreciated. The worst is our oldest. His eyes will fill with tears when he doesn’t like something I’ve made. He feels bad he doesn’t like it. He says he’s sorry dozens of times while trying to choke it down. I can’t even be self-righteously mad. I spend my time consoling him for not liking what I made.

THAT’S ENOUGH! I’m not doing it any more.

I made a list of the meals we all like. We just eat those 20 or so meals. Now, it’s very rare for me to make something else. There are 6 of us, so when we find a winning meal we grab on with both hands. Every once in a while I think – Oh! Let’s try this new meal! Almost every time I do, the old familiar pallor hangs over the table and I’m reminded why I don’t deviate from the tried and true. Though, I did get lucky with Tuna Noodle Casserole a few weeks ago…but usually new means sad looks and frustration.

Someday, years from now, I’ll introduce other meals more regularly, but honestly, this decision to only make meals we like has been a game changer. Why was I making it so difficult? There’s a reason, “Go with what you know” is a popular phrase.

Dinner time is so much better now. Often: What are we having? Is followed by YES!!! We love that.

One added bonus of this plan is that certain kids are in charge of certain menus. So, Charles (11) makes Grandma’s chili, chicken pot pie and hamburgers. Oliver (9) can make hamburger helper and tacos.

Charles is 11 and cooking hamburgers

I love feeling appreciated and like my time making dinner was well spent. We still have balanced meals with veggies, salad and sometimes fruit. We practice manners and using napkins. And, I don’t feel like crap. Instead, I’m happy and patient. Making what we know we like has made all the difference.

For reference here is our meal list:
Tacos
Chicken Pot Pie
Grandma’s Chili
Chicken, Rice, Broccoli (from Pamper Chef covered baker recipes)
Chicken Kiev
Ham & minute multigrain rice
Salisbury Steak (Crockpot)
Aldi Mama Cozzi’s Pizza
Hamburger Helper
Grandpa’s meatloaf
French toast/Pancakes/Waffles & bacon
Spaghetti with jar sauce and Italian sausage cut in pieces not crumbles
Catfish on the grill
Venison steaks in the sous vide and green bean casserole
Pork Chops with this rub (minus the cayenne pepper and mustard)
Chinese take out (General Tsao’s Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Chicken Low Mein)
Hot dogs or hamburgers and french fries
Chicken nuggets
Quesadillas
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Wendy’s combo and 4 for 4 meals

four boys and a dad sitting around the table eating

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Meghan Cooley
A committed member of the boymom club, Meghan has five active, adventurous, crazy sweet men in her life she often calls her “favorite boys”. Charles is 10, Oliver is 8, Bennett is 5, Simon is 3 and her husband, Luke is a fun, patient, loving father to all these crazy characters. For 18 years, Meghan worked in higher education at a private college in recruitment, marketing, and social media. Now, working from home, she balances four boys, a great husband, freelance writing and social media consulting. Meghan grew up in St. Charles, IL (a western Chicago suburb), attended Augustana College, and is a true Quad City transplant - she loves living in this area! She likes to read, sing, plan adventures, travel and just be with her favorite boys.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I hear that! I constantly struggle with getting my kids to eat healthy meals; you are soo lucky that your kids will willingly eat veggies!!!

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