Life can be hectic, and dinner prep can be the source of a busy mom’s stress. Here are some sure ways to avoid the chaos when trying to cook dinner.
Let’t talk about what to do when you have to make dinner, but it’s the crazy bad hour when nobody is happy.
No matter the age of your kids, everybody has to eat.
Whatever the season of life you’re in, everyone still has to eat.
So let’s get into exactly what we can do to make dinnertime prep and cooking less stressful.
This is a good time for screen time.
I’m a big proponent of not randomly resorting to screen time. Instead, use it in a way that is beneficial to you.
The empty time during the morning or when you’re just bored is not the time for screen time. Screen time is for when it’s necessary for you to get some things done. In this case, dinnertime.
This may be a movie for the kids or an iPad close to where you are.
Using screen time during this time is a way to get yourself some peace while you’re making dinner.
Kids (toddlers through elementary school) will learn everything from life management, social, survival, and hygiene skills PLUS MORE!
Try to prep dinner beforehand.
Don’t leave everything for you to do at that dinnertime hour. Try prepping some of your meal in the morning time or nap time.
This could be based on the season of life you’re in. I’ve had times where I didn’t have time earlier in the day because of work and had it all to do at dinnertime.
But if possible and you can prep it before…
- put it on the sheet pan,
- get the slow cooker ready, or
- prep a skillet meal.
If you can prep it earlier than it takes left effort and time when it’s dinnertime. This can go a long way in know feeling that “dread & doom” time comes.
You know, 4:30-5:00, or whatever time you are getting dinner ready. Maybe kids are getting up from their nap or older kids are finishing up homework. Everyone is a little fussy, mom too.
Now everyone still has to eat.
So, it that “dread & doom” time is tough for you anticipate the nights that it may be the worst and try to plan ahead.
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Minimize cooking time.
Minimize cooking times on those very busy nights.
For example, there was a time when my daughter had gymnastics and I knew it was going to be super busy we would do something very simple.
We might do something like:
- toast, fruit, and cheese,
- chopped veggies, or
- breakfast foods AKA oatmeal/grits packets.
So something that will still fill you and doesn’t require a lot of cooking. And, you can do this fast so meal prep is super easy.
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Give kids something to do on their own while you’re cooking dinner.
Another thing you can do (especially during this one-year old stage) where they are climbing from one end of the room to another and brought down several things is give them something independent to do.
Moms, it’s super hard. I get it. Especially if the baby on your hip while you’re cooking.
So, put the little one’s in high chairs and give them some crayons or toys. Don’t have them doing something like painting that requires a lot of your attention.
Have them stay right there where you can see them while your cooking and
- read books,
- play with toys,
- watch their iPad,
- or something easy.
This will avoid you having to run from room to room making sure they don’t eat LEGOS and meanwhile, something is burning.
Just keep them near you and make it a rule. “You’re staying in this room while I’m cooking. It’s happening and unless you’re going potty, you’re staying here.”
Make it a rule and enforce it. This way you’re not feeling frantic. And, you know everyone is safe.
When we make a boundary and the kids break it, that’s when we start to feel frantic. If they don’t obey the rule, we start to build anger and get upset that everything isn’t going smooth like we had planned.
Then, we get tend to feel guilty about being upset. But in reality, they should have obeyed the rule to begin with.
Facilitate help in the kitchen.
If you have a wild card child that you know you need to keep an extra eye on– have them be a helper. Or, you can also rotate helpers in the kitchen if you have multiple kids.
Maybe some are busy with screen time or independent play, meanwhile one child is help cooking.
Think of the benefits to this-
- basic food knowledge
- life skills
- information on how to cook dinner
- bonding time with mom
- it’s one less kid to be out doing whatever
I have one child who has ADHD. If I need to keep him with me and cook, everyone else is usually doing something calmly. When things get busy and hectic, this really works to keep my sanity.
Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy.
Back when we lived in Australia, I had a friend with three kids and busy lifestyle.
Her first born was premature and they had to do the hospital back and forth. Then when she had the two others, she had three young children.
She changed the standard of dinner (and communicated this with her husband). You literally can eat it and that’s the goal.
The goal of dinner is that is was edible.
Basically it wasn’t the season of life for her to be fancy. It was’t the season of life for:
- fancy cheeses,
- specific diets,
Some nights dinner is just going to be buttered pasta.
So if you’re in a super busy or stressful season of life (new baby, playoff time, school events, etc.) than you get to decide the standard for your dinnertime.
You may have to lower your standard in certain seasons of life and that’s ok. Think realistically about the season of life you’re in your meals.
Think what your “pie in the sky” wish is for dinner and then lower it to a level that you can achieve.
After you do this, then you can research some recipes and plans for achieving dinnertime for the season of life you’re in. Within your ability to do it.
In just 15 minutes a night (while you’re in your pajamas!) take your home (and heart and mind) from stressed out to organized.
My main point is this…
If you’re the one having to do it all, you’ve got to realize what your limits and standards are… reasonably.
Let go of all the rest of the guilt. Stick with what you can do.
Then, as the kids are older and life changes you’re have more room to experiment and make fancy meals.
But if you’re in this season of life, you just gotta do the best you can.