If there is one daily question in our house that is sure to get me aggravated, it’s “What’s for dinner?” This is because dinnertime has been, and continues to be a thing of frustration for me. Just the sound of the question drives me bananas. Trying to accommodate the nutritional needs and eating preferences of 4 different people. So, dinnertime in our house kinda goes something like this. Kids eat 5:30PM. Parents eat anywhere from 6:30 to 7:30PM, (while the kids eat their fruits so at least we’re sitting as a family).
Truth is, we no longer eat dinner as a family unit since my big son started grade 1 this month. I find it just too difficult. The boys start whining about dinner around 5pm, “I’m starving, I can’t wait for daddy to come home”. My husband gets home from the office anywhere between 6:30 – 7:30PM, so waiting for him since my big son started grade 1, no longer happens (grade 1 finishes at 4, and I understand his need for a nice meal soon after homework is done). This saddens me greatly, but hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I really believe, “Why would I give them a snack at 5:30, when they’re hungry for dinner at that time?” I have never been a big believer in giving snacks at mealtimes, or snacks to stall meals. I like to feed them when they’re hungry. I have been known to make whole wheat and organic cheese Kraft Dinner at 10am, grilled cheese at 10:30am, hamburgers at 3:55pm. I feed on demand. I know this makes me sound like a parent being dominated by a tiny person, but when you have a son who barely eats, I like to strike while it’s hot. So, I always sit with the boys at 5:30PM and they eat, and I watch and pray. And then I sit down for my own meal at 7 with my husband.
Now, this is how the real dinner dilemma goes for me. A meal for 3 (myself, my husband, my 2-year old), and another meal for 1 (my grade 1 boy). ALL THE TIME. I try and cook healthy, and I pride myself on preparing nice fresh and healthy meals. There’s always a soup or salad to start, followed by a protein, carb and vegetable. Just like Mary Poppins, thank you very much! That’s the case of course, for the group of 3. The 4th meal, for my big son, barely contains a vegetable (he only eats corn on the cob and celery), and it’s always a WHITE LOOKING MEAL (or orange… Kraft Dinner, grilled cheese, plain noodles… you see where I’m going with this?). We can get a little spaghetti and meatsauce or hamburger in once in a while, but not with a veggie, and he takes 2 bites. Now, I’M NOT EVEN A GOOD COOK, NOT DO I EVEN ENJOY IT, so this shit stresses me out when I go to the grocery store. What am I making for the threesome, what am I making for the big kid? Top that off with the fact that my husband eats like a bird. I have really no one to cook for, other than myself and my two year old who, god bless him, has my appetite, but I don’t think my metabolism!!! So, unless I plan on continuing to make myself crazy, or turn everyone into a pizza, I’m gonna have to find a solution. I’m truly tired of making two meals, but I’m not ready yet to send my thin older son to bed without dinner. My friends say “Offer Johnny, (we’ll call my 6 year old) what the rest of the family is eating, and if he doesn’t like it, tough!” Ladies, I just ain’t there yet. Maybe I baby him, but I’m just not gonna do it.
So, if this insanity sounds familiar, at least be happy you’re not alone. Misery loves company!
Oh ya, and every time my “Johnny” asks for fish sticks, I just cringe. He was brought up on all organic and home cooked vegetables. I fed him like a prince. And now he only asks for the white foods. My little one, feed him acetone, and he takes it all in, every last drop, and with a smile might I add. Gotta love kids. Born to the same parents, same gene pool, completely different creatures.
So, here are some useful tips to solving the dinner dilemma and believe me ladies, I’m trying desperately to incorporate them into my own house. Again, like my BBF Oprah says, I’m just “a work in progress.”
- Plan ahead. I don’t do this often enough but I should. Don’t just whip something up at the last minute. I’m not saying don’t cook quick and healthy meals. I mean have the ingredients in your house, BEFOREHAND, so when it’s time to start dinner, you have what you need. If you work, make a big order on the weekends and freeze. Pull out your daily chicken or meats the morning you leave for work, and have your veggies and rice and potatoes already in the fridge or pantry from your weekend shopping. Try getting to the fruit store at least twice during the week, so there are lots of healthy choices for snacks and side dishes.
- Foods that kids like can often be made healthy. Make your own whole wheat dough, get some organic tomato sauce, some organic cheese, throw some veggies on top, with a side salad, and you have yourself a delicious and healthy meal for the whole family. Try to compromise. Have your hubby eat pizza one night, and the kids eat steak or salmon another night. Explain to your husband that even though they want a big plate of pasta and meatsauce, or steak, some nights they have to eat a simple BBQ chicken, cuz that’s what the kids like. Plus you don’t want to turn in to me, and start making a millions meals for everyone. Start that early, my friends!
- Make extra, and get your family used to eating left-overs. Again, not something my husband likes… AT ALL but it’s something he’s getting used to. Some chicken breasts on the BBQ one night can serve as a great chicken salad the next night. Just a thought.
- Have your family members suggest what they like. Why wrack your brain? Supply and demand. If they can suggest something healthy and good for the whole family, why not give in? And if budget permits, an occasional splurge on chinese food take out or whatever the family loves to order in could be fun.
- Try out a few different recipes and see what works. Even a horrible cook like me can whip up some great and easy with recipes online, or from friends. Open yourself up a good bottle of wine, play some tunes, and try and have fun with it. Don’t make mealtime something so serious. Try new recipes. Maybe someone in your family will like it, and hey, that’s one more step in the right direction.
- And finally, if they don’t like it, THEY CAN MAKE IT THEMSELVES! We aren’t martyrs. We are human beings with feelings, and I say, if they all don’t like what we’re whippin up, let ’em whip it up themselves.
Ladies, I would love to know how it works in your families, and how you’re surviving mealtimes! Please share your comments below to help us all get off the fence with the dinner dilemma!