Whether you’re feeding little humans, your spouse or your fur babies, I think we can all agree dinner time seems to creep up out of nowhere. Like, didn’t I just make you people dinner yesterday?
Especially when feeding small humans that grow like weeds, have the caloric intake (and burn – kiddos never. stop. moving) of Michael Phelps, and the patience of a raccoon, you’ve gotta be on your A-game!
Whether you are a working mama, a stay-at-home mama or a work-at-home mama (I’ve been all three), dinner doesn’t need to be an epic chore. With a little planning and organization you can handle dinner like a boss. And I’m not talking meal planning a month in advance either, because let’s face it, ain’t nobody got time for that.
I’ve been making dinner on the regular for real, live humans for over seven years now and this is what I’ve learned:
1. Be flexible
I usually ‘plan’ dinners a week at a time. And by plan I mean I have a couple of things in my head that I want to make that week, depending on our schedule. For example, I might plan to do a stir-fry, a soup, a quiche, and something in the crockpot but I don’t necessarily chisel that into Moses’ stone tablet. Planning dinner based on your schedule is super important. Let me save you many hours of stress and tears and just trust me. Don’t plan on cooking something that involves chopping all the things and multiple pans on a night your kids have soccer or you have a 6:30pm meeting. Just don’t. On nights my huz takes call, I know it’ll be hectic so I’m sticking with a slowcooker or Instant-Pot (Amazon Prime that ish right here. You. Are. Welcome) favorite or pulling something from the freezer. I do most of my post research and writing on Thursdays and I head right back into my office after dinner to keep on going so on Thursdays we do take out. No dishes, easy clean up and a happy mama. Because ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’ is for real you guys!
2. Have a few go-tos
Figure out a couple easy meals that everybody likes and always keep those ingredients on hand or those dishes ready to go in the freezer. For example, I always have a bunch of different types of pasta and a few jars of sauce in the pantry. There’s usually a jar of artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, etc. too. So if I literally do not think about dinner until five o’clock (which is often), I know I can throw something together that everyone will eat. I also keep bags of shredded chicken and homemade soup in the freezer so we can do soup and paninis or taco bowls on the fly. Figure out what your people like and then keep that stuff around for in a pinch.
3. Learn to use what you have (it is an art…and I’ll teach you)
This one is a learned skill. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you. I learned from the master (my mama!) how to look in the fridge and the pantry and make something yum with what you have available. There are a few basic principles involved but basically it means getting creative and thinking outside of the box. For example I made ‘Greek Chicken Nachos’ the other night because I had pitas that were about to go stale. They were AWESOME and the ‘recipe’ (I use that term lightly, haha) is coming to the blog soon but it was pretty much my way of using up a bunch of stuff that was at risk of becoming a back of the fridge science-experiment if not used up soon.
4. The freezer is your friend
Freezer meals. You’ve probably pinned a bunch of articles on how to make 42 freezer meals in two hours. No, that’s just me? Ok. Well let’s just say there’s a reason #PinterestFail is a thing. Good news is there are a ton of winners to pick from. The freezer (and the Instant-Pot) can be your BFF if you know how to use it correctly. Some things work great made in large batches and frozen and other things, not so much. Don’t freeze mashed potatoes. You can thank me later. Do freeze slow-cooked shredded chicken or beef to use in all kinds of things.
5. Simple doesn’t have to mean bland
Dinner can be simple but still yum. Salad for dinner can become taco salad (Hello, taco Tuesday!), soup can become spicy curry, and pasta can become an italian kitchen sink of goodness. If you’re a fan of flavor, there are plenty of genius ways to kick things up a notch.
6. Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers
Don’t forget about leftovers night. If we don’t do takeout on a Thursday it usually becomes a leftovers night for us. And I kind of love it. My grandmother never let us waste food as kids so it kills me to do it as an adult. I cringe when I have to throw away something that I forgot about in the fridge. Not only am I throwing away hard-earned dollar bills, there are literally people dying to eat. So leftovers it is. Pull out all of the things that are leftover from the week and let your people make their own sampler plate. Or bring those leftovers for lunch. The plus side is not having to pack one in the morning. You can also turn your leftovers into something else. Throw leftover sausage and veggies into a quiche or frittata or make pineapple fried rice with the cold rice sitting in your fridge. You’ll get the hang of it. I have faith.
7. Designate an ‘alternate’ for picky kids
I know that everyone has their own opinion on kids eating what adults eat. My kids don’t always eat what we’re eating for dinner. Most of the time I make them a similar or pared down version of what the huz and I are having. They’re usually eager (or at least willing) to try what we have so I don’t sweat it too much. But I always have an ‘alternate’ for when they just absolutely loathe what I’ve put in front of them. In our house that is pretzels and carrots with hummus. It’s healthy and easy. They have to take a ‘no thank you helping’ (again, wisdom from my Grandma Marie) and much of the time they’re game for multiple bites. I don’t force it and they now enjoy some pretty cool foods (I’m talking about kale, spicy noodles, chicken wings, and sriracha). This strategy works in our house but you do you.
So those are my thoughts on how to handle dinner. like. a. boss. I’ll be elaborating on each of these and teaching you lots of ways to use what you have. I hope you’ll join me! And please share this post if it can help a friend become a Dinner Boss. Thanks for reading friends!