Household, Meals

What’s For Dinner?

I’ve mentioned this before, but one thing I am actually really liking during this time is the increased ability to have real, home cooked meals together as a family. 

Our “normal” schedule is unfortunately just not conducive to this. Typically, Ivan doesn’t get home until after 6 pm from work. Asher usually has swim practice many/most days from sometime between 5:30-8, depending on the day. During soccer season, we have had stretches where Asher would practice from 4:30-6 and then Ethan from 6-7:30 (on the same days). Other days they have activities right after school, like on Thursdays when they have piano from 3:30-5, so IF I’m even done with work by then, I can’t cook during that time – and then someone or both usually still have a practice later in the evening! 

Between my work hours and then driving kids around most afternoons and evenings, it gets super challenging to get dinner on the table in any consistent fashion. I am just literally not home for a long enough stretch at any given time to cook any “real” meal most nights! It is nearly impossible to get all 4 of us in the same place at the same time to eat a meal together most nights too! (I do manage to pull something together most or at least some nights each week, but it tends to be a big stressor for me and just always feels very chaotic). 

So, it has been really nice (from that standpoint) to have nowhere to go in the evenings. I have been able to cook pretty much every night (REAL meals!) and instead of eating in shifts, we can all eat together. 

I wish I could say I have some cute little color coded meal planning system in place. But alas, I do not. 
It has made me want to re-visit the idea of meal planning. I used to do this a lot more when the kids were little, but have been really bad about it lately. It definitely can be so helpful, and I think some days if I were better about planning ahead (even on our normal, “busy” days), I could find little windows of time to do some prep ahead which could make the actual cooking go a lot faster.

Another meal time issue we have been running into lately is that apparently every member of my family has decided that if one person likes something, the others must hate it. Seriously, this is driving me insane!! Please tell me I’m not alone in this. 

Asher won’t eat zucchini. Ethan loves zucchini. Ethan loves sweet potatoes. Asher hates them. Asher loves any kind of eggs, Ethan practically has to be force fed to eat an egg. Ivan doesn’t really like chicken, but now Ethan suddenly doesn’t like pork anymore either. Asher loves raw carrots, but doesn’t like them “warm”. Both kids hate brussel sprouts, the adults love them. Oh, and did I mention Ivan strongly dislikes most meats or meals that have been prepared in a crockpot (or casseroles)?? The list goes on. 

Both of my boys are pretty good, varied eaters on their own, but NONE of their preferences really line up with each other, which makes it so challenging to find things everyone will eat. It has gotten to the point that I just want to throw my hands up and say FEND FOR YOURSELVES!!!! 

I saw this post on Instagram on the Edit Your Life page from one of their readers, and it really made me re-frame this whole dilemma: 

I thought this was great advice! I think I have been stressing too much about trying to make sure everyone likes what I’m going to cook. So what if they don’t?! They eat plenty. They will not starve! So maybe they have to round out their meal that night with some crackers or a yogurt if they don’t eat enough of the real meal. Oh well! I am going to work on adopting this mindset a bit. 

I also decided to write out a little meal plan for this week, just to dip my toes back into the meal planning world….I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch and we will probably spread these out into the weekend too. 

*fish tacos + rice + sweet corn

*dry chicken tinga (shredded chicken sauteed with tomato, onion, jalapeno strips) served on tostadas with refried beans and salsa

*broccoli and shrimp alfredo pasta, garlic bread

*corn and zucchini chowder + salad

* ground turkey with potatoes and beans simmered in spicy salsa verde or roja (served with tortillas)

We had the fish tacos last night and they were an absolute HIT! Everyone loved the entire meal. I joked that we will now be having fish tacos, white rice and corn every night for the rest of eternity. 😉 

Ivan made a KILLER pico de gallo to top the tacos with- he threw in some habanero peppers and it was SO GOOD! I made fried breaded tilapia for the fish and we topped the tacos with cabbage, lime, pico de gallo and some cheese.

This is my number one burning question for other busy moms that also have kids in lots of activities….How do you handle dinner time?? When do you cook? Do you meal plan? Do you eat together? I always feel like I must be missing the secret here. No one really talks about it that much, yet everyone MUST be eating dinner somehow! PLEASE please comment if you have any tips! I would love to hear them. 

Also, what’s for dinner at your house this week? 
Steps: 11,395
Meditate: Done!
Read: 😦 

Daily Gratitude: 
I am grateful for spicy food. Ivan and I both LOVE spicy food and it makes me so happy to eat it! I am really grateful that we both love spicy food too, since it would be really sad (not to mention pretty complicated) if we couldn’t enjoy it together. The majority of our meals end up with some kind of spicy element, be it a salsa, diced or sliced chile peppers or even just red pepper flakes on pasta. 

6 thoughts on “What’s For Dinner?”

  1. I was raised in a "fend for yourself" household. My dad traveled ALL of the time for work, my brother liked foods I didn't like, I was the pickiest eater EVER (I mean I wouldn't touch seafood with a 10 ft pole), and my mom just didn't want to deal with the complaining. So she was a short order cook for a couple of years until my brother and I could start cooking on our own. I became a pro with the toaster oven and learned that I preferred easy meals and lots of veggies early on. I do think that the current pandemic is probably changing the approach a lot of families are taking but I don't think putting extra pressure on yourself right now is necessary! 🙂 What would be your perfect dinner if the kids "complaints" weren't an issue?


  2. The pandemic hasn't changed much of anything about our approach to mealtimes in this family. We live in a country where eating out is less of a mainstay than in the US. We are also out in the sticks where eating out options are limited/expensive/a long drive from our house. It would take longer to drive to the pizza parlour for takeout than it would to make the entire pizza from scratch. Consequently we eat about 90% of our meals at home, if not more, even in normal circumstances. I don't really meal plan, but I often jot down a few meals we haven't had in a while (usually 3-4 days worth) before starting on my grocery list, just so I make sure to have all the ingredients. I also buy in bulk and we have a chest freezer, so I usually have the main items we -might need on hand to make *something* every night. I also grocery shop (normally) 3-4 times a week, so I can easily pick up what we need if I've forgotten something. It's harder now only shopping once a week – I have to keep a really careful list so as not to forget a single thing we will need in the coming week. This week we ran out of Cheerios and it's another two days until the shop. Disaster! That being said, my kids are really young, and it's often super hard to create meals that they will eat. There are a couple of meals – spaghetti, chicken/pepper fajitas, pork chops – that are a hit and that they scarf down. But often it's a challenge to get them all interested. Then there is the challenge of trying to get some variety – veggies and fruit – into their diets when they'd rather eat PB&J for every meal. And yes, conflicting food preferences are the bane of my existence. One of my kids hates potatoes. I mean, seriously? That's like the national food here. The other one chokes down vegetables like they're strangling her. The baby needs soft-ish food – I can't just hand him a taco at this point – so it's a struggle. In a perfect world I'd force them to eat or go hungry, but I usually cave and make them something else if they really hate the meal I've made. Last night L had an apple with peanut butter and a bowl of peas for dinner while the rest of us had homemade macaroni cheese. We had fish tacos the other day! I love fish tacos. We buy hard taco shells and S makes an awesome mango pico de gallo (mango, pomegranate, cilantro, lime, salt, and jalapeno) that tastes super good with it. It's such an easy meal and so delicious. We love spicy food too! It's actually hard for us to make non-spicy food for the kids, since almost everything the adults like has a bit of kick. E likes her food "spicy" (by which she means she likes black pepper on it) but they all spit out food if there's even a hint of chili powder on it, to say nothing of habanero. Someday I hope they grow into it because I think spicy food is the spice of life! 🙂


  3. Seeing your list of meals was really interesting. I love hearing about what other people eat. Your meals sound delicious, but so different from ours. My "meal plan" for next several days includes:* chicken/kale enchiladas* pasta carbonara* pizza of course!* beef stir fry with mushrooms, onion and broccoli* hot dogs and crescent rolls + frozen veg (the kids win sometimes!)* chili? maybe – the kids don't really like this so we will see* sausages and chips (french fries) + frozen veg – an Irishy meal that I don't love but the kids gobble down* pork chops, wild rice, and salad


  4. That all sounds good too! Except the mushrooms- you know I don't like those. 🙂 I like stir fry though. We haven't had that in ages. Maybe I'll add that to next week! I always have to balance in enough "Mexican" style meals since I know Ivan loves that kind of stuff. He will eat mostly anything, but I know he starts to go into withdrawal if he goes more than a few days without either spicy food or something with some kind of beans in it! Haha. He will happily eat, for example, broiled fish with a side vegetables and rice or salad or something (though he usually likes to top the fish with salsa), but I know that after a day or two he will be itching for something he can put in a tortilla! He cooks sometimes too, but normally he just gets home so late it's really hard for him to do it regularly on a weeknight. So, I usually just make sure that at least every couple days we rotate in something like that. And, we normally do eat out at least a couple times per week in some capacity, be it lunch on a weekend or dinner some night, which breaks it up naturally.


  5. Hmm, that's a tough question! We eat a lot of Mexican styled meals, so I would say those would be my favorites too. The kids are usually pretty good with those on the whole. It tends to be the more basic "meat, potato, veggie" type meals that they turn their nose up at now- the vegetables seem to be an issue since they don't like the same ones. For example, I know if I make chicken tostadas (tostada with refried beans, topped with shredded chicken, cheese, salsa, etc) we would all really like it. But, while not unhealthy or anything, it's not super high in the veggie count! I guess that is more where the issue lies- also, sometimes differences in meat preferences.


  6. I don't have school-aged kids yet so I haven't had to deal with this. But dinner time has already been a bit of a rush for us as pre-covid we got home at 5 and ideally our toddler needs to eat around 5:30. So for quite awhile, he ate a separate meal from us as I just couldn't get something for all of us on the table that quickly. He is super picky, as toddlers often are, but we are trying to be more firm on "this is what's for dinner". His unwillingness to try things drives me crazy, though!I am a meal planner, though, and if you heard of "prep dish" that's kind of what I do, except it's DIY. With prep dish, they send you the recipes, ingredients and a task list. I tried it for a month but the meals were too fancy for us. So now my husband and I pick out 3-4 meals, I made the grocery list, he shops, and then I try to do a lot of meal prep on the weekend. Like for a stirfry, I will chop everything up ahead of time or if we are making meatloaf, I mix up the meat mixture and put it in a container so I just have to put it on a pan and bake it. I like getting stuff done ahead of time so that week nights aren't so rushed!


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