I’ve said here many times before: I’m not a great “meal planner”. Our dinnertime structure is not actually very structured, in large part because our evenings are usually all over the place. It’s currently rare for us to all be home at the same time to eat, and if we are, then probably no one was home or available to cook before that time that day.
Maybe this sounds horrible, but I promise, it’s fine. This is an area I really do not stress about. All the research that says we MUST sit around the table and have a family dinner every night and go around playing the high/low game to tell about our days and “connecting” or singing kumbaya…. I just don’t really buy it. Not for us, anyway.
Trust me, we spend PLENTY of time together. And even if we aren’t necessarily at the table every day, some combination of us are usually at the breakfast bar together, or at least in the kitchen together. (I have a low bar, lol.) But it’s not like the kids go eat dinner in their bedrooms.
We would have to drastically change our lifestyle (i.e. drop out of like, all their activities) if we required all being home to eat together every night. And for us, this would be so silly. They really like their activities, they are good for them, we are a perfectly well-connected family, we eat together often enough (even if sometimes it’s a restaurant), or we spend other quality time together (like last night, when I went in the hot tub with Asher before bed and we chatted for 20 minutes) and we are good. Okay, off that little soapbox now. 😅
So, back to what I actually meant to write about… our April meals. I have been trying to be better about writing some sort of meal plan, but this is still hit or miss.
We’ve been doing more of just brainstorming a few ideas we want to eat (before grocery shopping time). Then we (ok, usually I) make those sometime over the next week or two, in no particular order. I really only usually cook a few times a week, if that, (with other meals being either FFYS nights (fend for yourself) or dinner out, leftovers, etc.).
I’ve been keeping a list of upcoming meal ideas in Google Keep in a Meals –> April 2023 note.
I just realized this morning that I made the last meal from the April “list” last night, so I guess we need to brainstorm some more. None of our meals are anything too wild and crazy or fancy, but this felt like a solid month that people liked.
Here’s a list of some meals I’ve cooked in April:
- chicken tinga tostadas
- Mexican style- ground beef, potatoes, pinto beans simmered in tomatillo salsa verde (kids –> no salsa usually)
- salmon, sweet potatoes and broccoli
- shrimp + broccoli pasta alfredo
- sloppy joes, fruit and chips
- chicken drumsticks with veggies
- homemade pepperoni pizza rolls
- Mexican style- steak strips with potatoes and chickpeas simmered in salsa roja
- tangy BBQ chicken + mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and salad
On the plus side, we have plenty of chicken and mashed potatoes left for tonight!! Which, we still probably won’t all sit down to eat together, because Ethan has a random weeknight soccer game tonight at 6, which means he needs to be there by 5:30, which means we need to leave home by about 5:10. And Ivan won’t even be home yet at that time. Maybe after the game. 😉
I am grateful for a walk in a different neighborhood last night while I waited to pick Asher up at swim practice. It’s on the edge of town, and looks out to this pretty, very Wisconsin-esque scene:
19 thoughts on “April meals + (not) eating dinner together”
When I was growing up, our family put a lot of importance on the daily dinner meal. I think it was a good chance to catch up about our day and my brother and I often cooked the meal, so it was a way to lend importance to our contribution (I guess?) However, my parents ran their own business and we rarely saw them throughout the day (or evening) so this was our one touchpoint in an otherwise busy day. Of course, we definitely had FFY (fend for yourself) nights where my brother and I would make our classic top ramen with hot dogs and we would eat when we wanted.
As for meal planning, I just see what meat is on sale at the grocery store and then buy a lot of that and put it in the freezer. Then when it’s time to cook, I just grab a portion out of the freezer and throw some salt on it and put it in the Instantpot and call it dinner. Ha. I mean, I also eat veggies and other things but I don’t really meal plan. My “plan” is to make a bunch of one meal on Sunday and eat it for the next five days. Otherwise if I get busy, I am happy to just have a bowl of cauliflower with cheese for dinner and have been known to eat it standing in the kitchen after a run, still dressed in my sports bra and shorts. I know it is super classy, but let’s be real here.
We are often good just eating some kind of random mix of stuff, too! And if I’m home alone, I also kind of like just standing up in the kitchen and eating…. hahaha. I am trying to be better able meal planning just so that I’m not scrambling as much, and also with the thought that maybe I could be more efficient and do a little prep during breaks during the work day, if I know what I’m planning to make.
Family time is important, but the boys are not going to look back at their childhood and say “wow, we had amazing dinners every single night and it was a total kumbaya scene”. They’re going to say “wow we’re blackbelts in Taekwondo and Eagle scouts and so what if some nights we had 10 minutes to eat mac n’cheese for dinner”
I tried to plan out every single night’s dinners and to do everything in advance==>and I totally burned myself out. It just doesn’t fit in this season of life. There will be time for that in the next season.
Yes, exactly! I go back and forth on this one. I really feel like strict meal planning works very well for some families, but not that much for us. We are just kind of too flexible, and our weeks are never the same. We also tend to operate a lot by what we are “in the mood” for… sometimes I’ll take meat out to thaw, but it’s a nice evening and we have an activity, and we’ll feel like just stopping somewhere for a bite out, etc. Our weekends are SUPER all over the place, so I honestly don’t really ever plan meals for weekends. Either we eat random/ whatever stuff, or we eat out, or get a pizza, or leftovers, etc.
Love this post. Like Kyria, I also grew up in a home where we all ate together every dinner (and usually breakfast, too). Like…ALWAYS. It was great and I appreciate those memories, but I 100% agree that dinner is not the only place to connect. I still mostly eat with the kids (my husband is gone 40%+ of the time for work), but not always and I’m totally cool with that. We connect in other ways and I don’t sweat it.
On a related note, my husband and I do at-home date nights most weekends, and we almost always eat our food in front of the TV. I basically never watch TV outside of those date nights and if he’s not traveling, he works out of our home office so I see A LOT of him. I feel guilty telling people we watch TV while we eat our date night dinner, but it works for us and I love, love, love those nights together, likely far more than gazing into each other’s eyes and talking at a restaurant. We see each other a lot, we connect plenty – and the TV/eating combo is awesome for us.
There is no one “right” way to do family/relationships…anything, really.
And now I’m hopping down off my soapbox 🙂
I don’t see any problem with that! I think that sounds cozy and nice. 🙂
My husband sit at the table at the same time for most breakfasts and dinner, but mostly I’m reading a book and he’s on his phone, so it’s not like it’s quality time! I think the idea behind the “dinner every night” thing is to make sure you do spend time together, which you do, so I think you’re right to let the family meal thing slide.
I think you would be appalled at the lack of variety in our diets. We honestly probably only have about five or six dinner meals that we rotate, our breakfasts and lunches are always the same, and we rarely eat out at restaurants. Your list of April meals that you’ve already prepared is quite impressive to me!
What are some typical meals for you guys?? I’d be curious to know! Everyone has their own preferences, so it’s such an interesting topic.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt & granola, fruit (for me), tea
Lunch: Cheese/crackers, guacamole/pretzels, hummus, almonds/other nuts/KIND bar
Dinner: On rotation we have an Indian chickpea curry, black bean enchiladas, broccoli/potato frittata, a couple of soups (butternut squash, pumpkin bean, potato leek), risotto, and a couple of tray bakes with vegetables. I can’t remember a time when we ate something for dinner that wasn’t one of those things!
There are so many ways to have a happy, healthy family! It sounds like yours is fabulous. Life is busy and meant to be lived!
Thanks Nicole! 🙂 Sometimes I feel like I should be more organized here, but then I also feel like it would be MORE stressful trying to “force” this set schedule and constantly having it disrupted by practice schedule changes or other stuff…. at least this way, we don’t have that much of a plan, so there’s not much to ruffle our feathers over when things get shaken up.
Mic drop, as so often happens when Nicole comments ❤
the only night I can say we all eat dinner together more often than not is Sunday. i’m fine with it 🙂 sometimes I eat with one kid, sometimes with multiple kids, sometimes alone but all 5 of us = unlikely scene on a weeknight!
(I *do* meal plan, though. I’m not even the one that cooks on weeknights but I like to have our meals figured out for the week in advance so i can mostly just do one big shopping trip and know I have what I need.)
I know, you’re sooooo good about meal planning!!! Sometimes I’m envious of that!! I have been kind of meeting in the middle and just brainstorming several upcoming meal ideas/ having things to make them on hand, but then staying really flexible about when we will actually make those meals. If it turns out we’ll all be home, I’ll cook one of them. If the night looks nuts, maybe it’s a FFYS night or grilled cheese, etc. or, out. 😉
can I say sometimes I’d wish I can eat dinner alone? I usually have breakfast alone, lunch with someone at work, and dinner with the family. I find it a bit stressful to eat dinner with the kids when we are in schedule, to control how much they chat/play/fight versus just hour long dinner. I wish I could just sit and eat in silent sometimes.
Do you still have a helper cooking your dinners mostly? Otherwise I can just find it SO hard to actually get a meal on the table in the evenings when we both work and are busy right up until 5-5:30 p.m…..
We have helper Monday to Friday. She’s taking holidays for two weeks now so we are by our own. We have a new arrangement at home to “survive”. 🙂
We aren’t in the activities stage of life yet so we generally eat together but it’s not my favorite part of the day! I remember eating as a family when I was a child but as my siblings got older, my mom would make a plate of food for them and put it in the fridge. I more so remember weekend family meals which were more enjoyable/relaxed. I don’t think it matters when you gather as a family as long as it happens. And as kids get older, it’s harder to pull that off w/ all the activities. But then you get a TON of together time when you go on vacations so I think it all evens out over time.
I do meal plan but since Phil does the grocery shopping, I need to be able to tell him what to buy on Saturday morning. And then I try to make meals on days when I WFH. If I have to make something Tues-Thur, it needs to come together very fast since we get home around 5 and ideally we need to eat around 5:30-5:45. But most nights the boys eat something different from us. I know that is not ideal but it’s just the way it is and I hope that they are less selective eaters when they get older.