Dinnertime can be one of the most stressful times of day for parents! Between the infamous “witching hour” and just trying to juggle cooking and caring for little ones, it can be a struggle to get delicious, healthy meals on the table each evening. Dinners don’t have to be a nightmare, though - just follow our simple tips to make dinnertime simple and stress-free!
1. Make A Plan
Most mealtime stress comes from not having a plan. Meal planning can be simple and carefree! Just grab a notepad, your phone, or a whiteboard, and write a weekly plan for dinners. You don’t have to cook a new meal every night - leftovers are fine, too! Making a plan can help ease some of the chaos of weeknight dinners. If you need inspiration, find a blog, Pinterest page, or book on how to plan out meals ahead of time. You can also make it a family affair and have older kids help choose meals as well. Post your meal plan somewhere where all household members can see it.
Bonus: Knowing what to expect for dinner each night can help ease tension with picky older children!
2. Meal Prep On The Weekends
Meal prepping: It’s all the rave amongst food bloggers and health coaches. Preparing meals, or parts of meals, ahead of time can be a useful tool for all families. Set aside several hours each weekend (or pick a weekday) and begin preparing your meals. This can be as simple as grilling meats, roasting vegetables, chopping fruit, cooking rice and potatoes, or even assembling casseroles or making pasta dishes. Having parts of meals prepared ahead of time can save you a major headache during the busy week! Invest in a quality set of glass or plastic storage containers that can be reheated, washed in the dishwasher, and stacked easily in a cupboard or drawer.
Bonus: While you’re at it, you may as well prepare some of your lunches, too. We all know how hectic daily life can get with a little one to care for. You never know what to expect! Assemble some salads, prepare some healthy snacks, and gather some lean proteins like chicken breasts or hard-boiled eggs, and your weekday lunches will be a lot smoother.
3. Baby Wear
One of the most stressful times of day for parents is the infamous “witching hour” (which can vary widely from baby to baby). This is the time of day, typically in the late afternoon and early evening when your baby is predictably grumpy and clingy. Unfortunately, this is also the time of day when most parents want to be preparing dinner. An easy solution to a cranky baby is to babywear! Choose a comfortable, adjustable baby carrier such as the KeaBabies Baby Wrap Carrier to soothe an unsettled baby while you prepare and cook meals. Always be sure that your baby is snug and secure when using an infant carrier, and keep your baby’s body away from heat sources like a stove, oven, or hot plate. Babies crave closeness with caregivers, so babywearing is the most simple way to calm a grumpy baby!
Bonus: Talk to your baby while you prepare meals. Even the youngest observers can benefit from hearing your voice and listening to the cooking process!
4. Make Family Shopping Trips
Going grocery shopping as a family can be a fun experience! Try to make one major grocery haul per week, and allow for a few shopping trips to stock up on fresh produce or herbs throughout the week. Having a meal plan for the week can help make grocery shopping more organized and you’ll be less likely to make impulse purchases.
5. Use An App Or Meal Service
There are many free or inexpensive smartphone apps for meal planning. Make meal planning a breeze by using a meal planning service through an app! Even better, sign up for a meal kit service that delivers fresh ingredients and recipes straight to your door. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to be a wonderful home chef - trust your instincts, stay organized, and don’t be afraid to try something new!
6. Utilize Leftovers
Planning healthy meals doesn’t have to mean making a luxurious meal from scratch each night. You can easily double a recipe or make a larger batch of something to enjoy for several days. You can also plan out your meals so that certain ingredients get used for multiple nights. For example, leftover shredded chicken from soft tacos one night can be used for chicken caesar salads another night. Leftover ground beef from spaghetti with meat sauce one night can be used for beef enchiladas or tostadas the next night. Save yourself time and energy by planning multiple meals using similar ingredients!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.