“What would you like for dinner kids, please choose anything from our extensive menu” – Said NO parent EVER!
Have you ever tried herding cats? Well, try feeding a family of five and pleasing everyone. The effort required is the same, as is the outcome! It is so difficult to please everyone at the dinner table with five different sets of tastes and preferences. This usually translates to a huge amount of stress for the chef (namely me or every other stay at home parent in the world). Over the years, I have discovered that there is only one way to combat dinner time stress and that is to prepare for it.
Those Were The Days
I remember my singleton days like they were yesterday, which they weren’t. They were actually quite a long time ago. I lived with 2 strangers who would eat cereal for dinner (my cereal might I add) and occasionally tins of beans. However, I was a little more proactive in my meal prep. I would cook curries, pies, lasagnes and I would take as many short cuts as I wanted. The blissful part, which I totally neglected to recognise at the time, was that I was just cooking for me. How easy life was back then and ooooooh, how much it has changed.
Life with kids
One wedding, 3 kids and 3 dogs later (I’m actually embarrassed to tell you how many cats), I’m running a restaurant – sorry, family kitchen…in my own house. Actually, I’m a stay at home, work from home Mom and I love it. But in between the origami* and making 20 minute meals from Jamie Oliver, communication gets fuzzy. What starts as “Spaghetti bolognese for dinner” does a chinese whisper through the ether and comes back to me as “I don’t like it”. It serves me right for doing baby led weaning!
Reality Bites When Feeding a Family
Things were going well. I had made a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. Out of the blue, daughter (age 9) swipes left on the menu choice. She hates chicken she says despite having kiev the day before. But, it is a Tuesday** after all, so I guess I should have known.
With many failures comes learning.
Someone very wise came up with that and it definitely applies to me. I have learned that if you prepare for what you know is coming, life gets so much easier. With that in mind, here are the life hacks I have come up with as a mum of 3 and a lover of food.
Step 1. Stock the freezer with small portions of the dinners they love. On the days they won’t eat a dinner you cook, these little frozen portions will save your sanity.
Step 2. Make the suggestion “I think I’ll cook XXX for dinner”. 2 will say yes. One will make a noise like a dog throwing up a sock it ate 3 days ago. At least there will be no surprises at dinner time. This is where you pull out a frozen portion of that dinner they love – or it could be Tuesday! If its ‘Tuesday’ move to Step 4.
Step 3. Involve the kids in meal preparation – Peeling carrots, chopping mushrooms (it doesn’t have to be pretty), stirring sauce etc.
Step 4. Plan your meal so that it can be made in stages. Check out some examples below.
Beef Stir Fry –
Child 1 is easy going and will eat everything. No 2 doesn’t like cooked vegetables, only raw. Finally, child 3 won’t eat rice. How does one manage this?
First I cook the beef and once its done, Ill put some to the side. Before adding the veg to the mix, I keep some of that out too.
While the rice is bubbling in the water, I’m steaming some baby new potatoes on top in the strainer. These will last a few days in the fridge so I always make enough for lunch the next day. I have one stir fry beef with baby new potatoes. I have one stir fry beef with rice and raw peppers, and I have another full throttle stir fry with all the attachments.
Lasagne 3 Ways
One of my kiddies doesn’t like tomato and the other cheese so I add a few simple steps to remove the drama. Cook the meat and add your beef stock. Once cooked, put some into cannelloni and sprinkle with cheese. I grate a small carrot and a peeled courgette into the mix for some extra nutrition.When finishing the lasagne, I leave a corner free of cheese. This leaves me with savoury cannelloni and uncheesy lasagne – not so appetising for me, but the kids will hoover it down in a second.
Don’t Stress the Small Stuff
There are days when this simply doesn’t work – lets call it Tuesday. We will have the discussion, they will have all agreed on a particular meal. They will even have been involved in the preparation. But to my occasional horror, after a single mouthful, one of them will decide that today is not the day for lasagne. Luckily, my crew are of the age where I can suggest they go and produce a smoothie or make a sandwich. I have learned not to stress when they say that they don’t like the taste of something. After all, my increasing degree of frustration won’t convince their taste buds to change.
If all else fails, a tub of nutella and a spoon are always accepted with a smile!
*Origami: I call it origami, most people call it folding napkins.
**Tuesday is by no means significant – My kids just pick random days to decide they don’t like a food that they ate yesterday. I guess thats just the way it goes.Follow Me Here