Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dinner on the Table

Getting dinner on our table is my biggest struggle of being a working Mama.  I have no idea why it's so hard for me but it is, so let's discuss.  I'm hoping you all have some magical ideas and solutions.  

A couple things - 
 - we've tried Hello Fresh but it still takes 30 minutes to make each meal and my idea of fun after work is playing with Molly Anne and spending quality time with her, not being in the kitchen while she's all over the house causing a ruckus. 
 - we think it's important to eat as a family and not feed Molly Anne first then after she goes to bed, we eat.  One thing I remember from growing up is eating dinner as a family and we want Molly Anne to have that memory.  To each their own on this...

Meal Plan
Some Sundays I meal plan, load up my Harris Teeter Express Lane cart on the app on my phone and place the order.  But then, I have to find the time to make each recipe and that is the hard part.  

I like to meal prep for the week on Sunday during nap time.  That sometimes doesn't happen if I have other more pressing things to do or I sit down for 30 minutes on a weekend (gasp!)!  The reality is, I don't always have my act together.  

IF, and that's a big IF.  If I meal plan and do realistic (aka FAST) meals, I try to make them after Molly Anne goes to bed, for the next day.  Last night I made chicken enchiladas (via rotisserie chicken - fast!) so I can easily pop them into the oven tonight and serve with a side salad.  This sounds ideal but doesn't always happen.  

Kevin thinks it's cheaper to eat dinner out every meal instead of spending $200/week at Teeter and never having any meals to put together.  It's funny because one of the guys in my office was complaining about this exact same thing yesterday about his wife.  What Kevin doesn't understand is that:
1.  that's not true, it's cheaper to eat at home
2.  it is not enjoyable for me to take 18 month old Molly Anne out to dinner every night (can I get an amen?)
3.  it isn't as healthy to go out every meal
4.  I've been at work all day and the last thing I want to do when I get home is to go right back out

Truth be told, he has somewhat of a point because we do throw food away at home if it goes bad.  But overall, I'm standing by what I think is true - I don't think it's economical or healthy to go out for dinner all the time.  

So, we've compromised.  Hello Marriage 101!  We like to break up the week by going out one time (usually either Wednesday or Thursday night) and then we usually go out once on the weekend for breakfast or dinner.  

Other Options
Occasionally (aka every week lately), we order off the Chopt app and I run in and grab our salads.  Yesterday I even left my purse in the car and I was literally back in my car within 30 seconds.  Can't beat that.  I've also heard about the $15/$20 weekly meal deals at Fresh Market and the $14 rotisserie chicken, two sides and cornbread deal there.   And Whole Foods has a similar family meal plan.  I've bought premade dinners at Pasta and Provisions (a local Charlotte place) and those are easy and good.  Zoes Kitchen is also easy to order from on the app and run in to pick up.  

So, tell me how you do dinners!!!!  Help!!!


Baker Reynolds Tange said...

Chad and I have the same "disagreement" too! My thing is I have no self control so if I go out to eat, I am more than likely not going to eat healthy! I try to prep as much as I can (cut veggies, throw stuff in crock pot, etc) when I am home for my lunch break because once I get home from work I am just about brain dead and have no energy to have the "what are we having for dinner" battle. Blah!

Caitlin Teden said...

It's definitely cheaper and healthier to eat at home. Meal prep on Sundays stinks but if it only take an hour, it's worth it for the week. My husband and I don't have kids yet, but we usually maximize our leftovers to make the time worth it. I will shop for 3-4 recipes per week (Sunday-Saturday), and we therefore cook every other night or every 3rd night. We have leftovers for lunches and other dinners. The recipes we make call for 6-8 servings, so the math works out. Skinnytaste has been my go-to recently, because Gina makes portion control easy as well! It's hard to tell what 1/6th of a recipe is, but she gives you exactly how much a serving is in cups.

Shauna said...

I'm the out-to-dinner fan in our marriage but that's because up until very recently I did ALL of the cooking and it just got to be a lot with my long commute. I can see how this will inevitably change once you take into consideration daycare pickup and the logistics of eating out with a baby (and yes, it's not healthy). One of my favorite things to do is slowcooker meals. It doesn't help much in the Summer (because who likes to eat a hot meal when it's 90 outside), but in the winter I have found some really good and healthy options. I can send you some of my favorites.

Allison Eubanks said...

My husband said the same thing and then he realized I was right, victory!! I work from home 2 days a week and I have found it best that I cook those two days and then it is leftovers or crockpot the days I go into the office. It really helps!

Lauren said...

Those weekly Fresh Market meals are usually pretty damn good - and quick! Honestly, a lot of my 'mommy' friends swear by planning it out. You know, one night, a crock pot meal, one night a easy like stirfry, throw it in a pot meal, go out the next night ... i DONT have kids, and LOVE to cook but it's hard for us to get a meal completed before 730/8! I dont know how mommies do it!

MHM1314 said...

Literally had a meltdown last night while rushing to get dinner ready and raw chicken juice exploded all over the front of my dress (hadn't changed yet from work!) and got all over the front of the kitchen counter and floor. I called J who was on his way home and basically said "You two can heat up leftovers" and got in the shower and cried for 30 minutes. IT IS TOO MUCH sometimes!!!!!!

On a less hormonal day/week, I also meal plan obsessively, try to prep as much as I can in advance, and lean on my crockpot a ton. Also this week? I planned to order takeout for Friday night. This is a tough week at work and I just knew that by Friday I'd be wiped out and will let InThai or Wild Rice take care of feeding us.

MHM1314 said...

OH also! I love doing chicken breasts in the slow cooker on Sunday afternoon so you have shredded chicken for the week -- throw some in soup, some on salads, toss with BBQ or taco sauce. You can stretch a few breasts across a few meals if you fill the meals with veggies too (i.e. shredded chicken tacos with corn, rice, avocado, lettuce, etc).

Amanda said...

I'm going to follow this post because I need the suggestions too! This is my biggest struggle. I've tried meal planning and cook ahead/freezer meals but it never seems to work for me and when I'm trying to cook dinner, help with homework, get the kids play time and bath time all between 5:00 -7:30 p.m. whelp it doesn't usually happen.

MWH said...

I don't know how working moms do it. For real. Kudos to you for getting MA and Kevin fed at all. Same goes out to all working moms. It's a lot!

Sharyn said...

The struggle is real! I shop and do a small amount of prep on Sundays for the week. I try to pick ingredients that can be used in a variety of meals. I used to lead a Bible study for a group of newly married girls and developed a weekly menu prep plan - let me know if you'd like me to send it to you!

Kristen [Playground Prepster] said...

We love the fresh market deals but you still have to cook them. It took me thirty minutes last night with a screaming baby (but everything is cut already which is nice). Could you pick up switchin kitchens? It's already made and healthy! Not so economical but I think it worth it. Plus since it's frozen it won't go bad.

Leslie said...

Ugg, I totally hear you and I'm at home with SC, so I have it easy. Honestly, the end of the day just sucks. Usually I'm throwing dinner together (something like shake and bake chicken) and sometimes I will have to put some Baby Beluga on for SC so she won't hurt herself in the kitchen. We don't really eat out but spend a ton of money at the grocery store and you would think we are eating caviar and champagne at every meal (or at the very least all organic!). I think there are just so many hours in the day and sometimes you can't do it all. I try to buy as many things pre-cut/pre-washed things as you can i.e. sweet potatoes and broccoli. The price difference honestly is pennies, and then all you have to do is put it on the oven sheet and roast it. I also try to make my life easier with some meals you can just put in the oven (i.e. Stouffer's lasagna, Trader Joe's mandarin chicken), for the days when I just don't feel like cooking. You're doing great and I second Molly's comment of kudos for you for making sure everyone is fed!

Dorothy said...

Meal planning first and foremost. My crock pot is in heavy rotation during the work week, but again you have to plan ahead for it. I usually stick to three recipes a week and buy the necessary ingredients. We eat leftovers a few times a week. For lunch, my husband and I typically pack turkey sandwiches, fruit and veggies, and a Greek yogurt. One night a week, we do a really simple meal, like chicken sausages with frozen veggies and a box of flavored cous-cous, or a frozen pizza. My toddler typically eats what we serve her, though I'm not above giving her frozen chicken nuggets or making her a PB&J if she is hangry and dinner isn't ready yet. Bottom line--meal planning is SO important! Once you get the hang of it, it will come much easier. It will also allow you to save money at the grocery store so you aren't making so many impulses purchases. I spend around $125/week for my husband, myself, and toddler. PS - Most of my favorite recipes come from blogs or Skinnytaste.

Fran West said...

Girl. Preach. SO FREAKING HARD. I need some healthy crock pot recipes that don't have dairy and aren't pork tenderloin (not big on the pig...). Let me know if you find some. You know I am big on the salad (and force M to eat it...which he follows with two bowls of cereal!). I wish I had more help but I am in the same boat. xoxo

Megan said...

I do a lot of repeat meals and almost always make enough of something one night to have as leftovers the next night. I also do a lot with quinoa because it's a healthy base, can be served up warm or chilled (like a salad) and will keep in the fridge for a few days--better than pasta will in my opinion! I'll share some of my favorite quinoa recipes on the blog soon!

Sunkissed and Southern said...

Green Giant just came out with cauliflower rice bags that you can get at any local supermarket and steam in the micorwave for 5 minutes. Last night I made skinnytaste korean beef and threw it over the cauliflower rice and dinner was done in 5 min. They also just came out with cauiflower tater tots. we threw cheese, sour cream, meat and jalapenos over it and had low carb nachos. amazing! low carb easiness mid week is the best for working moms! check it out!~

Emily: Three boys and a girl blog said...

This is us. Ugh. I grocery shop all the time and more times than not it goes to waste. Lately if I don't have a crockpot meal prepared it doesn't happen. The witching hour is strong in our house so if I havnt prepared something before then than it doesn't get made!! I say stick to your basic favorites. We do a lot of Mexican. Soups/chili. Pulled chicken. Easy easy easy is my motto these days!

Aine @ Adventures Abroad said...

So, we don't have kids, BUT we (David especially) work really long hours. If we have dinner by 8/8:30 it's a miracle. I buy family size salads from Marks & Spencer (with shredded carrots, cucumbers lettuce ect all in a big bowl), and have that 3-4 nights a week with breaded chicken (so fast!) & goats cheese. It sounds boring but I actually don't mind and its quick and reasonably healthy. Otherwise I just buy things and am too tired to cook them, don't want them, can't be bothered!

Laura W said...

Meal Prep! It really does work wonders. Every weekend I made a huge batch of shredded chicken as well one or two dishes for the week. We also utilize our crockpot a few times a week.
30 minutes to make a meal? That's nothing! Have your daughter "help" you while making dinner. My son loves to help me stir (even if it's just a bowl of soapy water)

Sara said...

If I meal plan I feel like I waste less food but life happens and plans aren't always followed. I also like to take one day a month to freezer cook. This helps me pull out meals from the freezer on days I am busy and might not have time for cooking. One of my favorite freezer meals is Money Savings Mom's Broccoli Chicken Cheese Rice Casserole. It makes a ton and I get at least 4 to 5 freezer meals out of it. It's finding the balance that works for you. I cook a lot but I need at least one night off and we usually pick up food and eat it at home.

April of A. Liz Adventures said...

Being a SAHM I thought I would have alllllll the time in the world to cook Ina-worthy meals. Not so much. You know we do a lot of those pre-bagged chopped salads from Teet which you can get for like $3.50. Top them with some shredded rotisserie chicken or pulled crockpot pork and it's a really yummy meal. I also like to prep as much as I can while the girls are sleeping. So like from 2-3 I am marinating chicken, putting together sides, putting salads together minus the dressing. Gotta do what you gotta do and I love eating at home! Eating out for me is wonderful but I have zero self-control and always have to order fries as a side. :) Currently we eat after the girls go to bed but that's just what works for us. If I had ONE more thing I had to have completed by 6pm it would drive me to insanity. It's nice for me to get the girls down THEN turn the focus to supper completion. At some point in the not too distant future, probably when Camille starts staying up past 7, I hope we can all eat together.

Cassie said...

I can't wait to read the comments! I think this can be such a struggle for moms! I stay home but even still, I find it challenging to prepare dinner while wrangling my toddler. The crockpot is THE best. I like the tip above for buying as many precut/presliced items as possible. For me, I use frozen diced onions and the frozen sliced bell peppers a lot. I also love meals that are super easy, just dump and go in the crockpot. Favorites include: bbq chicken (chicken breasts and a bottle/half bottle of bbq sauce), skinny taste salsa verde chicken (so dang good), this recipe (we use skirt steak) Last night I made this ( Greek chicken and didn't do the boil the liquid at the end step (no time!), added extra seasoning (paprika, garlic salt, onion powder and no seasoning salt) and served it with pita and tzatziki sauce...yum! Even better the second day! I love cauliflower rice or easy microwave rice to beef up a recipe. If you're not into the crockpot, my favorite low maintenance meals of late are:,, (not super healthy but beautiful and DELICIOUS...I also like to add corn) and (this is an example of where I buy the pre-chopped onion/peppers :)).

I also try to make a big, hands-on meal on Sunday and Saturday that will last for a few days of leftovers/lunches (lately it's been a hearty soup). Well, this might be the longest comment of all time but I love to share and receive new recipes! Always helpful to mix it up! Good luck, mama!

MHM1314 said...

I just came back to re-read the comments here since we are all CLEARLY in the same boat!!! I would love to see a recipe exchange -- everyone shares 1 - 3 of their go to weeknight recipes. I have a few that are so stupid simple to assemble and execute and we can all learn from each other.

For example, Z and J want me to make this once a week, it's SO tasty. And 4 ingredients:

1. Boneless chicken breasts or thighs
2. 1 packet Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing mix
3. 1/2 cup of lemon juice
4. 1/2 cup of chicken stock (you need 1 cup liquid total - whatever proportion you have is up to you!)

Chicken in the slow cooker, sprinkle seasoning on top, dump in the liquid. Low for 8~ hours. DONE. If you have time in the evening, add the liquid to a pot on the stove and add a slurry (flour in water) and cook it down to a gravy which is bomb. We serve with boxed couscous (5 mins to cook) and whatever side veggie/salad. Literally 5 minutes into the slow cooker and 5 minutes to the plate at home once you make the cous.

We've also done it with different seasoning packets.

Caitlin Teden said...

Some of my favorite QUICK recipes:
- Crock pot pulled chicken on top of salad (it goes a long way like other people have said!!)

KMR said...

I love posts like these because I'm sure it is a struggle in almost all households. I don't work, I love to cook and it is still so damn difficult to get dinner on the table with a toddler running around the house! An easy 10 minute meal that I make several times a month is chopped greek salads. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, a can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained), kalamata olives from the salad bar and some crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with some olive oil and vinegar. Done.

Hope you do a follow-up post!