I am about to give up. I HATE cooking dinner. - Mothering Forums

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Old 06-16-2010, 11:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I love to cook, and I love to eat good food, but lately I am just so frustrated with dinner. I really need some ideas to help me out of getting so angry while cooking every night.

Right now, DH doesn't get home until 5:30 or 6 (usually more like 6:15). The kids are out of control and destroying the house by 4:30 most nights. They usually start going nuts just before I need to start meal prep.

I'm so bad about make ahead stuff. I really should spend their nap time (when I get it) chopping veggies or putting a casserole together. I should be doing more crock pot stuff or feeding the freezer. But I also feel like someone else should be taking more responsibility too - ie, DH leaving for work earlier to come home at a better time, or helping out more with dinner stuff at night.

Mostly what happens is DH comes home, gets frustrated that dinner isn't ready or in process and says that we should just make something "easy". Then I end up spending just as long cooking dinner as I would have anyway to make something less nutritious/that doesn't taste as good as what I have planned. Stuff goes to waste, etc. too.

I really think that having dinner ready without any outside help right when he walks in the door (especially since he can never seem to pin down exactly what time he's going to be home, or comes home later that he says he will) is totally unreasonable. All of DH's suggestions involve someone else sacrificing their time or priorities. He suggests that I lower my standards for dinner, that I do more during naps (which are never guaranteed in my house) and, my favorite, putting up a gate so that I can cook without the kids in the kitchen. Yeah, that will be great - listening to them scream at me for 30 minutes while I run around saying "just a second, mommy's busy". Not on your life.

So I guess what I really need are ideas. I need ideas to distract the kids that don't involve TV or food. I need ideas for meals that require really minimal prep or prep ideas that I can do ahead that don't take up all of my almost non-existent free time. I'd love a husband who has the same values about the nutrition and quality of our meals, but I don't think that's going to happen. Help!

ETA: My kids are 3yo and 16mo. The 16mo wants to be held/nursed for the last two hours of her day, and the 3yo doesn't handle being ignored well without lashing out at his sister or destroying my house. Both of them have bedtimes between 7 and 8, which leaves very little time for clean up and relaxing together after dinner is over.
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Old 06-17-2010, 12:29 AM
 
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Hi there, I understand I have a 3 yr old and a 10 month old! We have quadros set up in the kitchen area, so that ds1 can be playing in the same room as me and see whats going on. Ds2 is starting to be able to play and hang out too, though he's still just as often sitting at the kitchentable watching

If I was you, I'd shoot to have dinner on the table ~6-6:30, which is about when I typically shoot for (unless we have tae kwon do at 6:30 in which case dinners ready by 5:30, preferably 5:15...). Honestly, I have learned to so some prep work ahead of time - chopping onions/veggies pulling out, even cutting up meat and then sticking it back in the fridge, etc. That way, I'm not busy w/ a knife in my hand and blood/meat stickiness on my hands while the boys run/crawl around bugging me, yk?

And finally... I have relaxed my standards slightly over the last year or so. I'm back to buying garlic bread and orderd a case of Pomi marinara sauce for those nights when I just want/need dinner on the table, like, *now* (cook 1/2 pound ground turkey, add some diced onion/garlic/olive oil, then the marinara sauce. Boil noodles, and cook garlic bread. Maybe grab some lettuce for a salad - Tada! Dinner in 30 minutes, easy!).

I did chicken teriyaki for dinner tonight - I bought teriyaki sauce, cut up the chicken into chunks while the boys were both miracously asleep, and stuck them in it w/ a little extra soy sauce in the fridge. When dinner time was rolling around, I stuck a pot of rice on the stove. When it was nearly done, I stir fried the chicken... Meant to steam some broccoli but I forgot In anycase it was like, super minimal prep work, super yummy and fairly decent, IMO.

If your looking for another cookbook... I highly *HIGHLY* recommend bon appettit's "Fast Easy Fresh" cookbook - its huge with TONS of recipes, almost all of which can be made in like 30-60 mintus, easy. And they're good! I've had it for a couple months now and I'm in love. Virtually everythings been great, and truely easy, even w/ two little guys underfoot!

Good luck!!
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Old 06-17-2010, 12:49 AM
 
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I would pick a time for dinner to be done, and stick with it. It's not fair to anybody for you to be waiting around for him to get home.

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Old 06-17-2010, 12:52 AM
 
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My husband has a similar work schedule. Most nights we do not wait for him to eat! On week nights I often use the crock pot, and save meals with more prep time for the weekend. Then we can all enjoy it together.
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Old 06-17-2010, 01:08 AM
 
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I would pick a time for dinner to be done, and stick with it. It's not fair to anybody for you to be waiting around for him to get home.
I agree with this. Maybe it would give your dh an incentive to mindful of his work hours. Kids need that sort of routine anyways.

I have been in cooking ruts and I like to find new cooking blogs. The pictures and enthusiasm really inspire me. I'm not sure how "crunchy" your cooking style is, but here are two of my favorites on both ends of the spectrum: www.ourbestbites.com and www.thenourishinggourmet.com both of these will link you to other fun sites too.

Also, I remember that age between 1 and 2 to be the hardest for getting meals ready. Can you come up with a few extra special fun things that only come out at that time when you need peace? I'm thinking a tub of pasta/beans with scoops and cups. Or playing at the sink, standing on a chair next to you while you're chopping. Or any other neat toy that you think your dd would especially like. Same with your 3yo, a few super neat things that he can do. Maybe scissors at the table, water colors, stickers or stringing beads. he'd probably have a blast too taking a turn playing in the sink while you cook.

I know you said you didn't want ideas that involved food, but depending on the time you start dinner prep, I usually give me kids a small snack, say at 4pm, like apples and cheese, get them seated and eating that, then I can start dinner and they have the resources/energy to play while I cook. That's still 2 hours before dinner, so I would think that little bit of a snack wouldn't get in the way of dinner appetite.

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Old 06-17-2010, 01:42 AM
 
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I love to cook, and I love to eat good food, but lately I am just so frustrated with dinner. I really need some ideas to help me out of getting so angry while cooking every night.

Right now, DH doesn't get home until 5:30 or 6 (usually more like 6:15). The kids are out of control and destroying the house by 4:30 most nights. They usually start going nuts just before I need to start meal prep.

I'm so bad about make ahead stuff. I really should spend their nap time (when I get it) chopping veggies or putting a casserole together. I should be doing more crock pot stuff or feeding the freezer. But I also feel like someone else should be taking more responsibility too - ie, DH leaving for work earlier to come home at a better time, or helping out more with dinner stuff at night.

Mostly what happens is DH comes home, gets frustrated that dinner isn't ready or in process and says that we should just make something "easy". Then I end up spending just as long cooking dinner as I would have anyway to make something less nutritious/that doesn't taste as good as what I have planned. Stuff goes to waste, etc. too.

Is he frustrated because he's hungry or because he "expects" that a SAH mom "should" have dinner hot and ready when the breadwinner walks in the door? If he's hungry and ready to eat, can you or he (whomever packs his lunch) pack him something more substantial, or a snack for the drive home/just after work, a small snack, so he isn't starved and can get off his back. If it's expectation, you need to have a long talk with him. And possibly, a swap (ie, on one of his day's off, you take off to do something, at the time he leaves in the morning, leaving him with the kids, and come home at some unannounced time around when he comes home, expecting a nice dinner to be ready. It may help him realize how hard it is.) And maybe talking about why you think the faster dinners he's suggusting are not as healthy (or aren't faster/easier.)

If you need his help with prep work, tell him that. And be understanding that he's tired when he gets home, and just wants to relax, but convey that you too are tired at the end of the day, having worked hard all day at raising the kids.


I really think that having dinner ready without any outside help right when he walks in the door (especially since he can never seem to pin down exactly what time he's going to be home, or comes home later that he says he will) is totally unreasonable. All of DH's suggestions involve someone else sacrificing their time or priorities. He suggests that I lower my standards for dinner, that I do more during naps (which are never guaranteed in my house) and, my favorite, putting up a gate so that I can cook without the kids in the kitchen. Yeah, that will be great - listening to them scream at me for 30 minutes while I run around saying "just a second, mommy's busy". Not on your life.

So I guess what I really need are ideas. I need ideas to distract the kids that don't involve TV or food. I need ideas for meals that require really minimal prep or prep ideas that I can do ahead that don't take up all of my almost non-existent free time. I'd love a husband who has the same values about the nutrition and quality of our meals, but I don't think that's going to happen. Help!

ETA: My kids are 3yo and 16mo. The 16mo wants to be held/nursed for the last two hours of her day, and the 3yo doesn't handle being ignored well without lashing out at his sister or destroying my house.So then, maybe, the 16 month old's day needs to be shifted around so the last two hours are not at dinner cooking time. And maybe you could involve your 3 year old in the kitchen with you. I know some people who have given their kids sharp paring knives at that age, however you might not be comfortable with this. If not, he/she can help wash veggies, cut things that can be cut with a butter knife, stir, mix, pour, spread, etc. That way she doesn't feel like you are ignoring her, instead you and she/he are doing something together. Both of them have bedtimes between 7 and 8, which leaves very little time for clean up and relaxing together after dinner is over.
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Old 06-17-2010, 02:50 AM
 
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Something a dear friend recommended a few years ago has been AWESOME!

Her advice was to set out a veggie plate while you are cooking dinner. The kids can help prepare it and can start eating dinner to stave off the "dinner time crazies". Treat it like an appetizer basically.

We've adapted this a few times over the years and treat it as part of the meal. At first, just one or two raw veggies cut up on DD's tray while she sat in her "high chair" (we never had an authentic high chair, but the equivalent). I'd talk to her about what I was doing and discuss what she was doing, etc. Then, we just started preparing our salad first and eating it before cooking dinner. Then, salad time was while cooking dinner (during the lulls). Now, DD is 9 and can wait (usually) and help, so salad is the first thing we eat while dinner "rests".

In there somewhere, DD learned to water the plants right outside the kitchen slider while dinner was being prepared. Later, she learned to pick lettuce leaves and various herbs, etc for dinner. She loves to help prepare dinner, too, but we only have the patience for that for certain dinners. Other meals are easier than the weekday dinner for teaching and allowing the fun meal prep. However, it sure is easier to illicit cooperation if she is involved in the dinner process in some way...even just having a say in what we are eating (picking one item).

All that said, it sounds like there are bigger issues here. Communication. Expectations. And more.


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Old 06-17-2010, 03:01 AM - Thread Starter
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I HTH. My commments in bold and red above.
Thanks. Thanks to everyone who responded. Keep the suggestions coming!

No, I'm not a super crunchy, make-my-own-butter type of cook, but I do like to make my own bread, and I like to cook with whole fresh ingredients. I don't really feel like that's too much to ask. I let bread and other things slide to store-bought when I'm not feeling up to it. I think PP is right that I'm kinda in a rut, which tends to happen to me when the seasons are changing.

It's not an expectation issue on his part. He's a comfort eater, and also was just accustomed to eating early all his life. His dad almost always cooked dinner for their family, but his family did a lot of boxed meals and processed foods. His mom is the most analytical cook I've ever met. If it says "chop carrots into matchsticks", you can bet that she thinks the recipe will be ruined if she chops them any other way. DH is exactly the same, so if it's not "throw boxed ingredients into pot, stir, serve", he thinks it's too complicated.

My DH is super-progressive about gender roles, but he also can't cook anything and has almost no knowledge of how to do basic things in the kitchen. He really can't help me except to play with the kids while I cook, and he's excellent at that. He's a comfort eater, so I think he just wants to sit down with the family without the stress of trying to keep the kids out of my hair while I do dinner. And even with his most imaginative Daddy hat on, the kids still want ME at the end of the day.

I think the kids really are the biggest problem. Someone suggested having them play in the sink while I cook, which has worked in the past. I'm not sure DD is old enough to stand on a chair without falling. I'd be pretty nervous about that.
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Old 06-17-2010, 03:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Something a dear friend recommended a few years ago has been AWESOME!

Her advice was to set out a veggie plate while you are cooking dinner. The kids can help prepare it and can start eating dinner to stave off the "dinner time crazies". Treat it like an appetizer basically.

We've adapted this a few times over the years and treat it as part of the meal. At first, just one or two raw veggies cut up on DD's tray while she sat in her "high chair" (we never had an authentic high chair, but the equivalent). I'd talk to her about what I was doing and discuss what she was doing, etc. Then, we just started preparing our salad first and eating it before cooking dinner. Then, salad time was while cooking dinner (during the lulls). Now, DD is 9 and can wait (usually) and help, so salad is the first thing we eat while dinner "rests".

In there somewhere, DD learned to water the plants right outside the kitchen slider while dinner was being prepared. Later, she learned to pick lettuce leaves and various herbs, etc for dinner. She loves to help prepare dinner, too, but we only have the patience for that for certain dinners. Other meals are easier than the weekday dinner for teaching and allowing the fun meal prep. However, it sure is easier to illicit cooperation if she is involved in the dinner process in some way...even just having a say in what we are eating (picking one item).

All that said, it sounds like there are bigger issues here. Communication. Expectations. And more.

A good suggestion! I put veggies and hummus out sometimes before dinner.

As far as communication goes, yeah, I guess the real problem is that I just want to know when he'll be home and have him come home at a reasonable hour, which I define as 5:30. C'mon, the kids are up at 6AM every morning. I'm looking at a 12 hour day if he comes home at 6PM.
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Old 06-17-2010, 06:17 AM
 
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A good suggestion! I put veggies and hummus out sometimes before dinner.

As far as communication goes, yeah, I guess the real problem is that I just want to know when he'll be home and have him come home at a reasonable hour, which I define as 5:30. C'mon, the kids are up at 6AM every morning. I'm looking at a 12 hour day if he comes home at 6PM.
I feel that.
I've found it helpful to give DS2 something to do in the kitchen to "help" with dinner for the day after. Something that's not essential to tonight's supper/dinner or just a busy task- ie grating carrots (which we don't really *need*) for salad or washing produce for tomorrow. Then I set up a special play area for DS3 behind a gate just outside of the kitchen door*- recently it's a rice box that he can dig around in, though he's still a bit young for it and it ends up all over and in his mouth. If that fails, I have the luxury of calling on DS1 for help but I generally try to avoid that.
Additionally, I do feed my freezer for those nights where everything has gone down the creek and I rely heavily on my oven- baked pork chops/chicken, roasted veggies (potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, turnips, beets), baked squash- and frozen vegetables. That way, I season and put things in the oven (10 minutes prep), leave the kitchen and it cooks while the kids and I do other things.

*My kitchen is tiny and someone would get hurt with more than 2 of us in there.

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Old 06-17-2010, 10:18 AM
 
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My solution during some crazy seasons of life has been to cook in the morning. Right after breakfast my boys are most willing to occupy themselves while I get a few things done or are most interested in helping and not fighting, whining, and tired. I'm usually at my energy peak then too. Sometimes that means just prep (choppng veggies for stir fry, quickly grilling some chicken) or I'll put the entire meal together (liked baked spaghetti) and either bake it then or pop it in 30 min. before supper while I put a salad together. Either way, it helps tremendously.

You could also do a lot of basic meal prep right after your weekly shopping trip: chop veggies, wash fruit, cook chicken ahead, form hamburger patties, etc. I'm not as good abot doing that, but I do set one morning a week aside for bigger kitchen chores: cooking beans, baking bread, starting yogurt, making sauce, grilling meat for future meals, whatever.

Good luck, OP!
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Old 06-17-2010, 10:32 AM
 
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I was also going to say, your crockpot is your friend too! You can make everything in it from sweet and sour chicken to lasagna!
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Old 06-17-2010, 10:45 AM
 
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I was also going to say, your crockpot is your friend too! You can make everything in it from sweet and sour chicken to lasagna!
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I really do feel you. I go through this often. Mostly just being too tired to cook once dinnertime rolls around. I just wanted to repeat the crockpot sentiments. I have the most energy in the morning and the most motivation than any other time of the day. Therefore I've learned to prep and/or get dinner cooking at that time. The crockpot became my best friend over the years and I have learned that you can make anything in it..not just pot roast.

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Old 06-17-2010, 10:45 AM
 
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There are lots of good suggestions already but I just wanted to add that I find what helps is making one dish stew types of meals that you can make ahead of time and not worry about overcooking.

For example today at 8:45 I am cooking beans which I started soaking 2 days ago. later on I have go out do some work but this afternoon I'll just add onions, spices and tomatoes to the beans and cook them longer. When everyone is really to eat, they just have to add the corn chips and sliced avocados. I also prepare vegetables just to eat beforehand. I might do the same thing with a chicken or meat and vegetable stew.

I just want to add that this is something I am working on too because I have found myself in the same situation as you, almost. In my case I love to cook but I am not very organised and I also work.
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Old 06-17-2010, 12:14 PM
 
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Figure out what time you want to eat and stick with it. Meal plan so you can make quick dinners on weeknights. Do the veggie plate idea or fruit or whatever healthy snack you want so the kids aren't crabby from being hungry. And have some stuff in the kitchen that they can do. I used to have a drawer of stuff to keep them busy while I cooked. Now that they're older, they can help with the cooking.
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Old 06-17-2010, 12:15 PM
 
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I understand where you are completely. I only have one DS, but sometimes have no energy at the end of the day to actually cook a good wholesome meal. I enjoy cooking, but the ambition and energy is just no where to be found. I also have found myself in food ruts, it happens especially around changing seasons. I am finally able to easily transition myself from cold weather food to hot weather food.

For me, I find prepping ahead of time or cooking meals ahead of time are key. I think when you can get that down, you'll be golden. When does DH have off of work? On one of his days off, would it be possible for you to spend a couple of hours feeding the freezer, prepping for the following week? It wouldn't seem as much of a chore, especially when the children are taken care of. Let DH know how much easier, less stressful and beneficial to EVERYONE for you to have this stuff done ahead of time WITH HIS HELP.

I'll share what helped me get over my seasonal rut. This week, I sat down at the computer and made a list of summer meal ideas. I jotted down ideas floating around in my head, and then searched online for a bit for inspiration. Having this list has really made me realize how many GOOD ideas I actually have. I can't believe we get stuck having the same thing all the time, when I could easily have X, Y, Z. Yesterday was a long day, but I got DS down early and decided to get some things prepped for the rest of the week. I made a batch of bruschetta to go along with the dough (for bread, and/or pizza) I made earlier in the day. I cut up some veggies, cooked some noodles and made some spring rolls with a dipping sauce. Washed some grapes for easy access. Those simple things will make the next few days way easier. Spring rolls--bam, have a snack or meal. Bruschetta, I use in omelets, to dip with bread or for a pizza topping. I already have some cucumber salad in the fridge to add to a wrap with some hummus for lunches. Prepping a few things that are multi-purpose is also key...like my bruschetta. If you prep celery, carrots and onions for one meal, make sure to plan another meal using them as well and prep double the amount. If you prep chicken, plan a couple chicken meals, plan to use some for leftovers or put some in the freezer for the future. You just need to get into the routine of it, with some help from DH.

For DS, he LOVES to help in the kitchen. Giving him plastic cutlery has really been fun. I hand him a few pieces of produce and a cutting board and he goes nuts. Playdoh, clay, water paints, magnets on the fridge, or a 'special' toy during dinner prep helps. How about a tupperware cupboard that your LO can play in? DP works late so it is normally just DS and I. So, during prep time I will feed DS first and then if he is still hungry when I eat (which unfortunately is usually quite late) he can have some.

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Old 06-17-2010, 01:21 PM
 
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But I also feel like someone else should be taking more responsibility too - ie, DH leaving for work earlier to come home at a better time, or helping out more with dinner stuff at night.

Mostly what happens is DH comes home, gets frustrated that dinner isn't ready or in process and says that we should just make something "easy".
Forgive me if I missed more details somewhere, but why can't your dh give you a better estimate of when he will be home so that you can plan a little better? Can't he just call and let you know?

Does his job allow him to come home earlier? 5:30 or 6 p.m is actually fairly early for most people that I know who work in offices, hospitals, retail, etc. They leave the workplace at 5 p.m. at the earliest (often much later), and the commute in our city can be up to an hour. No matter what time he leaves, however, he should be able to call and let you know.

Even if he is working outside the home, and you are working inside the home taking care of the children, maintaining the house, etc., I think it's fair for dinner to be a family project. I don't buy into "supper should be on the table when I walk through the door" attitude. You've both put in a long day by 6 p.m. You should both be responsible for evening meals.

Practically, if you are the only person in the house who can make dinner, then is it possible to get some outside help in the late afternoon so it isn't so tough to manage? A local teenager can play with the kids for an hour or 2 while you focus on dinner. Even a couple of times a week might make you feel a little better.
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Old 06-17-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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Lots of good ideas here - I may have to try some. I just wanted to say my kids have the "dinnertime crazies", too! Even though they are older (3,5,7,9) it seems like they are extra wild and needy from like 4:30-6:00.

I also don't know ahead time when DH will be home (except of course on the days he works from home) but I do call him about 5:00 to see if he has an idea about when he will leave. Still, we don't end up earing until much later - 7:00 or so most nights. I usually end up waiting until DH is home to even start dinner so that he can help with either cooking or the kids. Or like last night, I left soon after he got home and had him deal with it all and feed the kids (he made bean burritos from store tortillas and canned beans - so easy enough for him).

Anyhow, just wanted to say I understand how difficult it can be. This is why there are too many times when I just said screw it and had DH bring home something for dinner or ordered a pizza.

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Old 06-17-2010, 01:42 PM
 
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Oh, besides crockpot nights - I've found that when we have roasted chicken (about once a week) it goes smoother. It has to roast for about an hour and a a half, so I try to prepare the chicken before the crazies start and pop it in the oven. Then I just tend to do easier sides - like salad and rice in the rice cooker. I make dh carve the chicken, so while he is doing that I use the drippings for gravy. That is usually done about when he cones home, so we can eat shortly after.

Also, if he ever complains about being hungry as soon as be walks in the door I remind him he can make a sandwich or warm up some leftovers - so that way he can entertain the kids w/o beig starving while I finish the meal.

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Old 06-17-2010, 03:34 PM
 
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when my lo was 16 months I had to plan my meals in the am and then spend increments of time throughout the day preparing them. I'd get up and chop a few vegetables or something when I had a moment, cut and marinade meat, chop vegetables for a salad, etc... If dh cam home and dinner wasn't ready he'd either play with Anna or finish making dinner. I always had a plan to have dinner ready by 4:30 or 5. If dh was late, he heated up leftovers.
I never cooked during naptime because I was studying while dd was a asleep.
One meal that has always been a lifesaver for me is sausages and sauted vegetables. again, start cutting the vegetables early in the day, stick a pot of rice on the stove at some point when you have a spare moment, and when you're close to dinner time, just let the sausages fry on super low heat for about a half hour, and then add the vegetables.
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Old 06-17-2010, 03:48 PM
 
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Summer is a great time for make ahead cold dishes too. We do a lot of salad, gazpacho soup, pasta salad, and the like.

If I get really busy or exasperated, I make a list of about 7 super fast dinners and let DH know that the next 2-3 weeks will be fast dinners until things calm down. This is usually like: pizza (I buy premade crust and the kids help do toppings, then I put them in the freezer until needed); green salad with cold mock chicken and apples; crockpot/cold soup and grilled cheese; pasta salad; scrambled eggs and toast; frozen gnocchi or ravioli with jarred tomato sauce; falafel (make and freeze) and box flavored couscous. All of these are about 10 minutes to make; no more than 15 tops.

I feed the kids snacks, even while DH is on his way home, because they take longer to eat than the adults do, and this way, they are not underfoot while I prep, they're happily munching cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, etc. DH and I generally have these as our sides to the above types of meals, so I never have to "make" side dishes this way, and they're easy for the kids to choose/prep/put out. Yours are a little younger, so they might not be able to prep.

I was never able to switch my early riser-early to bed child's schedule, so he is still tired right after dinner. We've all gotten used to it.

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Old 06-17-2010, 05:34 PM - Thread Starter
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The reason I can't know when he's going to be home is because he says he's going to be home at one time and then comes home 30 min later. His employer is very flexible, and doesn't care when he comes in as long as he puts in 8 hours, so if the kids have a bad night or whatever, he can sleep in. The problem is that he wants to stay up late and sleep in EVERY morning, which means he comes home at 6 every night. His commute is 5 min, so that's not the issue (although traffic does stall him sometimes).

Really the issue there is that it's so unpredictable. Sometimes he'll go in late, work through lunch, and come home at normal time. Or he might go in early, but get swamped and come home late. Or he'll go in late and come home early just because he wants to and his boss doesn't care as long as his work is done. I'm a pretty organized and routine person, so it drives me crazy! And I just don't feel like I can plan for dinner with the kids as crazy as they are without having any idea if I'm going to have help or not and when he'll be home to eat.

And no, I can't switch my kids to a later schedule either. I've tried. They love waking up at 6 AM.

I've got lots of good ideas on prep ahead stuff. Tonight we're making chicken enchiladas, and I have been working on them off and on all day. I roasted two chickens in the crock at the beginning of the week. After I cleaned them, I put one in the freezer and one is for this and another dinner, plus some for lunches or snacks. I'm mixing up all the filling now and should be able to just roll them up and put them in the oven tonight. And I cut up a bunch of onion while I was working on it this morning that I'll need for another meal. I just need to get this prep ahead thing figured out!
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Old 06-17-2010, 05:59 PM
 
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I really like the pp's idea of starting a crock pot meal or doing some prep in the morning. My kids are definitely more apt to play on their own right after they have breakfast.

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Old 06-17-2010, 07:31 PM
 
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The reason I can't know when he's going to be home is because he says he's going to be home at one time and then comes home 30 min later. His employer is very flexible, and doesn't care when he comes in as long as he puts in 8 hours, so if the kids have a bad night or whatever, he can sleep in. The problem is that he wants to stay up late and sleep in EVERY morning, which means he comes home at 6 every night. His commute is 5 min, so that's not the issue (although traffic does stall him sometimes).

Really the issue there is that it's so unpredictable. Sometimes he'll go in late, work through lunch, and come home at normal time. Or he might go in early, but get swamped and come home late. Or he'll go in late and come home early just because he wants to and his boss doesn't care as long as his work is done. I'm a pretty organized and routine person, so it drives me crazy! And I just don't feel like I can plan for dinner with the kids as crazy as they are without having any idea if I'm going to have help or not and when he'll be home to eat.

And no, I can't switch my kids to a later schedule either. I've tried. They love waking up at 6 AM.

I've got lots of good ideas on prep ahead stuff. Tonight we're making chicken enchiladas, and I have been working on them off and on all day. I roasted two chickens in the crock at the beginning of the week. After I cleaned them, I put one in the freezer and one is for this and another dinner, plus some for lunches or snacks. I'm mixing up all the filling now and should be able to just roll them up and put them in the oven tonight. And I cut up a bunch of onion while I was working on it this morning that I'll need for another meal. I just need to get this prep ahead thing figured out!

Yay! Happy to hear you got a head start on some meals Mama! As far as things with your hubby go, I would say, "We are having dinner at 6:00. I would love it if you were here to eat with us, but if you aren't we are eating without you. I like routine, so do our children. Guessing and waiting on you to come home for dinner just isn't working." Your problems more stem from issues with DH, not actually making the meals. Sit down and talk with him. Can you do that? Will it help to convey how much his inconsistent times of arrival are stressing you (and your kids) out? I hope so.

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Old 06-17-2010, 08:37 PM
 
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He can always have cereal and milk. Seriously. We have 4 kids and it's chaos each and every single night when I'm trying to make dinner (as well as every morning, every afternoon, etc- you get the idea, lol). I will often do food prep in the evenings while chatting with the hubby after the kids are in bed. Most makes its way into the deep freezer so I only have to pull out handfulls of whatever I need at the moment I need it. I love cooking (and eating, lol) but am not a huge fan of food prep so to get as much as I can done in one shot is terrific to me. I agree with other people in that he needs to either be home reliably at the same time each night (call when he'll be late, surprise you when he's early) and either way he doesn't get to complain if food isn't ready when he arrives. The world doesn't revolve aroud him regardless of how hungry he is. My DH and I used to have similar squabbles until we switched for a day. I came home at 6:30 (DH works 12 hour days) and asked why dinner wasn't ready and why the house looked like he'd been feeding pigeons on the living room carpet. Needless to say, no more squabbles. We each do the best we can do and if it's not good enough, we don't necessarily have to do better. Sometimes we just need to relax our standards a bit. Good luck.
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Old 06-18-2010, 01:38 PM
 
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My mom use to have an old comic from the Sunday paper on the fridge. It was a picture of a mom sitting w/her feet up reading a book while the kids were running around like banshees and all crumby and dirty and sticky and laundry everywhere, dirty dishes piled up, etc....The husband walks in and says "What's wrong, what happened?". The wife said she was showing him what she does all day by not doing it, lol.

I use to put my lo in a highchair in the kitchen next to me and would put different things for her/him to play with on the tray. I would keep a pile of little things next to me so that when the lo would toss whatever he/she was playing with on the floor I could just toss something else onto the tray. Ice cubes are great for this! I could get all kinds of prep done this way. Playing in the sink, playing in a pan of dry oatmeal, etc really helped. Then let Daddy clean up the mess after supper!

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Old 06-18-2010, 03:39 PM
 
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I agree w/letting dh have a snack. My dh will usually call when he's walking out the door, he has about a 20-30 minute drive. That is when I start cooking, unless it's a special meal or something. I *might* have done a little prep earlier in the day, like taking the meat out of the freezer to thaw ( ) , make a salad, or cook the rice. Other than that, I start cooking when he calls. If he doesn't call home by 5:45, I start cooking then and we eat when it's ready. He eats the leftovers.

If he gets home and I'm still cooking, which is usually the case, he takes over occupying dd, and I finish cooking. If he is whining about how hungry he is, I tell him to eat a salad or have a snack and to stop whining

On a serious note though, I really do strive to have dinner just about finished up when gets home.

Can you dh call 30 min before he leaves? Is that too much too ask? If he doesn't leave when he says and then gets home later, he can still eat his dinner, it just won't be with the family. OR you can feed the kids and you wait to eat with him. Some options.

My dh knows that if can't make it home in a reasonable time frame, or if he doesn't let me know *when* he'll be here, that he'll be eating alone and heating his stuff up in the microwave. He doesn't like that, so he makes it a priority to get home for dinner. Plus I cook his favorites alot to entice him to make it

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Old 06-18-2010, 05:22 PM
 
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My mom use to have an old comic from the Sunday paper on the fridge. It was a picture of a mom sitting w/her feet up reading a book while the kids were running around like banshees and all crumby and dirty and sticky and laundry everywhere, dirty dishes piled up, etc....The husband walks in and says "What's wrong, what happened?". The wife said she was showing him what she does all day by not doing it, lol.

I use to put my lo in a highchair in the kitchen next to me and would put different things for her/him to play with on the tray. I would keep a pile of little things next to me so that when the lo would toss whatever he/she was playing with on the floor I could just toss something else onto the tray. Ice cubes are great for this! I could get all kinds of prep done this way. Playing in the sink, playing in a pan of dry oatmeal, etc really helped. Then let Daddy clean up the mess after supper!
That is awesome. I need that for my fridge...or maybe I'll just try it.

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Old 06-18-2010, 05:29 PM
 
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I have similar issues with my kids going crazy if we wait too long for dinner. It has gotten worse in the past two weeks because my DH went back to work and isn't home til 7 or 7:30. Before this he was home for nearly a year laid off, and we all ate dinner early.

I try to feed the kids at about 4:30 pretty religiously and that helps them a lot, but now that dinner has to sit for DH for three more hours it's become kind of a pain and I am trying to figure things out for myself. I seem to be making two dinners now and that is not working for me. But if I get them fed at 4:30 ish, they often sit with us when we eat later on, to have a little more before bed.

To have the kids help me more with prep, I bought plastic zyliss knives so that they can cut up veggies or bread. They are like these: http://www.cookswarehouse.com/Produc...e-182p1772.htm and they cut the veggies well but are not really sharp enough to cut the kids. Your three year old is probably ready for these - my kids have been using them for a couple of years now and they are 4 and 6.
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