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Help me organize my dinnertime!

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I recently have gone to work fulltime and have a 3.5mo.ds and 3yr.dd. I don't walk in my door until 5:45p. My dd wants to eat immediately, and my dh isnt home until about 6-6:30p. I end up feeding my dd "snacks" like steamed broccoli, tofu chunks,frozen peas,olives,cheese etc. while making dinner so she is happy until I have her dinner cooked. My dd and I don't eat any meat except fish, and I am on a dairy elimination diet as my ds who is ebf has excema from dairy (I am assuming.) We eat some soy products and are as organic as possible. My dh wants meat most nights...

I am having huge issues with time. I dont want to spend the little time I have with my dc cooking and cleaning. By the time I have my dinner done I am no longer hungry (7-8pm) How do I cook decent meals without spending my life in the kitchen? How do I make it easier to cook for both dh and my limitations?How do I make a "dinner time" that we can all sit down and eat? I am feeling really frustrated most nights.....

Thank you.

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Can you and your dh take turns cooking? If your dd is hungry before he gets home, can she just eat as she has been doing, as you mentioned? Can you make a few meals on the weekend, with help from your dh, and reheat during the week? Can you have sandwiches for dinner? Or cheese (for them), salad and bread with fruit or carrot sticks or other veggies (and your dh can add meat to his)? Or omelets, which are really easy and quick? Can you have your dh cook diff. kinds of meats when he is home and then you can reheat that for him during the week?

Anyway, I think the crock pot may be your answer for part of the problem. Meat and meat dishes in the crock pot is very, very easy. You can often prep the ingredients the night before and put them in the crock in the fridge, then stick the crock in the base and let it cook on low. You could cook a big thing once (like a bunch of boneless skinless chicken breasts) and then use for a while--like shred some of it for chicken soft tacos for him one night, cut some of it up and make a chicken salad for sandwiches, make a chicken cesar salad, etc. (Just examples here.) Soups and stews are also very good in the crockpot. I am not the queen of crock pot cookery, but I'm working on it!!

Sounds like for your DD you might need to just plan on a good snack for her for before you serve dinner and make arrangements to have that on hand. Like have some cut up veggies, cheese cubes, etc. ready to go. It sounds to me like the problem with the situation with her is only that you are sort of feeding her the snacks "on the fly" and they aren't really planned, so maybe you're kind of scrounging in the fridge looking for stuff to feed her while you're trying to make dinner. If you just plan on sitting her down with a plateful of snacks while you get dinner together it might make things easier. You may not be able to have her eat a whole dinner with you and your DH--maybe she can just have two mini-dinners, one when she gets home and the other when you all eat.

I have the same vegetarian/omnivore issues at my house--DH is a Hindu vegetarian (so no beef cooking here!) and I am an omnivore who is also eliminating most dairy due to BFing/DD's reaction to it. One thing that has improved my life markedly is that I have made a week's worth of menus and that's the basis for what we have every week. And I've made meals that can be "customized" with a little meat for me if I want but veggie for him. Here's a couple of our favorites:
1) Italian night--spaghetti with marinara sauce. You can brown a little ground beef or turkey and throw some of the sauce in there for your DH, keep the rest veggie. Salad--I buy the prewashed stuff, throw in some cherry tomatoes, done. Nice bread with olive oil.
2) Fajitas--cut up onions, green and/or red bell peppers, tomatoes. I saute these with some light vegetable oil and season with a mix of paprika, oregano, ground black pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper. (Or buy some fajita mix.) Separately I saute some chicken breast strips for me, and another pan I saute soy chick'n strips for DH. I sprinkle everything with some fresh lime juice and serve with tortillas. I buy salsa and/or guacamole, and serve this with tortilla chips.
3) Stir fry. I buy pre-cut veggies and cook them and serve over rice. I cook some chicken for me separately and add it in if I want to, and/or do some tofu or something for DH.

This is a couple of examples. I have found that it really helps me to know that Monday is always spaghetti night! If I am feeling exotic I can modify things a little and make penne instead of spaghetti, or pesto instead of marinara, but I have a framework anyway. This REALLY simplifies my shopping and cooking. As I go along I am adding some new dishes here and there from time to time. But I used to try to do meal planning by poring over cookbooks and coming up with exciting new recipes every night, and I just burned out, and I don't have the time or energy to do that anymore. I simplified.

The other thing is that I've realized that I just don't have time to cook everything from scratch, and that yes, it's more expensive to buy pre-cut fresh broccoli florets than a bunch of broccoli, and prewashed salad in a bag rather than a head of romaine, but it's cheaper than eating out all the time because I don't have time or energy to mess with chopping all the veggies myself with a baby that needs attention.

Hope this helps somewhat!
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I second the crockpot idea. You might want to check the following cookbooks out from the library:
Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
Fix & Forget It
Fix & Forget It Lightly
Ready & Waiting

The last three aren't vegetarian, but both the Fix & Forget books mit have a TON of recipes. They may have as many vegetarian recipes as the "Fresh from the Vegetarian..." book.

I would try meal planning a week at a time. I know a lot of people around here do a month or 6 weeks at a time, but I think a week would be plenty to see what works.
I don't know if this option is available in your area, but I know A LOT of moms (even ones who don't work) who use Supper Solutions. You make an appointment and go assemble 12 meals for a fee (usually around $200, about what you would pay for groceries). They're balanced meals and all the work is done for you...just put the meals together. Then you can take them home and freeze them. There are a bunch of shops like this opening up around here.

I'm tempted to try it myself.

Here's a link:
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