What’s for dinner tonight? After being married for five years, cooking for my family is still one of the things I truly enjoy. It can be time consuming some weeks and a breeze other weeks. However, to know my family has a quality meal not just a fast food joint substitute makes me happy. But even though I enjoy cooking for my family, I am still learning and developing a cooking routine. As a matter of fact, it has changed at least ten times over the years. That may sound like a lot or even quite obsessive, but life changes constantly. Thus, my cooking routine requires tweaking with every time there is a transition in my life. With that said, let’s talk about some of these transitions and the adjustments that were needed for them.
When Henry and I first got married, I cooked five to six days a week. Yes, I am that “Suzy Homemaker” type of wife. Then, my husband asked me to slow down because there was too much food left over each week. Not only that, each meal could feed at least five people. Obviously, that was too much food since it was just the two of us for the first few years of our marriage. Eventually, I reduced my cooking down to three to four days per week. And wouldn’t you know it, after that adjustment was made, we found out we were going to have a baby?!
During my first pregnancy, my energy level was not at the same level as it was before and that dictated the frequency of my cooking for the week. During this transition, I began incorporating one pot or crock pot and make ahead freezer meals (I would suggest cooking up to only 2 of these dishes a week. Your family can grow tiresome if they are too many). You want to make sure that you are balancing the “easy” meals with the favorite meals. While food seems like a basic necessity, it can also be a form of telling someone that you love them and the effort you put in can be translated as such. So, balance self-care and family care.
Now let’s discuss when there are little people in our households. Our little people are currently two years old (with the personality of a 30 year old man) and one and a half months (we’re still learning his personality). Some toddlers are picky eaters while others are binge eaters. Our oldest little one started off as a binge eater and modified into a picky eater. Since I refuse to get upset about his eating habits, I developed a few tricks to compensate for his picky ways. Thus, if your little one is like mine, here are a few tips you can try:
- Cook What Your Little One Will Eat
- If they will eat it, let them eat it. Of course everything should be in moderation. For example, my son loves chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, and sweet potatoes. When he is having a picky day, these are my go to items.
- Smoothies Are A Lifesaver
- My little one loves smoothies. Therefore, when he is having an extremely picky episode, I fall back to my foolproof plan: smoothies. As a bonus, smoothies are a great way to provide nutrients and introduce new fruits & vegetables. I make sure to include at least two vegetables, a variety fruits, yogurt or PediaSure, and juice in every smoothie.
- Mix It Up
- Shake up your little person’s menu. Since our son loves sweet potatoes, I try to introduce them in a variety of ways: fries, patties, diced and mashed etc. Another way to mix it up is to simply add something new to your little person’s menu. You never know if your little person will like something or not if you don’t let them try it first (even if they initially say no). Trying new foods will help to teach them that it is okay to try new things.
Our next transition included a new housemate: my mom. She moved in a year ago and it has been a blessing to my family. Plus, her grandbaby is overjoyed to have her join our household. Even though this most recent addition to our family has been rather seamless so far, my mother doesn’t eat leftovers after one day. Therefore, my current meal plan consists of cooking primarily on Sundays, Mondays, and Saturdays. This cooking schedule may seem like we eat leftovers for about 4 days, but we really don’t. Let me explain in more detail: all of the adults in our household work totally different schedules. One leaves home at 6:00 a.m., another leaves at 7:00 a.m. and another leaves home at 2:00 p.m. Therefore, in our home, we don’t eat meals together except for the weekends. Thus, in order for my family to have quality meals, I have to create three to four meals in advance. These meals require minimum assembling for my family (i.e. build your own salad). My planning is also very simple and consists of (1) BYOM (build your own meal), (1)crockpot meal, (1) sandwich type meal and/or (1) pasta/rice based meal. With that said, if your family is as busy as mine, here are some tips you may want try:
- Cook What You Enjoy
- If you like it, you are more inclined to cook it. For example, my hubby loves Chicken Parmesan and I love the process of making this dish. Even though it requires a few steps, but I like the process of putting it together.
- Simplify Your Recipes
- Complicated recipes are time consuming and overwhelming. After working 8 hours and picking up after our little ones, the last thing I want to do is cook for two hours (Plus, I am starving by that time). Therefore, recipes with a few ingredients and a short cook time are your best friend.
- Develop A Schedule
- When to schedule and when not to schedule is the question. I would recommend scheduling days you would want to cook. Since everyday cooking doesn’t fit my family lifestyle, I don’t do it every day. First, I suggest selecting a must cook day; which is Sunday for my family. I also like cooking on Saturday as well because it gives my family one extra day to sit around the table together. Nevertheless, the majority of our meals are created on Monday or sometimes Sunday evening (of course this depends on my level of energy because I recently had a baby and have to mother a two year old) and then stored in the refrigerator to be eaten later. If you choose to do pre-planned meals, I personally recommend labeling and dating them all. That way everyone can decide what they would like to eat. This schedule and system works for my family at this moment in time. I am highly aware it can change and I must be ready for yet another transition.
- Believe In The Leftovers
- Now, let’s discuss one of my saving graces which is the leftover. For those who don’t like leftovers, I am so sorry you feel that way. Leftovers have saved me from cooking every day, or eating out every day as well as time, and money. Even if you don’t care for leftovers, why not switch it up? For instance, if you had pulled pork or chicken on a bun on Tuesday, change it up and have it on a baked potato or sweet potato on Wednesday. It may taste just as good if not better the second time around.
Ladies, I know we are all busy and want to provide quality meals some kind of way for our families. Remember quality doesn’t mean cooking every day or preparing complex meals. Cooking can just be simple, enjoyable, and most importantly delicious. I am challenging everyone to cook two meals this week and share it with your family/community. If anyone is interested in learning more about meal planning or just learning from my mistakes in general about meal planning just email me at email@example.com. I would be more than happy to share my experiences in more detail.
Blessings, sunshine and happy cooking everyone!
Sisteria Simmons is married to her love and best friend Henry, Jr. She is the mother to two kings in training Henry III and Harrison Luke. She enjoys reinventing delicious dishes for family and friends and creating a home life that her children will remember when they are older, fondly.