Last week we posted a question asking how working parents manage to get dinner on the table every night. Reddit's workingmoms subreddit came through with a varied collection of great suggestions, insights and encouraging thoughts which are summarized below. The comments have been paraphrased and rearranged. One theme that emerged is that mealtime is a great opportunity for everyone in the family to play a role when it comes to getting food on the table and cleaning up afterward. Hopefully you'll find ideas which helps your family enjoy mealtime more.
RunningForTheAisle, loves to cook and is a new mom, who is eager to understand how more experienced working parents get dinner on the table. After reading the suggestions below, she wrote, “This info gives me great hope!” and she added that she's eager to have her daughter help with meal prep when she's older.
Think-Write pointed out that meal prep becomes more manageable as you figure out what works (and doesn't work) for you and your family, and added that once kids are older, you can have them help prepare the meals. When kids do "real" tasks that really contribute to running a household, it builds lasting self-esteem.
FL_Sunshine advises that there is a key: Meal planning, meal planning and more meal planning.
DivineMrsM shared her weekly dinner routine:
I cook dinner 4-5 nights/week. Two of those nights are Saturday and Sunday.
By the time the kids are in elementary school, you figure out a routine. You probably won't make everything from scratch every night, but you fit it in when you can. And chicken nuggets a couple times a month won't kill anyone. Your kids won't starve, and they'll appreciate the work you put in when you can.
Another trick I found was to give the kids a very small snack on our way home from school. It keeps the hangry demons at bay to give you a few extra minutes to prepare food. It can be done!
sandebruin offers a unique perspective; she serves meals the day after she cooks them. For example, on a Monday she comes home from work/daycare and heats the meal she prepared on Sunday. Then she puts the kids to bed and cooks for Tuesday.
She likes cooking, but not with two very hungry kids crying around her along with a lot of pressure to have something ready quickly. She has a few meals that can be ready in ten minutes and they eat those whenever they didn't have time or didn't feel like cooking the night before. Things that definitely taste better when eaten right away are eaten over the weekend.
tolietduck explains we switched to easy week night meals which I prepare while my 2-year-old watches TV.
batswantsababy points out that the slow cooker helps and confesses: sometimes the kids have to cry and fuss and my husband has to be at his wit's end for a while before I cook. I hate cooking in general, so we also eat out more than we should. She adds:
whatisgreen works 3 days/week and says planning is a big part of being successful. Her tips:
Jmamut is trying to be healthier and budget, so she has been cooking more than before her 8-month-old was born.
She adds that she loves the recent trend of one pan meals where you just put meat and veggies on a pan, season, and bake. I also try to make lots of each meal so we can eat leftovers the next night and I have more time to play with our daughter. The tricky part is that she usually wants to eat around 6:15 pm. It's a balancing act that generally requires me to eat in less than 10 minutes and then start the bedtime routine. Not ideal, but doable most days. If she's extra clingy making it impossible to cook we just eat after she's in bed at 7. It'll definitely be harder once I'm making her meals too, but I think then I'll rely much more on my slow cooker and preparing foods for the week in advance.
Blenda33 does as much prep as possible the night before.
catmamma says she finally got an Instant Pot (pressure cooker) because she's a terrible food prepper and very lazy. She adds ...
cha0ticneutralsugar enjoys cooking and would like to cook full dinners more often for her daughter and Iherself, but if she make 5 meals a week, she ends up with spoiled leftovers. Preparing three dinners seems to be the sweet spot so that everything is eaten over the course of the week. She cooks a lot of the same meals over and over because she's familiar with them so can prepare them fairly quickly. She adds:
-- Leftovers from the meals listed above
-- One meal "out."
My nest is now empty (kids are 21 and 19), but I am proud of the fact that I made it a priority to put a home cooked dinner on the table most nights on top of my 50+ hours/week engineering job. [Editor’s note: OK, I think we can all agree that Moms_Kitchen is probably related to Wonder Woman 😉 Especially since she adds: I was also a very involved parent volunteer.]
Once the kids are older …
It got harder once the kids were in high school and had a lot of extracurricular activities. They had to eat on the run when they could squeeze it in. (We had a great team of parents that brought food to the football field after practice so the football players that were also in the band could eat. We also had a great volunteer group that made tons of food for the high school drama club so no one went hungry. We all took turns making it happen.)
My advice: make dinner at home whenever you can, and join up with other parents to make dinner happen when you can't.
dr_millisievert echos the idea "Meal planning all the way. Then prep on weekends."