How Do I Step Up Dinner?

One of my favorite things to eat for dinner is cereal.  A nice bowl of one of my hippy dippy cereals (currently I am loving Barbara’s Puffins) makes me happy.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy going out to eat but when I’m home, I’m happy with cereal.

But now we have a kid.  And Jeremy has visions of all of us eating dinner together as a family (because he grew up doing this whereas I did not so it seems strange to me).  Since AM is impressionable, it seems that now is the opportunity to instill good habits and routines.

I’ve read a few things on the web about parents trying their darndest to not become their kids’ personal chef.  They try to enforce the “everyone is eating the same meal” thing.  And I realized we totally don’t do this.

So now is the time to step up our dinner game.  Currently, I feed AM dinner right when we get home (because she starts FLIPPING OUT for some food as soon as we walk in the door).  Her dinner is usually pasta (with tofu and cheese).  I try to vary this but have only had success giving her the sweet potato/cannelini bean burgers.  She seems to hate every other dinner option I’ve tried.

I don’t want to become her “personal chef” and I’d like to give her more variety.  But this means that I should probably start eating a more substantial dinner.

So is this the norm?  Do most people cook dinner on most nights and eat together (as a couple or family)?  This seems so foreign to me.  My family only ate together on occasions (like holidays).  Otherwise, I’d usually eat something that my mom prepared for me while she watched me eat (she usually grazed all day on Korean food so she never really ate dinner).  Sometimes my dad ate with me.

The idea of cooking dinner nearly every night sounds exhausting!  How do you do this?  How do you make this work and not end up with a boat load of leftovers OR without spending a ton of money on food?  We already spend an obscene amount of money at the grocery store.

HELP ME!  I won’t be turning to Pinterest for this because I know I’ll just get lost in the world of recipes and then feel so overwhelmed and then so poor after I purchase everything to make these amazing meals.



Filed under Charm City Kim Eats

9 responses to “How Do I Step Up Dinner?

  1. I cook dinner every weeknight but to be quite honest, it took a long time to figure out how to do it without spending a ton of money AND time. Though I don’t have kids myself, I’ve found that things the bf can help with are always winners. Things like “build your own pizza” or salad nights with a ton of fresh toppings are always a hit in my house [I like to buy lots of fresh ingredients and use them in multiple dishes during the week]. Plus, I feel like that time gives us the opportunity to catch up and actually talk before we veg out on the couch. I’m happy to share some of my easier, more family friendly favorites if you’re ever interested 🙂

  2. I’m still working on this one myself, though, yes, I *DO* generally cook dinner every night. I just… suck at it. Sometimes. (Most of the time?) Because, yes, it’s hard to work up the energy to cook something when you’ve worked all day and the baby (or babies, depending on how you/your husband act while hungry) are whiny and blah blah blah. So I turn to the same oldthings way too often (pasta, veggie burgers, burritos, stir fry) – I definitely need some new inspiration!
    As for making it work in a budget – usually the leftovers can work for a lunch or two, so that saves on spending for that meal! Maybe?

  3. monsterawr

    We not only eat a proper meal every night, but we schedule our meals so that when we have plenty of leftovers to take to work. A few things:

    *Every one of our recipes is printed out (either from the website we found it or retyped into a Word document) and stored in a page protector in a three-ring binder. It helps to be able to see what our options are and not get stuck making the same thing over and over.

    *We plan out our meals two weeks at a time. We sit down, see what kind of meals we need when and plan them out. This helps prevent us from buying more than we need or having too many leftovers. I also try to make sure that recipes that require a lot of perishable items are used earlier, so produce doesn’t go bad. It takes a little time, 20 minutes or so, but it helps a lot.

    *I have a subscription to Cooking Light Magazine, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to our menu! They do real food, not diet food, with real ingredients. Some of the recipes are too expensive or elaborate for us, but I’d say we get 5-15 recipes out of every issue. So many of our favorite recipes have come from them!

    *We just downloaded the Mighty Grocery app, and it’s a fantastic help in budgeting our groceries. It lets you separate items by aisle, enter the price once and it will remember the price later and help you figure out how much you’re going to spend before you even get to the store, and it can sync between phones, so if husband is stopping at the store on the way home he has the grocery list on his phone, too.

    It sounds like a lot of work, but I promise, it makes life waaaaay easier! But then, we also truly love to make dinner, so it’s not really work for us.

  4. Amber

    I don’t have a baby, but I’m super exhausted when I come home. So every weekend, Saturday I go to the grocery store and decide what we’re having for dinner and I prep everything Sunday. (I try to do one or two slow cooker things, and marinate something for the grill now that it’s nice out.) Then, the slow cooker meals are already to serve some other day or you can freeze them for later. Also, an important rule in my house is: if I cook, he cleans while I lay on the couch and relax. I still only cook about 3-4 dinners a week. He has to feed me one day, and we usually go out on the weekends. When we decide to have kids, I’ll probably switch to cereal 5 nights a week because I’m not sure how prepping meals all day on Sunday would work with a kid around!

  5. Meredith

    Someone already said this, but prepping on Sunday is critical! I typically do a roasted veggie (brussels, green beans, sweet potato) and a protein during the week to keep it quick and simple but I cut all my veggies and marinate (and sometimes cook) all my proteins on Sunday. If I haven’t planned ahead and have to do something on the fly I’m totally lost (or I’ll hit up the nearest fast food joint which is never a good plan!)

    One thing that I love is a frittata (you eat eggs right? I forget!). You can make them ahead of time and throw all your leftover produce from the week into it and it reheats great for a nice, easy meal. You may like this since you’re already a breakfast-for-dinner fan with all the cereal!

  6. kristin

    i grew up all of us having dinner together at the table, every night. no personal chefs, we ate what was served. and usually had to eat a salad and drink milk with dinner. and we had to ask to be excused from the table when we were finished, can you imagine? 🙂
    we need to start cooking more at home, too. i want to start using the crockpot more. i like the recipes you don’t have to do anything to ahead of time, just throw the ingredients in and let it cook while you’re at work. we’ve been doing a lot of pasta dinners and just throwing in whatever’s in the fridge, chicken, spinach, broccoli, sauce, etc. and it makes great leftovers. i also like the build your own salad idea or doing taco night/stir fry type dishes where you can add whatever you want.

  7. We eat togehter almost every night unless I have a work event or something… I love the Everyday Food magazine (Martha–although not a TON of meatless recipes), but they include shopping lists and the like. Sometimes we get stuck in ruts, but then I turn to Pinterest or friends’ favorites, or call my mom and ask for ideas. I grew up eating dinner iwth my family and it made me happy. We had to eat whatever my mom made, but if we didn’t, we were free to make a pb&j or cereal if we absolutely couldn’t take it. Note: we were free to make, my mom did not make. I think she made all of us adventurous eaters by offering a wide variety of stuff and always a lot of veggies! I didn’t like them at first but now there are very few things I won’t eat and I love vegetables! I do have a couple of good veggie recipes I could email you that are super easy!

  8. Robert Bolton

    My mom didn’t work, and didn’t care to prepare dinner 6 times a night apparently, so all of us 6 kids ate at the same time. My dad ate with us most of the time, but I can’t remember my mom eating with us very often. Perhaps she grazed while cooking. Perhaps we didn’t have 8 chairs. Spaghetti, tacos, chili, chicken, sides (mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, carrots, etc), hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops, ham, liver, fish sticks, stew, Chung King. (yes, much meat). Perhaps what’s important is doing things together, paying attention, diplayng love, and talking. Maybe try a dinner every Sunday.

  9. My mom worked the night shift 3-4 times per week, but we still ate as a family (with or without her). Now that I have my own family, we eat together every night, except Monday when ballet is at 5:15 and baseball is at 6pm.

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