Meal cooking ?

Discussion in 'The Toddler Years(1-3)' started by Sarah75, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. Sarah75

    Sarah75 Well-Known Member

    I feel like I am posting alot since moving to this board..I apologize :)

    When the babies were newborn we survived on anything that was thrown our way for food and had take out often. I always told myself that it would get better and I would start cooking more. But I think its worse now...we get take out more and eat out more than ever. It always seems like there isnt enough time, so husband will pick up something on the way home. We eat about three cooked dinners a week..but I want it to improve...anyone else like this ?
  2. Rollergiraffe

    Rollergiraffe Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    Yeah, we've definitely been in a funk about cooking. It's hard to muster up the energy to make things, especially when our kids can't always eat what we eat (dealing with food allergies). So if I don't do it right, I always end up making two suppers. Lately I have been trying to cook more though, both for health and to save money. Here's some of the things I have been doing:

    - kid friendly freezer meals. I make burritos that can be thrown in the microwave for lunches, casseroles, lasagnes, spaghetti sauce
    - make huge batches of stuff in my crockpot that we eat for a few days in a row
    - buy a roasted chicken from the grocery store along with salad fixings, tortillas and then make soup from the carcass
    - roast vegetables in large batches and use them as a side dish, in soups, wraps, salads
    - make salads.. salads are quick and easy! you can put in stuff like nuts, hard boiled eggs, cut up lunch meat etc for protien

    And I also designate a day of the week that is just take-out day. Then I know I can look forward to a break in cooking and plan around it. Lately we've been using a organic vegetable delivery service and over the summer I am going to sign up for a vegetable co-op, so that will hopefully reduce the amount of grocery shopping we have to do.

    It's a chore, but I think there are lots of quick healthy options out there. It's just a matter of getting into the habit of it!
  3. vharrison1969

    vharrison1969 Well-Known Member

    First of all, don't apologize!! When my guys turned one I think I posted every day asking about everything from naps to transitioning to milk! :D

    We really got into this rut as well. Like you said, during the first year we were lucky to eat at all, and happy if we could wolf down a piece of KFC in between feedings. I got to the same place that you are now, and realized that it wasn't great for our health or pocketbooks to always be eating takeout or fast food.

    I basically drew a line in the sand, and decided to start small. I planned 2 or 3 really easy meals per week (simple stuff like soup-and-sandwiches, burgers, spaghetti, etc.; summer is a really great time for this because you can have grilled chicken, brats, steaks and such that are quick and delicious). Then I'd give myself "permission" at least once a week to stopped for a rotisserie chicken after work, and fast food/takeout the rest of the time. I also started cooking bigger meals that had leftovers on the weekend (big pot of chili or gumbo, lasagna, roast turkey) that we could have for lunches and at least one dinner.

    Gradually it got better and easier as the boys got older. Now I'd say we make at least 5 meals per week at home. Some weeks are better, some are worse, especially if the boys are acting up or DH or I have had a brutal day at work and just want food quickly.

    Start small and work up from there! :)
  4. kingeomer

    kingeomer Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I agree with Valerie and Jen to start small. DH and I try to plain our meals for the week and also try to get meals that we can get at least two days worth out of. We both will try to cook our more complex meals over the weekend (for example, DH made his homemade meatballs and spaghetti sauce for today's dinner & tomorrow's dinner) when we have more time to focus.
  5. rrodman

    rrodman Well-Known Member

    I think we have all been there. I started out planning a week of meals and grocery shopping once a week. I planned in a take out night or two and a leftover night. At this point, I generally plan and shop for two weeks of meals at a time. I still plan leftover night and one take out night a week, and I intersperse easy frozen meals (there is a great line of quick and healthy skillet meals from Contessa--all Chinese favorites--or something like a Bertoni or Buitoni oven meal, some of which can be made in the microwave). But most nights one of us is cooking from healthy ingredients. I use my slow cooker at least once a week. I do more complicated meals on the weekends and that's what fuels leftover night. I tend toward easier pastas and veggies or things like chicken breasts or make your own tacos or something quick like that on weeknights. Just start small and start amassing some easy recipes. Buy a couple cookbooks for 15 minute meals or 5 ingredient recipes since they tend to be easy (no one wants to be throwing together something with 20 expensive ingredients on a Wednesday night!) and go from there. Once you have a good stable of recipes, it's easier to plan.
  6. MarchI

    MarchI Well-Known Member

    Around 15 months, I implemented healthier, easier (sometimes those exclude each other) and planned meals. I basically have 2 weeks worth of meals planned out. I made it specific. Like tonight we were supposed to have herb pork roast, rice and mixed veggies. For every day, I write down the main dish, side dishes and veggies. When I go shopping, I make sure we have everything. Right now, I have 2 sets of two weeks of menus I can rotate so that we aren't eating the same thing. I made sure we have two nights where it is meatless and 1 night where we eat out. I try to stick to it. This weekend however, I was sick and I am the only chef so DH ordered pizza. It was hard at first because I needed to find time to write things out and actually think of 12 meals. I did allow myself some easy nights (spaghetti with sauce, breakfast for dinner) because I know I am not going to be able to cook gourmet every night. I also make sure that with each meal, there are two things the babies will eat, that way I don't play restaurant at dinner time.

    Good luck, now at 18/19 months I still feel like I struggle but it seems to better than it was. Now if only I could get them to be patient enough to have dinner at 530 instead of 5pm, I would be less stressed about getting dinner on the table.
  7. Reeny691

    Reeny691 Well-Known Member

    I have no advice but all of the PP are soooooo much more organized than me.
  8. cheezewhiz24

    cheezewhiz24 Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I pretty much to do what the PPs do. I cannot plan dinner at 3:30. I have to know that day what's going on and sometimes prep stuff beforehand. I shop mostly on Mondays, but then on Fridays I pick up whatever we run out of before Monday. I make a menu which has 1 leftover night (usually bath night!) and Fridays we usually go out right now. So I need something for Mon, Tues, & either Wednes or Thurs. I try to have DH cook something on Sat or Sun just so I'm not doing all of the cooking.

    We do easy meals, too. Pasta is a favorite- mine love meatballs and now they like salad. Currently we are also on a loaded baked potato bar kick. I also like crockpot stuff and stuff that I know we love. We love taco meat and chili so I make a double batch so that we have leftovers and can sometimes freeze 1/2 for a meal at a later point. Chili's better the next day so sometimes I'll make it on Sunday and we eat it on Monday.
  9. teamturner

    teamturner Well-Known Member

    Someone on these boards recommended me to, which I've found to be fantastic! You select the dishes you want and it aggregates your grocery and recipe list. This has been a HUGE timesaver for me.

    The recipes are simple but tasty - I usually enhance mine a little to suit our palettes. It is a fee based site, but you can cancel for a full refund at any time if it's not working for you.
  10. Danibell

    Danibell Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    We eat out way too much, but especially now that baseball and karate are starting, I don't forsee it getting any better. I can't cook a "meal" at home, when I'm running kids around to activities, and DH doesn't get home until 7pm. I cook at least 4 supper meals a week, and pretty much every lunch, even if it's leftovers or sandwiches. But we do eat out 2-3 supper meals a week and it's so hard finding the time to cook on those nights! I feel your pain!!
  11. Lynn76

    Lynn76 Well-Known Member

    Menu plan, menu plan, menu plan!! If you want to save a bit more money, plan your menu on the days your local grocery stores mailer comes out and plan your meals around whats on sale.

    Here is what I do:

    On Sundays (either during nap or after kids are in bed) I sit down at the computer and start my menu for the week. I have already been thinking of meals I want to make since Friday or Saturday. I like to use the word pad on the computer since my handwriting stinks this way I can read what I need to buy!! I think about what meats I have in the freezer and plan around those. We shop Sams club so I always have ground beef and chicken breasts in there. I also like to cook with ground turkey depending on the meal. I try and shop out of my fridge and pantry before making meals where I need to buy a bunch of stuff. Also, since I am already at the computer, I can quickly look up a new recipe if I want and print it out right away.

    I write down Mon-Sun on a paper and write down next to each day what we are going to have. Dinner aren't always set in stone. Depending on the day, I might want to switch days around. After I write down what we are having, I make a list of what groceries we need.

    The plan is to stick with your menu. We like leftovers for lunch and my dh will sometimes take leftovers to work for his lunch.

    Something that has helped me with creativity in my meals is this:

    Monday: Crockpot night.
    Tuesday: Pasta
    Wednesday: Chicken
    Thursday: Pork/beef
    Friday: Casserole
    Saturday: Soup/sandwiches or take out (not very often)
    Sunday: Breakfast/leftovers

    You can switch those around to whatever works for your family. For instance, I should have Thursdays as crockpot days since I have MOPs 2x's a month on Thursdays and I don't get home till almost 2pm. To have supper already taken care of makes my afternoon go a whole lot smoother and my kitchen stays cleaner!

    Once you get into a rhythm of making meals every night, you can venture into taking what you are making and make a double batch and freeze the other batch so you have a meal in the freezer for nights where you really don't want to cook but really don't want to spend the money on take out meals.

    To get more ideas on different meals, I know people here are always posting their weekly meals in the cooking section. If I need some inspiration, I head there!
  12. Minette

    Minette Well-Known Member

    I only cook about 3x a week, but I always make 4-6 servings so we can have leftovers. It means I "can't" (i.e., refuse to) cook anything that doesn't keep well -- so we almost never eat fish, for instance. But it's the best I can do at this stage of life.

    I also do a weekly menu plan. I work from home on Thursdays so that's my shopping day. On Weds. evening I make a list for the whole next week, including any nights that I know we'll be out or DH will be home late. I list every.single.thing we're going to eat for dinner on each night, and also what needs to be done ahead of time. Then every night after the kids go to bed, I can look at my plan and see if I need to do anything (prep veggies, thaw chicken, etc.) before I go "off duty."

    We still go out at least once a week. (Rarely takeout -- I find it more hassle than just pulling out some frozen ravioli. If we're going to go someplace and buy food, we just eat there.)
  13. SC

    SC Well-Known Member

    I haven't read the other replies, but I am sure many have suggested crock pot meals. Like you, when the boys were first home, we survived on whatever we could heat up or grab quickly... meals prepared for us by family, take out, whatever.

    As life started to return to "normal," we tried to get back to cooking and eating healthy meals. I really prefer not to prepare a meal each and every night. It's not my favorite thing to do, but more than that is finding the time when I'm home alone most days with the boys.

    Typically, I'll make a big crock pot full of something on one of DH's days off (chili, pot roast, goulash, soup,...). We will eat it 2-4 nights that week, depending on how much I make and DH's schedule. Luckily, we both like left overs, although 4 nights in a row is pushing it :) On Saturday I made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup. We had it that night and will have it at least two more nights (there probably will be enough for even more nights, but we'll eat it for lunch or freeze it). One night I'll do side salads with it, another night I'll do a different side or no side at all depending on how hungry we are--but they'll be quick sides.

    Now that the weather is getting nicer, we will get back to grilling A LOT. I love not having the extra pots and pans to clean. Approximately one night a week we will get take out of some kind. I do love the nights when I don't have to prepare anything, especially because the boys aren't eating most of what we're eating right now, so I prepare two different meals.

    Anyway, I'd recommend doing some crock pot meals and as long as you and DH don't mind eating it a few nights a week, it will save you time and energy thinking about what you're going to make each day.
  14. slugrad1998

    slugrad1998 Well-Known Member

    This is totally my house. We keep saying we'll get better but haven't accomplished it yet. I work a funky schedule where I'm not home at dinner time several nights a week and with the kids nap schedule we got used to eating after they go to bed and who wants to cook that late! I love crockpot meals but never get motivated to think about dinner first thing in the AM. I'm hoping as our kids get better at sitting for meals it will motivate me to cook more. I admire the organization of these other women!
  15. rrodman

    rrodman Well-Known Member

    We ate after the kids went to bed until the last six months or so when we finally got to a family dinner. It'll happen as they get older.
  16. Anneke

    Anneke Well-Known Member

    Don't beat yourself up about it. I sometimes don't even cook three meals a week. That is, for DH and I. The babies always get healthy food, lol. I am a bit worried though, because we rarely get to sit together as a family to have dinner. I usually only think about eating after the girls are in bed and then I'm awfully tired.

    I'm sure you got great advice from PP's. I think organization is the key word. Also, try cooking more than you need for one meal and freeze it for later so you have two nights covered. We usually go visit either mine or DH's parents once a week too. One night for take outs, one for a quick ready made meal. And most important, do not worry. You'll get there. Life with two little toddlers is just hard (but fun!).
  17. vharrison1969

    vharrison1969 Well-Known Member

    I got THIS book years ago and dragged it back out after the boys were born. Not all of the recipes are fabulous, but some have become our mainstays (especially the slow cooker gumbo recipe; to die for!!). The cool thing is it gives you options for shopping so you can use ingredients in different recipes if you feel like it.

    DH and I go through and pick out one or 2 recipes from this cookbook and buy the ingredients beforehand. Then if we haven't planned anything for dinner we know we always have an option that is quick and healthy. :)

    Hope this helps!
  18. Lynn76

    Lynn76 Well-Known Member

    I also wanted to add, make a list of your favorite meals and keep those ingredients on hand at all times so when there are nights that you just don't feel like cooking, you have what you need to make those favorite meals.

    Here is my list to give you an idea:

    Spaghetti (I make the sauce in big batches and freeze so I always have some in the freezer. Makes for cheap meal if you don't add meat)

    Tator tot casserole
    Chicken pot pit
    Breakfast for dinner
    Hashbrown and eggs (hashbrown patties and scrambled eggs, my kids love it)
  19. Suffmann

    Suffmann Member

    I adore cooking and sometimes I prepare too much food, so it spoils before my family eat it. Now I am thinking of bag resealers and I even read reviews about them. As far as I can judge, it will keep the food fresh for a long time and this is the opportunity I need urgently.
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