Kids and Dinner Prep

For this month’s theme week, Anna and I decided to share how we handle the hardest hour of many moms’ days–dinner prep hour!

Last year, I met a woman who shared that dinner prep hour was “her” time.  Her husband kept the kids out of the kitchen for that hour, and once dinner was in the oven, she’d sit at her kitchen table and read her Bible and pray.  I think my jaw literally dropped in astonishment.  I don’t know about the rest of you girls, but my husband is never home before dinnertime during the week!  I don’t know any husbands who are!  While I’m glad that her family’s schedule allowed for that kind of luxury, I have to deal with four crabby, hungry little people on my own while fixing a meal that at least one person will complain about eating.  I would not say that the dinner hour is “my” time, and it’s certainly not optimal devotional time for me.

So yes, I am definitely one who struggles in the 4:30-5:30 window.  I love to cook, and I love to try new things.  I’m so used to cooking from scratch (for financial, taste, and health reasons) that I have a hard time taking shortcuts.  But I’m learning to sacrifice my pleasure in gourmet cooking for the peace of the family.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to do more double-duty cooking–a couple weeks ago, a girlfriend came over for the afternoon and helped me knock out four chicken-and-rice casseroles and four chicken-pot-pies for our families to share.  I love having a meal ready to go in my freezer that I can pull out the morning of and just stick in the oven.  I’m trying to do more leftovers nights, too.  I also use my crockpot at least once a week for dinner.  The beauty of good crockpot cooking is not that you skip the prep work (unless you want sub-par results), but that you can move the prep work back earlier in the day.  My two little girls still nap after lunch, so that tends to be a good time for me to be in the kitchen.

managing dinner prep hourI also try to let the kids participate when possible.  My 3 year old is a huge cooking fan, and as soon as I pull out a mixing bowl or a pan, she’s dragging a chair across the kitchen to come “help” me cook or bake.  If the big kids are entertaining the baby, this works well.  If anyone is whiney or especially needy, or if I’m suddenly surrounded by three helpers on chairs and a baby tugging at my leg, it’s exasperating.

We live in SoCal where it is always beautiful, and we have a fenced-in backyard, so my ideal would be to kick my kids outside to play in the yard while I’m fixing dinner.  Sometimes this works!  The problem is that J is in the putting-everything-in-her-mouth stage, so I kindof need to keep an eye on her in the great outdoors.  Just this week, I have pulled a screw off the grill, a roly poly, a piece of chalk, and countless pebbles out of her mouth.  Lately I’ve been telling the kids that if they clean up the whole house, they can watch an educational video like Little Pim French or The Magic Schoolbus before dinner.  I used to have this ideal that my kids would never watch TV, but Anna actually really helped me make peace with using it when I really need the help.

How do you wrangle your kids when you’re making dinner?

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