Updated: Aug 3
I recently posted a picture of my dinner and suggested that I should write a post about how I make it happen with a toddler and an infant grabbing at my ankles. Honestly, after I posted that, I realized it was borderline one of those “writing a check your mouth can't cash” moments. I immediately started thinking that my dinner cooking shenanigans are not worthy of a “how-to” post.
It’s a mess…Seriously!
Have a Plan
But you know what? I will gladly share my mess with you all! So, let me start out by sharing my tactics in attempt to create the best and most efficient environment for cooking amazing dinner with kids running around. The best advice I could ever give you is to meal plan! Every two weeks I create a dinner “menu” relying heavily on Pinterest and Instagram recipes. I then head to the grocery store (or order online) and shop according to my dinner menu.
Every morning I scan my menu and pick a dish from the list of options. The best part of meal planning is I always have the ingredients, and this takes away the work of guessing what I am going to make with random ingredients in my kitchen. Also, I rarely run to the store before cooking, since I have already shopped for everything I need.
Prep During Nap Time
My other piece of advice is to prep during nap time, lunch time, or any period of down time for your kids! If a meal requires a good amount of fresh chopped veggies or prep work, I take advantage of their down time and get to work. As much as I would rather be doing nothing, my love of great food motivates me to make the sacrifice. Plus, this makes the actual cooking part much more simple….sometimes!
Even with meal planning and working during nap or lunch time, cooking dinner with a toddler and an infant running around is still tough and can drain the mess out of me! For example, lets discuss the day I made this grilled salmon meal pictured below:
Barricade Yourself in the Kitchen
As usual, I barricaded Brayden in the living room area using our baby gate. I then turned the TV on to distract Makenzie from needing to be in my face. These are two staples during dinner time. However, on this day, the TV didn’t stop Makenzie from constantly opening the baby gate (yes, she knows how to operate the “child-proof” lock SMH) and coming into the kitchen asking for any and everything in the pantry. She wanted it all that day. I was soooo done with her.
Then Brayden decided that he just needed to have me in eyes sight that whole afternoon and decided to stand at the baby gate whining to get my attention. As soon as I would step into his view, he would get quiet and crawl away, only to come back to the gate minutes later. Of course, this is one of the days when I decided not to work during Brayden’s nap. So here I am juggling the task of chopping veggies in between breaks to let Brayden see my face and tell Makenzie no for the umpteenth time.
Then, my mommy sensor told me that I needed to send Makenzie to the bathroom. She is good on being able to go by herself and no longer likes us standing over her. Now usually, we do not let her shut the door because my floor would be covered in hand soap. But today, I didn’t want Brayden crawling into the bathroom with her. So, I gave her a Martin Luther King style speech and shut the door. Apparently, in my speech I forgot to cover the part about not playing with the lock, because she did just that; AND LOCKED HERSELF IN THE BATHROOM!
Then she decided that she did not want to unlock the door; she actually said that to me. I semi lost it. No. I legit lost it! I yelled a little bit. Actually, I yelled a lot a bit. She’s crying. I am flipping out, because there really is no way to unlock the door from the outside, due to previous residents obviously having many failed attempts. I ask what she’s doing. She says nothing.
At this point, I walk away and tend to my meal some more. I think I was even on the phone with my sister still. Then I start to feel bad so I go back to the door. I tried to be calm and just nicely ask her to unlock the door again. Then I can see that she is trying to turn the knob, but she’s just not turning it enough. At this point, the only thing I knew to do was call my husband. Thankfully he answers and comes right home (he works a couple streets over from our apartment). He walks in and starts the negotiations with Makenzie. Not long after, she manages to unlock the door and free herself!
Stressful right? All I wanted to do was cook dinner. I am sure that somewhere in the story you probably forgot that all this was in the middle of cooking. I only have God to thank for the fact that I did not burn the food up! Dinner was great, despite my blood pressure.
So, as you can see, some days all my dinner planning efforts work perfectly and other days it’s a hot mess. All I can say is every night we have a meal on the table; whether it is old faithful (Kielbasa and rice), a frozen pizza, or a fancy recipe from Pinterest. Living on base and in Germany, means getting take out is not as easy as it would be in the States. If it were that simple, we would have take-out at least 3 times a week!
The moral of the story is we eat great and all the shenanigans that often take place during dinner cooking time are worth it…sometimes.