Children, that is.
When were coming to the end of our 6ish weeks of church and freezer/crockpot meals, I was rather concerned that it was “impossible” to make a decent meal at a decent hour. But, I thrive on challenge (even though I moan a lot sometimes lol) and decided I would give it my best shot.
Well, it turns out it is possible… but, like seemingly everything with a toddler and a newborn, it requires quite a bit of strategy and forethought and determination and flexibility. Here’s my current strategy:
Step one: plan simple meals while Caleb cluster feeds at night
Step two: use the Walmart pick up app to shop, also at night. Buy as much pre-prepped as possible… chopped, washed kale, baby carrots and shredded carrots, frozen chopped onions, etc
Step three: have my husband pick it up on the weekend
Step four: start prep as early as possible. Sometimes I chop veggies a few days in advance at night, or during Noah’s nap. I also generally start some part of the meal at around lunch time, like baking sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash, roasting beets, etc.
Step five: start preparing to make dinner about 2 hours before we plan to eat… 1 hour minimum
Step six: secure small children. I wear Caleb (he normally naps around when I make dinner). Noah either cooks with me in his learning tower or I buckle him in his seat and feed him frozen peas or something similarly small, easy, and not too filling. Sometimes he colors, but it doesn’t tend to last very long. This is the part I was most worried about, since there’s really no way to keep Noah with me in the kitchen and he tends to panic when he can’t get to me, so putting him on the porch where he can’t open the door doesn’t work yet. (he’s getting better though… he plays fine alone, but since we lived in a tiny condo most of his life he isn’t used to being away from me)
Step seven: actually cook. Haha. And try to set the table, too. It’s often a bit of a whirlwind (I tend to be a messy cook anyway but it’s another level these days) but somehow we get through. Usually my husband helps with Noah or with the food towards the end, once he’s home.
And he usually does the clean up as well, since Caleb tends to cluster feed from after dinner till past 9 or so, and just because he’s helpful like that. 🙂
And that’s it! Haha. I’m trying to include leafy greens and an orange veggie nearly every evening. And the more veggies the better! I’m working on branching out and cooking with veggies I’m less familiar with, too… for me those have included beet greens, beets, canned artichokes and more. Also just experimenting with different ways to cook the same veggies, like chopping Brussels sprouts finely and sautéing with carrots and red cabbage.
We are working on cutting nightshades out of our diet, at least temporarily, in hopes it’ll help with some health issues we have. And I don’t do well with gluten, so those additional limitations provide extra opportunities to be creative.
Here are some recent meals:
“Ultimate winter salad”–spinach, chicken. roasted beets, candied walnuts, cuties, red onion, goat’s cheese, and homemade balsamic dressing. It was amazing!! I made the dressing and spice mix for the chicken and roasted the beets while Noah napped. I should’ve done the walnuts, too, as I ended up burning the first batch I attempted. 😩
Dijon mustard and spinach chicken, baked sweet potato, roasted Brussels, and riced cauliflower. (I cheated and used frozen riced cauliflower, and the sweet potatoes I baked at lunch time. I think I chopped and tossed the Brussels in oil then too)
Grilled grass fed steak and zucchini, (courtesy of my husband) roasted beets, Brussels, sweet potatoes, onions, and mushrooms. This dinner very successfully met the “mostly plants” rule I’m attempting to adopt!
Creamy lemon asparagus chicken pasta with steamed baby carrots. Used canned chicken breast to make it faster and Noah and Peter zested and juiced the lemons for me.
Pesto chicken with mushrooms, shredded carrots (I bought them that way), chopped spinach and beet greens, and red onion served over baked spaghetti squash. I baked the squash and chopped the greens, onions and mushrooms earlier in the day.
Turkey sausage and veggie stuffed butternut squash. I chopped the zucchini and onion during lunch time and the mushrooms I chopped the day before when I chopped that meal’s mushrooms. I just had to cut the squash and apples in the evening. Then when I was getting started cooking Noah kind of fell/sat on Caleb’s face (Caleb had been chilling on a blanket on the floor), which of course made Caleb cry and Noah started trying to pour salt on everything so I had to move him into the bedroom which made him cry, too, so I turned the food way down and went in bed with both boys… Caleb nursed and I read a book to Noah. My husband got out of the shower shortly after so he saved the day and finished cooking with Noah. 😅 In the end, it turned out amazing and Caleb was okay. Exciting times.
Asian meatballs, steamed broccoli, brown jasmine rice, sautéed carrots, chopped Brussels, and red cabbage. I made the meatballs while Noah was napping.