October 21, 2010

What's so different about dinner? (Good Eats Thursday)

In a recent Tot School post, I mentioned that I'm doing dinner differently and it's allowing us to have more time together as a family.  I got a comment that asked what we were doing different... so here goes!

Like many moms and dads, evening time is super stressful for us here at the Chambers' house.  It seems 5 p.m. hits and my children become possessed by whiny Martians.  I've talked to several other moms and this seems to be a widespread problem.  It's so nice to know it's not just me!

We are so blessed that Heath typically gets off work right at 5 p.m., and since he works from home, his commute lasts about two seconds.  It's nice to have him home during the "witching hours," but I found myself passing the kids off to him every evening (at their worst!) just so I could get dinner on the table.  That's not fun, for anyone!

Now I make dinner during nap time.  I'm using the Crock Pot a ton and making a lot of casseroles, I've also hidden away a few meals in the freezer for those days that naps just don't happen or I, for some reason, can't find the time.  Sounds like an easy solution, but I wanted to give you a bit more insight:
- I love A Year of Slow Cooking for Crock Pot recipes, the blogger also has a book
- Did you know there is a Crock Pot App?  It also allows you to create grocery lists.  Genius!
- My favorite casserole cookbooks are here, here and here
- I also use a ton of recipes from Life as Mom. I've never done her full freezer cooking day, but would love to work up to it.  She has some great ideas for breakfast and lunch foods that I desperately need to steal!
- I got a fancy oven when we remodeled our kitchen last year.  It was a splurge, but I bought it as an open box item, so I got it for a good price.  It allows me to set a timer to turn the oven on and off at a specific time.  This feature has become invaluable to me!
- We do oven roasted veggies as a side most nights - I chop everything and add salt and pepper at nap time.  That way EVERYTHING is ready to go come 6 p.m.
- A neighbor and I are experimenting with a "cook for you" night bi-weekly.  Once we work through the kinks, we might add a few more people, giving us one less night a week to cook.  Hallelujah!

This is what's working for us - and the time we're getting together as a family is SO worth the extra effort on my part.  The kids are happier and we're happier!

What do you do to calm the "witching hour" at your house?


Anna said...

We go with a 7pm bedtime that makes things a little hectic with us getting home from work, feeding him, etc. Sometimes we get dinner in there before the baby's bedtime! I also hate that the time Charlie gets to spend with Adam is not really the "good" part of his day.

Happy Mommy said...

Hana cooks with me, which has turned into a wonderful experience (most of the time). She learns, we spend great time together and this has also turned into a very nutritional thing for her. Getting her to sit down and eat dinner has become a task in and of itself recently. She's not a picky eater, she just doesn't want to sit down to eat. However, she'll eat her weight in veggies as I chop them fresh. I've even caught her grabbing green beans and peas straight out of the can once open, so needless to say I'm happy she'll at least eat then if not with the rest of us!

Julie said...

After dinner at 5:15ish, we go outside and draw on the driveway with chalk, waiting for Daddy, and praying that 6:45 will get here FAST.

On days when I have the energy for it, though, I keep them busy from 5:00 - 6:45 with dinner and bathtime.

We're still not to the family dinner stage yet. I was hoping Jason would be able to change his schedule, but I still find myself cooking for the kids and then cooking for us. SOMEDAY life will be simpler... I just know it. :)

Julie said...

Actually... because I do find myself either having to cook separate meals or re-heat once Jason is home... a crock pot dinner is probably the way I should go. Thanks for the cookbook suggestions!

JodyB said...

With football practice 3 evenings a week, you better believe that crock pot is getting used! That way we can all go watch practice, or one parent can stay home to do other important tasks without cooking being the priority.

Annalee is awful when I try to cook an elaborate dinner, so I have given up on anything like that. When I am cooking "live" though, she has to be the helper. I can imagine that THREE helpers might hinder instead of benefit, but usually I can find her a task that is safe and keeps her Martian possession to a minimum.

Allison said...

I hear ya on this one. Daddy hand-off was often happening at our house. I started trying to always prep at naptime. Also, I never make just what I need for the one meal. If I make a casserole or lasagna I always make two smaller ones. Eat one and freeze one. Soup is another thing I usually make more of. I like having at least a few frozen meals on hand at all times. also having the kids "help" works well. Even though it takes more time and makes more of a mess it is such a fun activity. State called with a two year old girl and 5 year old boy almost legally free- just too soon.