Jan 15, 2015

New Year, New Things - Taking on Dinner

I don't know about you but the new year always sparks a desire for change.  Usually it lasts a day.  Like when I thought about not eating bread or when I swore I was going to give up desserts.  Neither change lasted longer than 24 hours.

This year though, things have been different.  Probably because we made our changes prior to the new year starting, so they weren't like new year's resolutions that were destined to fail but instead they were more like really good ideas that work.

My most favorite change that we have implemented as a family is, dinner.  Let me explain.

Dinner stresses me out!

I don't mind cooking but the whole idea of coming up with what to cook is a killer for me.  We were eating like the same 5 meals on repeat with a whole lot of Sonic, Chipotle, Cafe Rio, and other take-out mixed in for good measure.  Not the greatest plan on any level.

So, before Christmas we introduced assigned dinner nights and I'll be totally honest, I'm pretty sure the heavens sang out in joy as it has been the best thing for me, oh and my family, too, can't forget them.  Selfishly though, I am totally loving this new set up.  In a nutshell here's what it is and why I love it so much...

Everyone has an assigned night and everyone cooks.  
Simple as that.  

Bug and Jet, being 13 and all now, are old enough to carry a little more responsibility and contribute. Miss M is practicing her cooking skills for her college days (she doesn't want to live on Ramen) and even Mr. K has a day, too. I cook for the remaining days of the week and usually one night we have leftovers.

So, why am I telling you this?  Two reasons.

One, because if you are a mom that has issues with planning dinner, this idea just might work for you too. Plus it is teaching my girls responsibility, planning skills, and how to cook.  Honestly, it's great!


Two, because we've had some really yummy meals and I want to spread the love and share those recipes.

My tips on making this work. 

1- Plan a Planning night:  For us, it is Sunday night.  The girls are told their assigned cooking night based on what activities are coming up for the week.  They are then responsible for picking a recipe, checking to see if we have the ingredients, and sending me the recipe and also a grocery list of needed ingredients.

2- Set aside a shopping day:  Do all your shopping for the week at one time.  I'll be honest, we are still fine tuning this step.  Seems like we are always running to the store for "a few more things" that we forgot.  But, we are getting there.

3- Give Reminders:  Usually the night before I will remind whom ever is on cooking duty the next day.  And, I usually remind them early in the afternoon the day of as well.  I've noticed though that I'm not needing as many reminders anymore as they are enjoying the process too and are excited about cooking.  Managing cooking times is still a work in processes so reminding them to start cooking is always good.

4- Be the Helper:  Let your kids take the lead.  For the younger girls I'm still having them read out the directions and then I'm helping as needed.  Miss M holds her own and I only help when asked or if cheese needs to be grated or little things like that.  I know I'm the mom and I'm the authority figure.  I could take the lead and bark commands and enlist their help.  However, I've noticed a change when they are in charge and I am their "helper".  Communication is better and they are learning to lead and direct.  Occasionally, I'll pop in with "what do you need me to do?"  At first I would get a lot of "ummm!"  But now I'm getting "can you ..." followed by an assignment.  

5- Praise and the long hard swallow:  We've had a few dishes that were, well, not very good. Some even a little hard to swallow - like pizza rolls.  However, the praise is still needed.  Not every recipe chosen will be good.  Sometimes the recipe is bad, sometimes the cooking is bad.  Either way, the effort was given on their end and I'm aware of that so I praise them and thank them.  I've noticed when we've had a mediocre meal that they are sayings things now like "next time I make this I will add...".  They aren't getting hung up on the defeat or failure and that is great.   It's a big change from the "I can't do this" statements that we were hearing a lot before.

I've really enjoyed this change and all the positives that have come with it.  It's a change that we will continue doing for a long time.  And, since we've eaten a lot of home cooked meals over the last month, here are a few of my favorites and the links to where we found them.

Homemade Mac & Cheese
The Best Baked Chicken Legs
Strawberry Cream French Toast Roll ups
Taco Casserole 
Curry Chicken in a Hurry
Homemade Tokyo Joe's Chicken
Chicken Parmesan
Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken