I am not good in the kitchen. I’m much better than I used to be though. Seriously, the only things I ever made in the kitchen were a huge mess and few small fires. If it didn’t come in a box or couldn’t be cooked in the microwave I didn’t make it. And when the “Holiday family get-togethers” rolled around I always brought the ice. But I brought the good ice!! It was Sonic Ice!!!! I know, right? I was good at ice!
My mom blames herself for my lack of skills in the kitchen. I think my lack of interest is to blame. I always had more desire to eat the food than cook it. Wait, I’m still like that. I wasn’t your typical little girl either. You were more likely to find me outside in a tree, swimming, riding motorcycles or playing in the mud than in the kitchen. Unless I was eating then you’d find me there. And I think I had an Easy Bake Oven but I’m pretty sure I baked more insects instead of cakes. What? I was a curious child.
The only real ‘cooking’ memory I have as a child is Christmas time. Nana used to do a lot of baking at Christmas. I never actually helped her, mind you, but I remember sitting in the kitchen watching…and smelling. The one thing I do remember helping with was the Buckeyes. My favorite!! I remember rolling the peanut butter into cute little balls. Then we would stick a tooth pick in it on top so we could dip it in the chocolate. I didn’t know they were called Buckeyes because they resembled the nut. I always thought we called them that because they looked like eye balls after you dipped it in the chocolate and took the tooth pick out. I think I was in my twenties before that revelation finally hit. Anyway, I love those memories of making Buckeyes with my Nana!
Today things are much different. I actually cook. I only use the microwave to melt butter and reheat items for left over night. I even make a few things from scratch. And they’re yummy!! Those of you who know me can pick your chins up off the floor now. Get this~ I actually enjoy cooking . I find pleasure in taking all these ingredients, putting them together and creating something that smells so good and makes my family smile. I have to be honest and say that some days, most days, I still see it as a chore. I would rather be relaxing on the couch playing Scramble with Friends, reading The Hunger Games series or working on this blog. However, we gotta eat. And I found out that things that you actually cook taste way better than things you get out of a box or microwave. The other thing that I enjoy so much about cooking dinner is that Gary and I usually do it together. One of us is usually the lead chef for the evening but the other is always right there to help and most importantly to spend time with. Gary and I use the time it takes to prepare dinner to talk about our day, share things, vent and encourage each other. Granted, we’re interrupted every few minutes by a kid asking any number of random questions . But we still enjoy it and it’s still great time together!
Dinner time can be extremely stressful in any home much less in a home with a large family. Before Gary and I were married we would eat dinner together at least 4-5 times a week. We would always email each other during the day and ask “So, what’s the plan for dinner?”. Then one of us would go by the grocery store on the way home. This happened every day. Occasionally we would get smart and plan two meals and buy both in one trip. I just knew that after we were married and living in the same house dinner would be so much easier. And it was. Sort of. We still did the emails of “So what’s the plan for dinner?” but instead of meeting up for dinner I ran to the store with all the kids before Gary got home from work. Yeah, the grocery store with five kids under the age of 13 is not fun. No matter how short the trip. So after a while of almost daily trips to the grocery store for dinner I realized there has to be a better way. That’s when I decided we needed to plan our meals out for the week and do a weekly trip to the grocery store.
I have to admit that meal planning is not my favorite thing to do. It’s a little tough finding seven meals that seven people agree on. I do realize that we can’t make everyone happy, but the kids need to realize they can’t have their favorite meal every night either. It’s very hard to teach young kids compromise. It doesn’t help that we have two very picky eaters. That is frustrating! [Apparently it's some kind of payback. According to my mom anyway. I don't know what she means by that exactly but whatever.] I struggle with how to handle Emma and Cullen and their finicky-ness. I really do, because I can see both sides of the situation. I have strong preferences when it comes to food too and I don’t want to force someone to eat something that revolts them. However, if you just don’t feel like having lasagna tonight because you’d rather have baked chicken and green beans, well, you’re out of luck. That’s where the compromise comes in. There are plenty of nights I’d rather have something else instead of what we’re having but you roll with it!
We’ve finally figured out a way around all of this. First and foremost, we are not short order cooks and you’re not going to have another meal prepared for you. Also, if we know it’s something you have eaten before, that’s what you eat. When it’s something we know they just won’t eat we make sure that we have some leftovers in the fridge that we can heat up for them. They don’t go hungry, we don’t cook two meals. Everyone’s happy.
I also want to share with you our Menu Board. I found this idea on Pinterest from The Creative Mama and I love it! [Visit this cool mama's website for directions on how to put yours together] It works great for us. Before I just typed up a little boring list of what we were having for dinner each night and stuck it on the fridge with a magnet. Now we have this adorable, and functional, board on our fridge that makes dinner planning a breeze!
I'm so thankful for our menu board!! It makes a huge difference in our routine!
There’s two things I love about this type of menu board. One is you have all the meals you make already written out on little cards and all you have to do is flip through them and decide what to have that week instead of wracking your brain for ideas. The other is how easily you can switch the meals around if you need to. Sometimes things come up and you need an easier dinner to prepare or you decide to do left overs instead. However, you may get some back lash for that. To avoid a mutiny because we’re having lasagna instead of pig in a blanket I added a little disclaimer to the bottom in smaller print~ “Menu is subject to change w/out notice.” It keeps all the griping to a minimum. I would highly recommend it. You may have to explain it the first time but after that just point.
Once the menu is done it’s time for grocery shopping. Another necessary evil. I have a whole system for that too. I can’t wait to share it with you! In the mean time you should go have a snack!