I’m a pretty organized person, but, despite that, time management is not one of my strong suits. I somehow always seem to underestimate how long something is going to take me, often resulting in being late somewhere or finding out I’ve waited until the last minute for x, y, and z, or even…getting dinner on the table.
It’s not a habit I’m particularly fond of because it can make me stressed, my husband frustrated, and my children often over-tired or hungry. Which is why it’s an area of my life in which I’m constantly pursuing change! As a wife and mom, I consider myself to be the manager of my home and when my home isn’t running right, I end up feeling like a worn-out failure, whether that’s actually true or not.
I’m slowly growing in these areas and learning a few tricks along the way to help make at least the dinnertime space of our day a more enjoyable and relaxing one for the whole family.
(By the way, if you’re looking for the yummy little dish in the picture at the top of this post, that’s Creamy Parmesan Orzo, a family favorite side dish that just strikes me as very calming for some reason…)
So, here are a few tips for “calming the dinnertime storm”:
This is something my mom did without skipping a beat each week. She had a grocery list stuck to the fridge and while she used it mostly to keep track of the groceries she was out of, she also used it as her meal planning list. Every Thursday, I sit down and make out the dinner and grocery list so I can go shopping on Fridays. And if you’ve got a Kroger store near you that uses Clicklist, (like a Ralphs or Fred Meyer), this could also make your menu-planning experience even easier, as you can plan it out online and then submit the order to the store (no paid plug here – I just use it myself!). I hear Walmart and others are doing similar things.
2. Prep for dinner
Going along with the last tip, prepping for dinner could be as simple as washing your fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the store. Since dinnertime is usually a different time for every household, just be sure to give yourself enough time to get things prepped if you think you’ll need it. Never underestimate how long chopping veggies takes, especially if you’re cooking from a recipe you’ve never made before. Chopping ingredients can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back! Otherwise, it might be wise to go ahead and slice whatever veggies or ingredients you may need for dinners that week when you get home from the store (if they’ll keep). Don’t be afraid to draft your husband and older children to help with this task!
3. Set the mood
I always think about Sebastian in The Little Mermaid when he’s trying to get Eric to kiss Ariel in the lagoon (I know, child of the 80’s, but surely everyone can relate to a Little Mermaid reference…). He creates a certain ambiance before he starts singing. Dinnertime can be the same thing. When the kitchen sounds pleasant, is clean, and the cook is relaxed, it creates a calming environment for everyone (I know this from experience – my kids have seen me running around the kitchen like a mad person. It’s not pretty.)
I like to play music when I cook, which ranges from the Hillsong station on Pandora (it’s my favorite) to classical to contemporary instrumental (think Piano Guys) or some 50’s jazz. Josh is a bit more experimental – he’s really gotten into country music over the last few months! Sometimes, I like to pour myself a glass of wine, but I’m pregnant right now, so my drink of choice is sparkling cider, kombucha, or just good old-fashioned ice water! Regardless, I find it relaxing to sip on something. Also, one of my friends mentioned that she likes to light candles, which is a soft, beautiful idea and one I think I’m going to steal.
Even if you are the one cooking dinner – and it shouldn’t always be you (anyone who has to eat should learn to cook!) – there is no reason why your kids can’t help set the table or get out last minute ingredients from the fridge (unless you’ve got little tiny kiddos, I suppose). The kids work together as a team to get placemats on the table, drinks filled, napkins folded, the right utensils out, condiments we may need, and setting Josh’s bible out by his dinner spot so we can have our evening bible time. If there is any time leftover before dinner is on the table, I usually (try) get them to start cleaning up anything they were playing with to help the bedtime process go smoother. Or the dinner dishes, leaving less to clean up after!
Not every evening in our house goes smoothly. Unexpected things come up and that’s okay. My husband and I like to try and end the evening on a high note with our kids, and working to create an environment that is peaceful for the family will help the rest of the evening run smoother and will make for a more content, stressless evening that is worth the effort.
“The ants are not strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer…” Proverbs 30:25
Chels, Catz in the Kitchen