Dinner. It’s one of the craziest parts of the day – especially when you have multiple mouths to feed. A new baby or crazy toddler easily throws a wrench into the dinner routine. As their needs and habits change [or they decide today meat is gross], the family dinner plan changes also.
In a perfect world, Chinese food would be delivered to my doorstep on-demand as my waist magically shrinks inch by inch. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. As a household with two working parents, we’ve tried everything to make dinner easier.
From the time our son was born, we’ve endured about five different phases of dinner-decisions. Some great and some not-so-great. No matter which phase you’re currently going through, here are some helpful tips and sites to make each phase a bit more digestible. [See what I did there?]
Phase 1: Pre-Baby Meal Prep.
This is the phase that happens just before baby is born. You know – that brief period at the end of a pregnancy when you squeeze out every last bit of energy to “nest”. I prepped about 10 pans of stuffed shells during this phase. They’re freezer-friendly and go right into the oven before you chow-down. A personal favorite is the Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Shells. They’re delicious, and they can feed a small family or large crowd!
Phase 2: Home with Baby and Food Appears.
I love our community – especially my amazing tribe. When you’re first home with a new baby, the troops roll in. Our wonderful neighborhood routinely creates meal-trains to solve the dinner-dilemma for new parents. We once had a neighbor deliver a meal from our favorite local restaurant – it was amazing. Some of the best websites for starting meal-trains are mealtrain.com or takethemameal.com. New parents appreciate this SO much – but don’t forget to follow some basic etiquette guidelines when delivering food!
Phase 3: I Can Do it All.
During this phase, I had something to prove. I convinced myself I needed to be a supreme domestic goddess. I took meals to neighbors just because. I stayed up late prepping dinner for the next day. I spent all day Sunday preparing the week’s menu. It was very extra. I don’t really have great advice for this phase except DO NOT feel like you have to do it all. Because, what happens? You experience burn-out. And you end up in Phase 4.
Phase 4: The Take-Out Phase.
I’m a millennial – which means I will spend money to save time. So in the interest of saving time, during phase 4, we did take-out. A lot. I will forever be grateful for this phase because work was crazy and we had zero groceries. Take-out became our saving grace. There are even places that pick up the food and bring it to you! A couple of my favorite services are Chef Shuttle and NWA Delivery. Both sites pick up food from local restaurants and deliver right to your door. It’s a great alternative to pizza-only. The downside is that it’s not easy on the wallet OR the waist, but it sure is yummy and convenient!
Phase 5: The Solution.
After way too much take-out, I knew we needed a more sustainable solution, but I still didn’t have time to cook or plan for dinner like I wanted. The compromise? A different kind of meal delivery service. Some people are big fans of sites like Blue Apron and HelloFresh. And they’re definitely a step in the right direction. My personal favorite, however, is Freshly. Why? Because the meals are prepared fresh the nigh before, delivered to my doorstep and ready to serve in three minutes. There is no cooking involved – the ingredients are fresh and healthy – and there’s ZERO cleanup. I repeat: ZERO cleanup. We’ve actually saved money during this phase because it’s a cheaper alternative to take-out. I know I’m getting a healthy meal and the time I normally spend cooking and cleaning is spent with my family instead. We still cook a few times a week, but it’s great for the middle-of-the-week mad rush. Dad’s happy. Mom’s happy. [Which means everybody’s happy.]
No matter which phase of the dinner-dilemma you’re currently experiencing, know that diner is an evolving phenomenon. Your family’s schedule will change and your dinner routine will change along with it. Don’t set yourself up to fail by having expectations of perfection. Instead, be creative. Be innovative. Find a solution that’s sustainable for you. And when needed, lean on your tribe. Or at the very least, order take-out.