After I’ve worked at home ALL day in my role as an editor/journalist for a local news publication, spent over an hour doing carpool picking up my kids from school, come home and worked a bit more, the last thing I want to do every night is cook dinner.
I grew up in a home where my mom had dinner on the table every day at 5:00 p.m. when my dad got home from work.
I loved that gesture, I really do. And I do cook a meal every weeknight. I’ve done it for the 17 years I’ve been married. We eat at home every weeknight, usually pick up from a restaurant once (sometimes twice) on the weekend, and my husband will cook wings or homemade chicken fingers in the air fryer on Sunday.
Typical Dinner Time at Our House
During the week, I usually start cooking dinner between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. because my kids and I are all hungry before my husband gets home, which is usually around 7:00 p.m. Most nights we sit at the table together, but sometimes my son chooses to sit on a barstool at our kitchen island. But we’re still all in the same room, so I consider it a win.
Our kids are now 12 and 7, and it never fails that every night one (or both) of them either complain about what I’ve made, or they simply won’t eat it.
My husband (the youngest of four boys) tells our kids when he was young, he ate what his mom fixed or he went to bed hungry. I was the youngest (by a long shot, basically growing up as an only child), so if I didn’t like what my mom made, she made me what I wanted.
The thing is, I’m a super picky eater anyway who doesn’t eat much of anything besides chicken. My meal rotation usually includes chicken casserole, tacos, spaghetti, or something in the Instapot or crockpot. It’s not like I’m making weird dishes they’d be surprised to eat.
I’m just fed up with spending all that time cooking for one or both of my kids to NOT eat.
Awhile back, after he complained multiple times one week, I let my 12 year old plan the menu for the following week. It was stuff that I make all the time anyway–basically his favorites. I think he wanted to keep that same menu every single week, but you know, burnout.
The Turning Point
One night recently, I spent a long time making homemade lasagna. When my son (the 12 year old) sat down for dinner, took one bite, and said it was disgusting . . . that was it for me. I declared right then the next week I wouldn’t cook.
And I didn’t.
I didn’t let them go hungry, I just didn’t have anything homemade. This “no cooking week” happened to fall on the week my husband worked the morning shift at his job–3:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. While I felt bad that he wasn’t getting a yummy meal every night, I did want to prove my point.
My No Cooking Menu
- Monday: chicken nuggets and fries (both frozen). As it turned out, my son wouldn’t eat the chicken nuggets, so he had a sandwich. I mean what 12 year old boy won’t eat chicken nuggets?
- Tuesday: hot dogs and tater tots. My husband cooked them on the grill and both kids ate them. (I don’t eat hot dogs, but I had my Chick-Fil-A number one meal for lunch, which was enough to hold me over to skip eating dinner).
- Wednesday: soup and grilled cheese. (My daughter wouldn’t eat the soup. The choices were tomato or cream of chicken, so she had ramen noodles).
- Thursday: burgers and fries. Fact: I don’t eat red meat, so my husband cooked this meal for the kids. I had a meeting, followed by dinner plans with a friend (and I ate chicken).
- Friday: every Friday night is pizza night at our house. Most of the time it’s DiGiorno’s thin crust either supreme (so one can pick off the pepperoni and peppers) or a pepperoni (the 12 year old takes off the pepperoni). So even an easy meal isn’t “easy.”
Make a Plan and Keep Staples On Hand
I usually plan my menu on Saturday, make my grocery list, and schedule a pickup time for Sunday. That is time consuming, but at least I know what the plan is every night, and I’m not left staring in the fridge or freezer trying to figure something out.
I can’t stand the thought of my kids being hungry, so I keep easy fixes on standby to have when they’re being picky. These include macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, and items to make sandwiches. But it does annoy me to have to make them a separate meal.
Just Do Your Best
So mamas, just do the best you can with the whole dinner situation. Don’t take it personally if the kids won’t eat what you make. If all else fails, tell them you’re having breakfast for dinner and pour a bowl of cereal.