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7 Rules for Cooking When the Kids Won't Cooperate

Aug 18, 2007
There are some days when kids just don't want to be out from underfoot. Or you just have too much going on with them that day, and despite being home it's really hard to find a way to get dinner cooked.

No parent ever claimed that it was easy every day.

If you're wanting to provide your family with a home-cooked meal every day you have to figure out how to make it work. If you plan ahead and have a few tricks up your sleeve, you can do it.

Rule 1: Plan ahead.

You don't always know when the kids are going to be difficult. But that doesn't mean you can't plan ahead. Knowing early on what you're going to make for dinner or lunch can keep you from making rushed decisions and allow you to make healthier meals for your family.

If you can plan your weekly menu on a convenient day for your shopping, you ensure that you will have the ingredients you need for each meal. There are few things when you're cooking more frustrating than to think you know what you want to make and realizing you're out of a vital ingredient.

Rule 2: Chop early, chop often.

Think about the various fruits and vegetables you buy. How often do you need to chop them for dinner or even just for snacks? Wouldn't your life be easier if they were ready to go when you needed them?

Don't bother buying them chopped from the grocery store. They cost quite a bit more that way as a rule. Instead, chop them up at home. Find the time and get it done. Having fruits and vegetables ready to eat or cook with means that you're more likely to eat them.

Rule 3: The slow cooker is your friend.

I love my slow cooker. I can start dinner at a time convenient to me. First thing in the morning or just 4 or so hours before we need to eat. The flexibility is wonderful when you aren't sure how you're going to get time to cook at dinnertime.

This is especially useful if your kids are in a lot of activities that run right up to dinnertime. You can save a lot of money if you don't feel like you have to eat out every time just because it's so late. The slow cooker will keep dinner warm for you.

Using a slow cooker isn't the only time you can start dinner well in advance. Soups can simmer for hours and need only occasional attention. Think about the meals that have longer cooking times but aren't all that hard to prepare.

Rule 4: Keep the kitchen organized and clean.

With kids it's easy to have dishes stack up. Take a few moments and load the dishwasher or wash the dishes after every meal. It just adds to the stress when you're trying to cook and the kitchen is an absolute mess.

Rule 5: Know when to use the microwave.

Sometimes the microwave just adds to the chaos. It's incredibly easy to use and convenient most times, but other times it's one more thing to do when practically everything else is ready.

Decide which is really easier for you. Throwing the potatoes in the microwave just minutes before you need them or throwing them in the oven an hour earlier. Steaming vegetables in the microwave or steaming them on the stove. The faster method sometimes is better, other times adds to the last steps of cooking a good dinner. Which works best for you?

Rule 6: Let the kids help when possible.

Younger children in particular love to help cook. While you can't have young children stirring a pot on the stove, they can do things such as help to make the salad if the vegetables are chopped for them.

Older children may be at the point where they should be learning to cook, chop or just set the table. Assign chores and make a routine of it. They may complain and it may be harder for a little, but if it's a routine there will eventually be less for them to complain about. It's just a part of how they can help keep your home running smoothly.

Rule 7: Use your freezer.

No, don't put the kids in there. When you can, make double recipes and put the excess in the freezer for another night. You'll have to learn what freezes well; some vegetables really don't do so well after being cooked then frozen. But you can make extra of just the meat part of the meal if you like and have a much easier time preparing dinner another night.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://www.homewiththekids.com/blog/ about being a stay at home mom. She shares more cooking tips at her site.
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