Is that a dreaded question in your house? It doesn’t have to be.

Taking a few minutes to plan is definitely worth it. This isn’t about fancy dinners or being a gourmet chef, but I encourage you to think about the answer ahead of time, so it’s not so stressful. First you need a process, check out this post: Menu Planning Can Be Easy

If you’re beyond menu planning, here are some other things to think about that will help you answer the dinner question with more ease and also help to make having dinner together a more enjoyable experience.

Make Leftovers!! 

Make more than what you need for one night, so you can have a good lunch or brunch, if you intermittent fast.

Don’t be Afraid to Experiment

I’ve made lots of mistakes in the kitchen, like when I tried to broil something that was on parchment paper (uh, yeah, it started a fire) and I stink at making gravy (it’s always too salty); but when you can let go of the recipes and have some fun in the kitchen it can make a huge difference in making it not so laborious and maybe even fun!

Ask for Appreciation

Ask your spouse or partner to compliment you and recognize your efforts, especially IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN. Kids model the behavior they see. If dad or mom is verbally appreciative of your efforts, then your children will notice and follow that. Trust me on this one!!  Conversely, if your spouse is complaining, then the children will pick up on that, too. If this is the situation in your household, then it’s time for an honest talk with your partner about how that could be impacting your motivation and interest in preparing meals for your family.

There’s No Such Thing as “Kid’s Food”

Cook for yourself and not your children’s palette. There was a time when there wasn’t such a thing as “kid’s food.” It doesn’t really exist. Stop catering to them… they won’t starve if they refuse to eat what you’ve made, in fact you’re doing them a disservice by not exposing them to a wider variety of foods.

I was menu planning last week and I asked my oldest son, Evan who is 12, if there was anything he would like to have. His response was Pad Thai, which is always his favorite when we go out for Thai food. And guess what, my 8 year old also loved it, too. I really question this belief that kids palettes are better suited for bland, fried food – it’s totally made up with the rise of processed foods and eating at restaurants.

I love this quote from a New York Times article about what kids eat for breakfast around the world. “The idea that children should have bland, sweet food is a very industrial presumption,” says Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University who grew up in India. “In many parts of the world, breakfast is tepid, sour, fermented and savory.”

How much of your kids’ palettes is shaped by food marketing versus what you, personally, enjoy eating? This perspective about cooking separate food for children is really modern-day phenomenon, and I invite you to protest it in your own household.

Set Expectations

Conversely, it is reasonable for people and kids to be hesitant when trying new foods. If you have a rule at the family dinner table about new foods, your kids will know what to expect and it will eliminate some of that drama when something is unfamiliar. Be consistent with this rule.

For us, the boys have to take a “no-thank-you-bite,” to at least try it. If they choose not to eat it, then they don’t get any dessert. We also don’t let them pick a different option for dinner if they just don’t like something. I may make a modification, like taking out some of the tomatoes for my youngest, but they’re going to essentially eat what everyone else is having.

I also believe in being flexible and since you’re the one cooking, you can decide what you want accommodate. In my case, my boys like different green beans – one enjoys frozen and one prefers canned. I’ll make both. It doesn’t take much time and it doesn’t bother me. The trick is noticing when you’re feeling resentful or overwhelmed, if you’re always doing something for one child because “it’s just easier that way,” but you’re frustrated by it, then it’s time to address that.

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Figuring out what to eat does take effort and energy, and it’s not very fun when you’re family isn’t supportive or appreciative and you know you’re going to get “pushback” about what you’re preparing. Bring them into the process and communicate with them about what is important to you.  Focus on what you want your mealtimes and food to be like.

If this seems overwhelming, then I would love to do a complimentary Breakthrough Session with you. Just hit reply!! I’ve helped parents move toward a more enjoyable dinner experience. It can be really beneficial to talk about what’s difficult and work through making that “What’s For Dinner?” question one that you actually look forward to answering.

Many hugs,

Make Leftovers
Don’t be Afraid to Experiment
Ask for Appreciation
There’s No Such Thing as “Kid’s Food”
Set Expectations
If you’re overwhelmed, reply back to me to do a complimentary Breakthrough Session. : )

Resources and Links:
Rise and Shine — What kids around the world eat for breakfast. 

Pad Thai Recipe: 
I made a few modifications…

  • Triple the sauce because I made 3 lbs of chicken
  • Add carrots
  • Get bean sprouts closer to the day you’re cooking b/c mine were bad : (
  • Cook the eggs in a different pan to control heat


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