Simple Menu Planning – Overcoming Obstacles

simple solutions to the common problems with meal planning and preparations, from a busy mom of four kids

Getting dinner on the table at the end of the day is a STRUGGLE! As a busy mom, homemaker, and homeschool teacher it is one of the hardest tasks I do all day. I already shared my motivators to get me in the kitchen to cook dinner again. But even with all that motivation. Overcoming obstacles along the way to dinner can still be HARD!

Today, I am sharing the real-deal problems I have with preparing dinner and how I am currently solving them. I hope you will find some encouragement in these words and solutions.

Grocery Store Woes

I remember as a kid loving to go to the grocery store. The novelty of going to the grocery store wore off ages ago. Now it is just another thing that has to be done. Adding four kids to the mix created more of a problem: my husband prefers that he go with us when we go to the grocery store (There have been a number of strange instances locally that make us uncomfortable).

Now I have two options wait for my husband to be able to go to the store with all of us OR wait for my husband to be home to be able to go to the grocery store in peace. Waiting is not always what I want to do, especially if I would like to get dinner on the table, but I am missing some ingredients.

Problem Solved: Walmart Grocery Pick-up

Walmart is not a perfect solution. Having someone else pick out my groceries (especially the produce) is not perfect, either. BUT simply entering my shopping list into an app and waiting a short time to go pick it up while keeping my kids safely in their carseats is PERFECT!!

We use Walmart Grocery Pick-up almost every week! And honestly, the good outweighs the bad by a large margin. If you are having trouble simply getting to the grocery store, I highly recommend you give it a try. If you are a new customer, my link will get you $10 off your first order!

Energy at the end of the day

Even when I have groceries from the store and a plan in place, there are days when my energy level is so low, I simply don’t think I can get through preparing dinner. Since we homeschool, some days are rougher and fuller than others. Some days leave me more drained than I care to admit. The idea of taking even 30 minutes to cook dinner is overwhelming.

Problem Solved: Make it Refreshing

If I have the groceries and the plan, I stick it out and cook the meal. This gut-level diligence is not easy, but I have a couple of tricks to make it refreshing and rewarding. My husband takes the kids upstairs so I can cook in peace. (Can I get an AMEN!) I plug my ear-buds into my ears and listen to an audiobook or a favorite podcast. And I set to work. The time and effort slip away as I prepare dinner with a little light entertainment in my head.

Suddenly, it seems, dinner is ready. Somehow, when I do this, I DO feel refreshed at the end of dinner prep. I typically am able to keep the kitchen relatively clean while I am making dinner, preventing the frustration of post-meal clean up. The kids haven’t destroyed the downstairs area, so I can enjoy dinner with my family instead of thinking about all the chores I need to do after dinner.

The kitchen is already a wreck

The downside of living in our house as much as we do is we l-i-v-e in our home. Every room in our downstairs is strewn with the signs of life associated with 4 kids and homeschool. And the kitchen at the end of the day can often be the worst. The sink is full of dirty dishes, the dishwasher is half-full of clean dishes (because the kids have been taking and using the dishes out of the dishwasher), the floor has some sort of sticky substance, the countertops are crumby.

I truly struggle to overcome this problem and still have the energy to cook dinner. But of course, I have some strategies for dealing this hurdle, too!

Problem Solved: Overwhelming Force

The upside of having 4 kids is they can all pitch in! I have recently started training my older girls to do the dishes (according to my crazy standards). All the kids are able to help in putting the dishes away. I have two that can sweep while I wipe down the counters and the floors. In a matter of less than 10 minutes my kitchen can go from chaos to orderly. All I have to do is ASK for help! My kitchen is no match for our overhwhelming force. And I get to teach my kids the concept “Many hands make light work.”

Note: It is (usually) not as bad as you think it is! If the mess can be tackled in less than 10 minutes, I figure that is a win!

My kids won’t eat dinner anyway

We currently have one child who will not eat anything at the dinner meal unless it is called “breakfast.” I have almost giving up on making up a plate for him. He refuses almost every evening meal we place in front of him – except when it is his turn to pick!

Though our house is not plagued by picky eaters, we do have our moments when a kid (or kids) will not eat. I try not to let it bother me. And I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Problem Solved: Authorized Eating

Our kids are allowed to be picky, but they can’t be picky all week. The reason they can’t be picky all week? They get to choose what we have for dinner once a week! I stumbled on this idea on Instagram about a month ago and this has worked like a charm for our family!! Each kid gets to decide what is for dinner once a week. Mom and Dad get to pick, too!

The math of this works out for our family because we have 6. If each person gets to pick a dinner meal one day each week, they are getting something they really enjoy once a week. The only thing I insist on when the kids are choosing their meals is that they choose a vegetable to go with each meal.

Currently, my oldest daughters are basically having me cook through a cookbook one of them got for Christmas. I am modifying the recipes a little bit, here and there, to keep it interesting for me; but they are so happy with each meal I cook for them. It is hard to complain about dinner when you are the one who picked it.

Note: this idea does not preclude all dinner complaints. We still have people who aren’t happy with choices sometimes. But family dinner is dinner and I am not a short order cook. I am not worried about kids who do not wish to eat what is on the menu for the evening. Another meal will be around shortly.

It isn’t perfect

Growing up, my mom made some serious spreads for dinner. It always seemed the meals were well-rounded with two to three side dish options and a main. Seriously. And it was al-ways wonderful! We would sit down to eat around the dinner table, bow our heads and hold hands to bless it. We would spend at least an hour lingering around the table, talking and laughing. She created that – she literally, set the table for all that to happen.

My mom was an accomplished cook and homemaker I still am trying to emulate. But my home is always falling short of the standards I remember from my childhood. It can feel defeating. It can lead to thoughts like, “Why even try when it is not going to be good enough?” And those thoughts are hard to put out of my mind.

Problem Solved: Give up on perfect in pursuit of good or better

Giving up because it isn’t going to be perfect doesn’t teach my kids anything about life. Dinner is not always going to be delicious. Sometimes it will be passable. But the connections we made around the dinner table when I was a kid are the things I remember the most. And those are the connections I want my kids to experience and remember too.

The meal doesn’t matter. It is literally just table-setting. Sitting with my family and talking over the day, or laughing at some funny word-play game we play at the dinner table – that is what makes it worth it. I will choose to overcome all the obstacles and solve all the dinner problems, just so I can have those simple blessings.

simple solutions to the common problems with meal planning and preparations, from a busy mom of four kids

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