A few years ago, making dinner was a BIG stresser for me. If I had a really busy, hectic or stressful day at work or with the girls, the idea of making dinner was really stressful. The last thing I wanted to do at the end of a long day. One more thing to do. And something I had to do Every. Single. Day.
I started dreading it, and then making really unhealthy choices out of habit, and thinking it was easier. Like take-out, and frozen pizzas, processed dinners. Those dinners were becoming more of the norm, not the occasional.
And then I had a shift in mindset that changed everything. I started using dinner prep as “my” time. My time to unwind and think and prepare something delicious and nourishing for my family.
I think sometimes the idea of making dinner can be more stressful than the actual dinner making. Of course it can be chaotic at our house while I’m prepping dinner, but I have also found some super simple things that have helped me come to really enjoy dinner prep (even when the girls are driving me crazy). 🙂
Tip #1: Change into comfy clothes and/or slippers.
When I’m home, I live in slippers, but if I’m coming home and about to make dinner, the first thing I do is get comfortable. It helps shift my mind into a more relaxed state just by slipping on cozy slippers or comfy clothes.
Tip #2: Shift your mindset.
Instead of thinking that making dinner is a chore, I’ve worked to shift my mindset to: I get to make something delicious, good for our bodies and teach my girls the importance of real food. I’ve also started using dinner prep as “me” time to think about the day and relax. It seems like such a simple step, to change how you think about making dinner, but it’s a tough one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about healthy living, it’s that A LOT of it comes down to your mindset. And it’s not an easy thing to change, it takes time and awareness, but it has big perks.
Tip #3a: Turn on your favorite playlist.
I love listening to music, especially when I’m making dinner. It puts me in a better mood instantly. I have a favorite playlist that I turn on while I’m prepping dinner; it includes songs from artists like Amy Winehouse, Macklemore, Fleetwood Mac, Foster the People, John Mayer, Hozier … it’s VERY eclectic! You can check out my Spotify Making Dinner Playlist HERE.
Tip #3b: Listen to your favorite podcast.
If the girls are watching TV and I can’t listen to music throughout the house, I’ll listen to a podcast instead. A couple of my favorites are The Lazy Genius, Be Well By Kelly, Hidden Brain and Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations.
Tip #4: Give the kids something to do.
The key though is something that doesn’t require your help. 🙂 I don’t feel guilty about letting the girls watch a TV show during this time (that’s when I’ll listen to a podcast). The girls also color, play with magnetic tiles, do a kid’s puzzle, play dress-up, or sometimes set the table.
Tip #5: Pour yourself a drink of choice.
One of my favorite things is to pour a glass of wine, turn on music and prep dinner. Some nights it’s wine, other nights it’s kombucha, decaffeinated tea or bubbly water. This is something so simple but feels like such a treat.
Tip #6: Clear your kitchen surfaces.
With 3 kids, we have SO MANY DISHES. I can’t always keep up. But it helps me if I at least put all of the dirty dishes in the sink before I start making more dirty dishes. If I’m not in a huge rush, I’ll unload the dishwasher, wash the dishes, clear the paper clutter from the counters, etc. Clearing the kitchen space makes it so much easier to cook, and I enjoy it more when I’m cooking in a clean kitchen. Because, I can make a BIG mess when I cook. 🙂
Tip #7: Have a flexible meal plan.
Every weekend, I sit down and plan out our dinners for the week. Having a plan really helps me because I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner that night, how long it will take, if I have all the ingredients or if I have to go out and buy something. And it’s a flexible plan, so if something changes or I don’t feel like having what’s planned that night, I can easily shift things around. (Every weekend, I post my weekly dinner plan and you can check them all out HERE).
I have a whole post about meal planning HERE, where I share why and how I meal plan. It’s such a big help for me!
Tip #8: Pick meals and ingredients you like.
There are certain foods I know my girls will eat without much fuss, so we eat those a lot. We have our go-to quick dinners that we eat at least once a week (You can find 7 of my favorites HERE). I also love trying new recipes so about once a week I’m trying out a new recipe and I look forward to that.
Tip #9: Have go-to items stocked in your freezer, fridge and pantry for quick dinners.
I like to stock our freezer with some Trader Joe’s staples like Carrot Spirals and Riced Cauliflower to make really quick and delicious dinners (Read about my favorite healthy TJs freezer items HERE). We also always keep marinara, black beans, diced tomatoes, coconut milk and other staples in our pantry for quick pasta, bowls and curry dishes.
These tips have really helped me simplify and enjoy making dinner more, and I hope you find them helpful too.