Sick of cooking (or just plain sick), but your family still insists on eating?

This post is not for those of you who love to cook. I think I used to belong to that category, once upon a time. However, the  necessity of feeding the ever increasing appetites of my brood has taken a toll on my culinary zeal. Feeding the locusts, as we lovingly call those beings who descend upon our table at mealtimes and seemingly devour every scrap in sight and then seek out hidden morsels, has become such an ongoing task that my creativity and energy for the job is at a low ebb. (Actually, on those rare occasions when I have more time to give to it, some of my original enthusiasm sometimes starts to crawl out of the cellar.) But for now, most of the time - quick and nourishing is what we need.

If you don't find yourself in a similar station in life - hurray!I rejoice with you (really)!

But, if you also are tiring of the quotidian (Isn't that a fun word? It means every day) task of providing healthy, interesting nourishment for your loved ones, then here are a few ideas to make it a bit easier:

1. Rely on a good master menu rotation. I'm convinced that my four week winter and summer rotations (each with multiple options for a given day) help me stay sane and make sure that I do in fact get dinner on the table. I even use a simple weekly rotation for breakfast and lunch. Taking the time to work out a master plan that you can live with will repay you over and over again, especially at those times that you don't feel like cooking. I've spoken about this to moms at our church, but if anyone is interested, I could post more in-depth info on how to do this.

2. Make friends with your crock-pot. When we were first married we were given several crock-pots, but I'd passed them all on within a couple of years. Everything I made in them tasted the same! It took years before I decided to give this appliance a second chance. What do you know? It turns out the machine is quite capable of producing delicious dishes of all stripes. The problem wasn't the slow-cooker, but the cook! Now I have three of them, and on rare occasions have had all going at once. Throwing ingredients into the crock-pot in the morning usually takes a brief amount of time, and then it will cook all day trouble free. Pulling together the rest of the meal (salad, veggie, starch) can be done in 15 minutes or so just before serving.

3. Teach your children how to cook. If all your children are five and under, this won't help you yet. But even with very little ones, they can have a small part in preparing meals such as setting the table, washing vegetables, or mixing cookie dough. One of the earliest meals I remember my children preparing was when the oldest two were 8 and 7. I was pregnant and also had the stomach flu. That day, I taught them school while lying on the floor. (Why not a couch, I don't know. I guess the floor felt better.) We were studying earth science, so I directed them to prepare "Earthballs". They started with a peanut to represent the core of the earth. Next, they poked each nut into a cube of cheese for the mantle, and surrounded the cheese with a meatball mixture which represented the crust. They also made Jell-O, an approximation of the consistency of the mantle, and good food for a sick mama. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Andrew and Kara were completely capable of handling this with only verbal instructions.

Currently, Tuedays are the day a junior chef takes over in our home. The four oldest at home kids rotate, so each cooks about once a month. They can also fill in on other times when I am not available. We feel pretty strongly that our sons need to be minimally competent before they leave home, as well as our daughters. In fact, before graduating from our homeschool, each student has to have a proficiency in at least ten dinners.

4. Find some good rapid fire cookbooks that fit your cooking style.
My current chief go-to cookbook is Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. I like the seasonal recipes in this book, though I don't follow the author's menu plans. A few years ago my favorite source of easy dinners was Cheap, Fast, Good by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. I also have Desperation Dinners and Desperation Entertaining by the same pair, but I use those less frequently. Because each of us have our own preferred style of cooking and individual tastes, rather than suggesting you get these cookbooks, I'd encourage you to try out some quick-meal cookbooks from your library. When you find one that fits the way you like to cook, it's probably worth buying. Then find some creative, but quick to get to the table, meals that your family loves, incorporate them into your menu plan, and voila! You can have fun dashing off a nutritious dinner!  

5. Remember, serving your family is one way in which you can lavish your husband and children with love every day!
I have this sort of cheesy mental picture of a serving dish with love in it that I place on the table alongside the rest of the meal. Making tasty, nourishing meals for my husband and children is a simple, but essential way that I daily love my family and anyone else who might be here. Food nourishes and restores weary folks. Remembering that feeding my family gives me one of the most tangible of ways of showing love every day, helps me to take joy in the task.


Anna said…
This cracked me up! Mostly the title. I used to LOVE cooking, and finding new, adventuresome dinners, but now 5PM rolls around, and I wonder, "How much would it really cost to eat out all the time?" Thanks for the tips :)
Emily B said…
Thanks for this encouragement to continue to serve my family. I (am I allowed to say the h-word?) hate to cook and since we have been remodeling our kitchen, we've had every excuse to eat frozen foods, sandwiches, and take out. I've loved it! Unfortunately, the water is running again and the new stove is plugged in and it is time to start spending more than 15 minutes on dinner. We surely need a menu, so please post any details you have! Thanks again for a much needed shot in the arm--I'm going to go defrost something now!
Emily B
larson fam said…
I am interested in whatever you want to share on making a master menu rotation. I would especially love ideas for cheap, quick, and healthy lunches and breakfasts since I am homeschooling during the day! Thanks - Anna Larson (W. Laf., IN; we go to church with Andrew and Kristin and I just found your blog recently... and am enjoying it)
SarahD said…
I second (or is it third?) the request for more details on your menu rotation. I've got one that our family uses, but it's always helpful to see what other wives are cooking.
Anne said…
Thanks for the input, ladies! I will work on writing something about putting together a master plan, and also what we do for breakfast and lunch.

By the way - tonight we brought in Chinese, and I almost felt guilty, but somehow didn't. :)

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