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The dinner struggle is real

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I am a self-confessed, terrible cook. I burn pasta (yes, you can actually do that) and I undercook chicken. Do we have to eat this i s a regular question in my home. My kids wish we had a dog just so they could feed it my "home-cooked" meals and move onto the dessert portion (because god-forbid we skip that) of their meal. And to make it worse, my kids are constantly talking about food: I am hungry. There is no food in the house! What’s for dinner (at 7:45 a.m. in the morning!) Was that lunch or dinner, Mom?

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Linner, people. That was linner! You just had enough food (at 4p.m.) to keep your stomach full and your appetite satiated until bedtime, so that was both lunch and dinner. It feels like all day, every day I am planning, shopping for, preparing, or cleaning up after a meal. It stresses me out. So dang much.

I recently embarked on a mission to improve mealtime and get a hold of my hot-mess attitude towards the basic, domestic chore of feeding my children. I am practicing acceptance. I acknowledge and honor my children’s right to 3 meals a day. It kind-of comes with the whole "mothering thing."

In an effort to correct my own sour attitude regarding meals, I challenged myself to make mealtime fun and exciting. Here are a few of my favorite meal hacks for even the worst-cook moms:

Hide and Go Eat

We go out to dinner a lot. When I cook at home everyone goes hungry anyways and I still have to slave over a hot oven and clean— what a waste, right? But when we do head out for dinner at a local restaurant, the kids always argue about where to go and whose turn it is to pick the restaurant. I end up more stressed than if I was the one doing the actual cooking and cleaning!

Not anymore — I created the game hide and go eat. Here is how it works: I pick the restaurant. I tell no one. I blindfold each child one by one and walk them out to the car. They remain blindfolded until we arrive at the restaurant of my choice. They love the anticipation and I love having the power to choose where I will be spending my hard-earned money. Sure, we get some looks when other cars notice my blindfolded children, but that only adds to the fun!

Cook to Win

Yes, we have turned dinner time into a competition! Each child is assigned a night when they are responsible for making dinner. They prepare (with limited help from mom) the meal of their choice-from start to finish! They partake in the shopping, the prep work, the service and presentation, and clean-up. The remaining family members rate the food on a scale of 1-10 in several categories; at the end of each week, a prize is awarded to our Top Chef. Even my youngest is able to participate with a little help from Kiddoz by Chefclub. It’s an interactive cookbook and fun measuring cups that help even the youngest chefs prepares meals- no reading skills required! Our contests get the kids excited about helping out in the kitchen and it completely removes the possibility that all blame will land on me when the food is less than delicious.

Ask for Help

I am a particularly stubborn person and asking for help is hard. But desperate times call for desperate requests to “please help me in the kitchen!” There are so many tools out there to help moms like me who struggle in the kitchen. I have yet to try the meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Plated, but I most definitely will accept their help one of these days. Sometimes, help comes in the form of pizza delivery or the hard to ruin ramen noodle. Other times, I simply ask my mom if she would make her famous Chicken Francaise so that we have a delicious, stress-free dinner at home. 'Aint no shame in my game.

Remember What’s Important

I get so wrapped up in the details of the meals- the cost, the taste and the reviews from my kids, that I am the biggest cause of my own stress. My kids don’t go hungry and for that, we are blessed. What is most important is that we are spending time together as a family. Burnt pasta and bread with butter is really the meal of kings when you are surrounded by family and have a heart full of gratitude. I am thinking we just may employ a no-complaining-at-the-dinner-table rule from this point on.

Perhaps it will make my chicken taste better.

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