“I Don’t Like That!” When Your Kids Refuse What’s For Dinner

Got picky kids at the dinner table? I’ve been there! Here are some of my fave ways to get kids to eat at the dinner table- without tearing your hair out. 

Real talk: sometimes I cringe when my family asks, “what’s for dinner?” because…. Uh…. pizza delivery?

In truth, more often I cringe because I’m steeling myself for the inevitable “I don’t like thaaaaaaat” the second I do tell them what’s for dinner.

This happens even if dinner is something totally innocuous, like breaded chicken (other than vegetarian/vegans, I ask you: who doesn’t like chicken!? A stubborn 4-year-old in a bad mood, that’s who).

Because it totally sucks hearing that as a parent, right? You spend that time in the kitchen, no matter how long, getting dinner ready. You’re chugging away the hours til bedtime, and then dinner drama just throws a huge wrench onto the tracks.

And that’s the moment you realize you identify more closely with crabby Betty Draper than sunshiney Donna Reed. 

Donna Reed vs Betty Draper: What I Do When My Kids Won't Eat What's For Dinner

That’s why next time, instead of driving yourself to drink (or becoming a short order cook), keep some of my favorite Family Dinner Hacks in your back pocket and maintain your sanity. Because by the time you’ve gotten to the dinner hour, you’re already thisclose to Netflix and sweatpants anyway! There’s no need to arrive at your post-bedtime me-time all irritated and cranky. You get me?


Here are some ways I avoid (or deal with) the ‘what’s for dinner?” argument:

Rotating Meal Plan

I’ve talked about this one before, I know, but it bears repeating again- when things get bonkerballs busy around here, a rotating meal plan saves my sanity every.single.time.

Here’s how I do it: I pick 5 meals I know everyone likes, and I buy their ingredients.

I use the other two nights of the week for leftovers and delivery.

Then I make those same 5 meals every week until things calm down again OR I get sick of the meals, then I rotate them up again.

So, say it’s Tuesday and I had planned on Sheet Pan Kielbasa and Peppers but my kids start whining, I can change the game up and serve chicken piccata instead, because I’ve already got all the ingredients on hand.

(what do you do when they whine about your choice and you don’t have something else planned? Wait til you read this last tip!)

“You don’t have to eat it”

We loosely follow Ellyn Satter in this house, which means I decide what to serve, where to serve it, and when we eat. My kids decide how much they eat and what they eat.

They are always allowed seconds of anything on their plate, provided we have enough and dessert, though we don’t usually do dessert (much, anyway).

By telling my kids, especially my somewhat picky, very stubborn daughter, “you don’t have to eat it- but this is all there is for dinner”, we have a way better track record.

The most important thing here is to stick with this method; it only works when it’s what they’re used to 90% of the time.


Want some of my tried-and-true kids-friendly dinner ideas?


Eat Together

I admit that I struggle with this one. As an adult pre-kids, with a husband who worked nights, I developed a love of eating my dinner solo in front of Netflix on the couch. Like, LOVE. It’s my favorite way to unwind at the end of the day if I’m being honest.

On top of that, I like being able to multitask while the kids eat dinner. This was especially true when they were babies and we followed baby led weaning; I would park them close to me in the kitchen and let them go to town with their dinner while I cooked my own meal and cleaned; then we’d head into the bedtime routine from there. But now that they’re older and don’t need highchairs or bibs, they sit at the table in regular chairs to eat,

Except they don’t eat at the table. They get up, they bicker, they throw toys, they complain about what’s on their plate, they disappear to the bathroom for 20 minutes (I think they learned that one from their dad).

However, when I sit down with them and we eat together, they are sooo much better about eating what’s in front of them.

And while I admit they are not the most riveting conversationalists, I like the pause of us sitting together. It’s a nice way to reconnect at the end of the day, especially on the nights when daddy is home to join us. 

Give Your Backup Plan Its Own Backup Plan

Sometimes, when the fight has all but left me, I scrap diner plans altogether and fall back on old standbys.

When my kids ask, “what’s for dinner?” and I say, “Fresh Cherry Tomato Pasta with Turkey Meatballs” and they immediately launch into whining, I’ll sometimes change it all up mid game and pull an old standby from the freezer or pantry.

Some faves? Naan pizza. White bean and bacon pasta with fried breadcrumbs. Sheet pan nachos with leftover veggies on top.

These are the surefire winners with my kids (like.. 94% of the time) and I still enjoy eating them, so it’s a win-win for everyone. That Greek Chicken Sheet Pan Meal I’d planned on making can wait until next time when I’ve got the stamina to deal with the kids’ drama.

Because at the end of the day, it’s really all about giving yourself grace. Create a framework that works for your home, and then get loose within that frame. When you’re relaxed, so are your kids. We work hard enough during the day- dinner hour doesn’t have to be a struggle!



How Your Personality Affects Managing Weeknight Routines

If your weeknights are always rushed, stressed, and the opposite of calming after a long day- read on! I’ve got some insights as to why that is, and how you can change it. 

Do you ever look at other parents and wonder how the hell they keep it all together? Especially when it comes to managing weeknight routines and general family craziness.

Since we’re all here juggling too many balls with not enough hands, I wanted to let you in on a secret to managing those weeknight routines: these parents don’t have some magic wand they wave to get shit done. None of us do.

But what they do have, and what you can have too, is a formula that works with their personality. Knowing how to add a routine to your day in the right way, so that you’re feeling on top of yourself, can make all the difference.

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The right routine will add structure to your weeknights at home, creating a rhythm to your evenings that runs on autopilot.

And the best part about creating these autopiloted rhythms? Doing so creates more time in the moments between that lets you stop, relax, feel present with your family, and appreciate the day you have.

Creating routines and rhythms that work with your personality to help managing weeknight routines is, in effect, a practice of minimalism. It’s discarding all the stress and bother and worry and ugh-ness of a rushed evening, and embracing one that is simpler, and easy to handle.

And your personality type plays a lot into that!


Related: 7 Ways a Mom Working From Home Can Keep Her Sanity


Do you remember taking a personality quiz in high school? I do! I was a big fan of women’s magazine quizzes at the time (and still am, which is why I created this quiz for meal planners), and taking the personality quiz in my psychology class felt just like that. I couldn’t wait to find my “type”.

How do you find your personality type? You can sign up at MeyersBriggs.com to pay and have a comprehensive test taken, or you can take a free version at 16Questions.com. Take it and then come back here for a general outline of how you can approach routine building with your personality type!

Ready to figure out the best way to start managing your weeknight routine? Ok, let’s get started.

Remember: I’m not psychologist. I just think this stuff is cool. And a lot of what is to follow is my own interpretation of the Personality Types. If you’re really into learning more about how your personality type works and how it can affect your relationships with others, I recommend this book.

Personality Types, as defined by the mother-daughter duo Myers-Briggs, who first created the test widely used today, are broken into 4 categories:

    1. Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I), which is how you express energy into the world. Do you feel drained from human contact, or energized by it?
    1. Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N), the method by which you receive and process information. Do you tend to take information given to you at face value, or do you fall back on your intuition?
  • Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P), or how you then act upon that information. If you like creating a plan and sticking to it, or if you’re more “take it as it comes”.

So you could look at creating a routine as something that works with your natural tendencies.

This way, instead of working against the grain and going along with what others tell you to do, figure out a way that works for you, instead!

The most important “letter” to look at when determining your best routine style is the last letter, a J or P. This is the letter that determines how you act upon things, how well you work within the confines of a routine.

Do you have a whole hour while your husband takes the kids on a grocery run? Use that to make as many lunches as possible for the week, and pack them in the fridge.

Got 15 minutes while Paw Patrol is playing? Grab a basket and throw in a week’s worth of clean clothes and leave them where you can grab them quickly in the morning.

By thinking ahead, looking a defined list, and taking charge in small pockets of time, you can effectively cross things off your to-do list while also allowing flexibility and not needing to stick so rigidly to a “routine” every single night.

9 Simple Ways You Can Organize a Tiny Kitchen

My tiny rental kitchen drives me insane lately! I feel like i can never get good kitchen organization going and i never can find things when I need them. I like how she lays out a bunch of different ideas here so you can find something that works for your tiny space, on a budget and diy.

My tiny rental kitchen drives me insane lately! I feel like i can never get good kitchen organization going and i never can find things when I need them. I like how she lays out a bunch of different ideas here so you can find something that works for your tiny space, on a budget and diy.

The pain of organizing a tiny kitchen something I know all too well.

Since moving out of my parent’s house, I’ve lived in approximately 15 homes; exactly one of those had a big, spacious kitchen. The rest have all been…. eclectic.

Maybe ‘itsy-bitsy’ is a more appropriate word?

In any case, I’m no stranger to figuring out tiny kitchen organization and working with mini amounts of counter space, itty-bitty cabinets, and fridges that would feel at home in a college dorm.

And yet – I’ve worked as a freelance, at-home recipe tester, and recipe developer for almost 7 years now, all within a tiny kitchen. I’ve cooked full Thanksgiving dinners for 15 with only 3 feet of counter space

I’ve never been one to let a tiny kitchen area get in the way of my cooking.

And you know what? Kitchen organization simply comes down to being creatively utilizing what you already have!

So with that, I’ve scoured the interwebs to come up with 9 of the coolest ideas I could find for organizing your small kitchen space, without hiring a contractor or storing pots and pans in your bedroom.

Make sure to click on each photo and description to check out the full posts so you can get all the juicy details.

 

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1. Make the Most of Your Kitchen

A while ago, I wrote a series of posts demonstrating how you can ‘make the most of your kitchen’. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a huge farmhouse kitchen, or just a wall with a fridge, a stove, and a small counter; with a few tips, the right appliances, and some simple know-how, I’ll show you how you can make any small kitchen organization ‘hack’ work for your space.

I’ve compiled the posts and their accompanying recipes (there are 22!) into this simple, free ebook – click to check it out here and download it to your phone for easy reading!

PREP INGREDIENTS BEFOREHAND

AND CLEAN & ORGANIZE AS YOU GO

2. Tips to Keep Plastic Containers Organized In The Kitchen

Ellen over at Confessions of an Overworked Mom put together a great post about best practices for storing your plastic and glass food containers. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who sometimes finds storage options of our food containers to be the bane of my existence!

Ellen has a few simple tips for what to look for in storage options, what to keep and throw away, and the best ways you can store those food containers without losing your mind or being buried under plastic lids.

3. What Is Mise en Place? Preparing Your Kitchen

Shelley from TwoHealthyKitchens is a woman after my own heart. I learned the importance of mise en place while in cooking school and it’s still a habit that I’m glad to have; it makes cooking meals so much easier and faster.

I love Shelley’s words: ” In the 15 years that I’ve had kids, I have rarely cooked an uninterrupted meal. Plan on it – and embrace mise en place as the key to cooking sanity.” Hear, hear, girlfriend! Mise en place is a total sanity saver. Check out the rest of Shelley’s post here. 

 

4. How to Clean Your Oven (Without Using the Self Cleaning Feature) 

Jessica at AllSheCooks has broken it down here, with tips on how to clean your oven the right way, without using the self-cleaning oven feature.

I too have fallen victim to the self-cleaning oven dream; that is until I used the feature at my mother’s house and her kitchen filled with smoke. Whoops!

Make sure to also check out her tips for cleaning the top of a gas stove; especially those hard to clean hob grates!

USE DIY STORAGE IDEAS FOR KIDS’ SNACKS

AND PANTRY ITEMS

5. Stocking a Kid Pantry

This idea from Christina at the ShirleyJourney is so smart, it’s the first idea on this list that I plan on fully implementing right away. She’s taken a small bathroom cupboard and turned it into a kid’s snack center! What’s more, she has a great idea for making sure her 4-year-old doesn’t blow through the snacks in a day; I’m thinking I may have to take her up on that idea as well.

She’s taken a small bathroom cupboard and turned it into a kid’s snack center! What’s more, she has a great idea for making sure that even with free access to his snacks, her 4-year-old doesn’t blow through the whole stash in a day; I’m thinking I may have to take her up on that idea as well. What’s more, it helps solve the small kitchen organization problem by moving some of the snacks from the cupboard and into their own designated area.

6. Organize Your Pantry: Tips From Readers 

Nicole from MomSavesMoney asked her readers how they organize their pantry… and they had some great ideas! I never knew all the ways you could use an over-the-door shoe organizer, but clearly, it’s smart.

However, my all-time fave idea on this list is from her reader Nikki S.: her meal planning idea is cheap and genius! Simply organize your dry goods items in dollar store tubs designated for each day of the week…. it’s so smart. Click through to the post to see what I mean.

7. Secrets Big Families Use to Stay Organized in the Kitchen 

Sarah from Must Have Mom has what is possibly the cutest kitchen in Minnesota.

She’s put together a handful of great ideas for a kitchen command center, keeping all-important garbage bags at the ready, a menu board, I’m loving her super smart way she keeps from having to wash a thousand kids’ cups every day.

8. DIY Drawer Organizers 

If you’re like me, you probably have a crapton of Amazon boxes lying around. Or cereal boxes. Or diaper boxes! Damjana from AppleGreenCottage has such a cute, cheap (free!) idea for turning your old cardboard boxes into free drawer organizers and drawer dividers.

These would be handy for keeping a junk drawer or random utensil drawer a little less haphazard!

9. DIY Spice Rack Without Using Counter Space 

Leanna from Faeries and Fauna Craft Co has put together this crazy-helpful DIY tutorial for building a spice rack on the inside door of your pantry! I love that this means you can just glance at your spices without having to dig around.

There you have it; 9 super easy ways to organize your small kitchen and pantry spaces like the boss you are.

Honestly, I thought I was kind of on top of my own kitchen organization, but after finding all these ideas, I’m pretty sure I’ve got more work to do! Don’t forget to follow my Kitchen Organization board on Pinterest, and if you’ve got some great kitchen organization ideas that the world needs to know about, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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