Guest Guru: Dine Without Whine – Dinner Time Simplified

Dinner Time Simplified

By Christine Steendahl of

Most of us know all about the dinner hour chaos that comes about around 5 or 6 p.m. Everyone is hungry, tired, and ready to eat; and the stress often lands on your shoulders as you try to quickly concoct something before everyone runs out the door for evening activities. Let’s face it – dinner time often turns into stress time. How about we relieve some of that stress? Here are some simple tips to help you feel like you have it together during the dinner hour.

1. Plan Ahead

Take time one day a week, to write out a plan. Look at your calendar and determine what nights you will have a bit of time to cook and what nights it would be best to use your slow-cooker or pull out a meal from the freezer. Take inventory on what you have, and what you need and make a trip to the grocery store to prepare yourself for the week.

2. Use your slow cooker

– if you don’t have one, I encourage you to invest in one! This will turn into your best friend on busy days! You can literally throw in a roast, potatoes, carrots and some seasoning in 3 minutes, turn it on, and have dinner ready when you need it.

3. Consider freezing a few meals.

There are many meals that work great to prepare and freeze ahead of time. Then all you need to do is pull one out the night before and throw it in the oven the following evening. If you need some recipes for this, do a google search for “freezer cooking”.

4. Double the recipe

If you know you are going to have a busy week, why not double a recipe one night and enjoy it as leftovers the following night. You could also change things up a bit. Say you cook a large chicken or several chicken breasts. You could then use the leftovers to make a whole new meal – say chicken and dumplings or chicken enchiladas .

5. Designate Nights

I have a friend who does this. They have something with pork Monday, Pizza Friday, Chicken Sunday etc. She knows exactly what they are having throughout the week because Thursday is always taco night etc. This works great if you don’t mind eating similar foods week in and week out. For some families this works really well.

6. Have an emergency plan.

Sometimes you get home way later than you planned, or you end up having last minute company or something of that sort. Try to have something quick and easy in mind that you always have the ingredients on hand for. There is no thinking involved – you just know that there are ingredients for a quick easy meal if needed. For us these are simple meals that fill everyone up such as homemade pizza ingredients, spaghetti, tacos, that sort of thing. Something all the kids like, and that is quick and easy. We often will have breakfast for dinner too in a pinch. Eggs, Bacon, Pancakes or Waffles that sort of thing. The kids love that!

I hope some of these ideas will help eliminate a bit of your dinner hour stress and make family meal time more enjoyable. There are so many studies out there about the importance of family meal time. We highlight this in our Family Dinner Video. If you would like help meal planning, we offer family friendly weekly menus with grocery shopping lists delivered to your email box each week. You can find us at

Christine Steendahl – “The Menu Mom” has been helping families with meal planning since March, 2005. Her specialty is in traditional home style menus for busy families – featuring easy to prepare recipes the entire family will enjoy. Dine Without Whine features weekly menus with categorized grocery shopping lists that bring organization, time & money savings, and ultimately families back to the dinner table.