How to Get Dinner on the Table When You Have Small Children

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Are you wondering how to get dinner on the table when you have small children?

Is there some kind of magic trick?

Let me tell you, mama, I know the stress of it all.

I have 3 children all under the age of 5 and getting dinner on the table is no easy feat.

It takes work and commitment.

I won’t lie. Cooking dinner is one of my least favourite parts of being a homemaker and I’m pretty good at procrastinating about getting it done.

cooking pot and recipe book

Over time I’ve learnt certain strategies that help me to be more consistent about getting dinner on the table.

That’s what I’m going to share with you today.

My 7 tips for how to get dinner on the table when you have small children. Because, let’s face it, after 4 pm it is usually chaos (and that’s a moderate description).

How to Get Dinner on the Table When You Have Small Children:

#1 Meal Plan

I have been meal-planning since around the time I got married. It just made sense because it helped me to know which groceries I needed to buy.

Over the years I have perfected the way I meal plan so that I only have to do it once a month. I just rotate through all of our favourite meals and buy the groceries accordingly.

If I couldn’t look at my planner/calendar and see what we were having for dinner that night, I can guarantee you that dinner would not get cooked.

Because I don’t love doing it, I have to be very intentional about making the process easier for myself.

Using a meal plan is the first step in that process. It cuts down on the chaos of the day as well as my mental load.

I don’t have to create meal ideas on the spot because it is already done ahead of time.

This makes getting dinner on the table a lot more likely to happen.

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#2 Choose Meals You Like

Anyone else struggles to cook something you know you’re not going to want to eat?

Only me? Surely not.

Another thing that really helps me to stay disciplined in regard to making sure dinner is on the table is cooking food that I like.

I know that isn’t always easy when you’re also trying to cook for the rest for the family. However, I would encourage you to do it as much as possible.

Make a meal plan and be sure to include meals that you are actually excited about eating.

#3 Go for Quick, Easy & Simple

I can’t think of a single meal that takes me longer than 1.5 hours to cook and serve.

It has to be this way because quite frankly, I do not have the time to be serving up extravagant meals.

If you’re stuck for ideas for quick and easy meals then do a Pinterest search.

I can assure you that there will be an abundance of results that you can work into your meal plan.

I also like to cook up a meal that I can use again the next night.

For instance, on a Monday I might cook up some mince (ground beef) and use half of it for nachos. The next night I use the second half in a pasta & mince casserole.

It cuts down on the cooking time and is also quite cost-efficient.


#4 Take Meat out Ahead of Time

This can be the number one reason that you don’t get dinner on the table and order takeout instead.

You forget to get the meat out.

How do you stop forgetting?

Simple, make it part of your routine.

I usually get mine out in the morning when I put the laundry out on the line (our freezer is in our garage).

If you prefer to thaw out your meat in the fridge, then take it out the night before.

You will have to be intentional about adding it to your routine otherwise it will just continue to be forgotten.

apron on the wall

#5 Prep Ahead of Time

Most of us have a routine to our day, or at the very least a rhythm. 

You know the times during the day when you have a spare minute and the times when it is all hands on deck.

If you are struggling to get dinner on the table then one great tip is to prep ahead of time.

I know that for me personally, I am far more productive in the morning than I am in the afternoon.

For that reason, if I can, I’ll do some meal prep earlier in the day.

This could be peeling/chopping veggies etc.

dinner on the table

#6 Use the Slow Cooker

Along the same lines of prepping early comes this point. If you own a slow cooker, then use it!

I don’t typically use mine a lot during the summer months, but come winter that thing gets used all of the time.

It is so great for soups, stews, and even cooking whole chickens.

In fact, that is one of my favourite things to do.

I’ll often take a whole frozen chicken and put it straight into the slow cooker. I leave it on low for most of the day and it is perfectly cooked by evening.

We use it for dinner that night along with a few sides, and then the leftover meat gets used for sandwiches or another dinner.

#7 Share the Workload

This is something I didn’t really do until recently. However, now that it is our ‘normal’ I absolutely love it!

I’ve learnt to share the workload of getting dinner on the table.

parents working together to get dinner on the table

It isn’t all the time, but more and more often my husband will cook dinner or we split the work.

He’ll do the meat and I’ll do the vegetables or something like that.

It is so helpful during the stage of having so many little ones to also care for.

That time of the evening, my children are often hyperactive and the baby is fussy. It makes it much easier on everyone to share the load.

And I know that this option isn’t available to everyone, but if you’ve got the support, take it!

I’m not going to pretend that I have it all together in this department just yet. I still really don’t like having to cook dinner, but these tips help me get it on the table a lot more consistently!

I hope that they will be of some help to you as well.

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