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How to Cook Dinner Every Night (& Be Happy)

How to Cook Dinner Every Night (& Be Happy)Dinner. Every Night. Are You Happy?

Do you cook dinner every night? If you do, you know it can be a grind. Not only do you have to stay motivated to cook for your family, you also need to be creative, organized, and feel appreciated. Perhaps the latter part is the key. And so a better question might be, are you happy as the family cook? And if not, how can you be happier in this role?

In my many years of working with families, and my own experiences as a mother, cooking is often a topic of frustration for moms. Just the other day, a friend of mine said over lunch, “I am so sick of rotating through the same 12 dinner meals! I really need a new plan.”

I can relate.

As my large family has been shrinking with kids enrolled in college and not living with me full-time, I’ve felt more ambivalence about all the tasks involved in cooking for a much smaller crew.

But my happiness — your happiness — as the family cook is essential to doing a good job.

Your happiness as the family cook is directly tied to doing a good job at feeding your family. #feedingkids #nourishandnurture #healthyeating Click To Tweet

Here are some suggestions to help you cook dinner every night and be happier in that role:

6 Ways to Cook Dinner Every Night (& Be Happy)

1. Make a Plan

Hands down, this is the most effective way to reduce the stress, cost and frustration associated with making dinner. I had the pleasure of speaking to two experts about meal planning and easy meal preparation techniques and their insight will surely help you streamline these tasks.

TNC #53 : Healthy Meal Planning Tips with Jessica Levinson

TNC #66: Make Dinner in Record Time with Toby Amidor 

In a nutshell, here’s how to do it:

Pick a day of the week (I do it on Sunday) where you map out your meals for the week.

Take into consideration those days where you may be busier and target simple meals on those days.

Make a grocery list of the items you will need to execute your meal plan and pick a day to shop.

Most importantly, stick with your plan as closely as possible!

2. Have a ‘Plan B’

Sometimes our plans don’t, or won’t, work. A last minute meeting, a hubby that stays late at work, a sick child can all throw the best laid plans out the window. That’s why you need to have a backup plan. Keep extra pasta and jarred sauce in the pantry. I load up on frozen veggies, frozen shrimp and quick cooking rice for a super fast stir fry. Or, combine canned beans, tortillas and cheese for a quick quesadilla or a burrito bowl. Having a few easy go-to back up meals can ease the unexpected changes to your dinner plan. Because life happens.

How to Cook Dinner Every Night (& Be Happy)

3. Use a Menu Theme

Meatless Mondays, Tuesday Fish, Wednesday Pasta, Thursday leftovers or new recipes, and Friday Dinner Bar are just some examples of menu themes that can help you set your meal plan for the week. It also helps you see the balance of food and nutrition components in the meals for the week. Meal themes can provide guidance for streamlining your meal planning, especially when you’re out of ideas or feeling in a slump with creative menus.

For some resources and recipes, check out my Nutrition Store where I’ve got a bunch of my favorite cookbooks listed for inspiration!

4. Keep it Quick on Busy Days

We all feel the crunch of busy-ness. Yet, being busy is not an excuse to avoid cooking for and feeding your family. Today, we have so many cooking gadgets that can help us speed up food production. Rice cookers, Insta Pots, slow cookers, and more help us get food on the table faster than ever before.

As a working mom, I have relied on kitchen gadgets that have literally saved dinner. When I have clients in my office all day, I frequently use my slow cooker so dinner is ready when I finish the day. (Goodness knows I am too tired to cook at that point!) My Slow Cooker Beef is a go-to family pleaser on these nights. 

Some of my favorite cooking tools can certainly make your dinner preparation easier– a Crock pot, pressure cooker, portable grill, Panini press, or microwave–they all speed up dinner. Check out The Nutrition Store for more of my favorite, can’t live without kitchen cooking tools. 

5. Make Meals a Family Affair

There’s nothing that wears down the family cook more than doing it all, all the time! Get everyone to join in in helping you. It is a family affair, after all. Have your kids take part in meal preparation by chopping vegetables or tearing lettuce. Kids can set the table and clear it afterward. They can load the dishwasher and wash pots and pans by hand. They can pour drinks and bring food to the table. They can also serve themselves, something called family-style meals

6. Take a Day Off!

Every cook needs a break—make sure to schedule breaks for yourself here and there so you stay inspired. Dinner out with your partner or a YOYO night can go a long way to keeping the primary cook in the family a happier one.

How do you stay happy when cooking for your family?

I’m a stickler for manners and boundaries around mealtime. I know I’m happier when mealtimes are pleasant and respectful. Here are some of my favorite mealtime rules below — click the button to get your copy!

Get Your Free Mealtime Rules Printable Here
 This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of my links, I will receive a small commission, which defrays the cost of running this website.

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  1. I agree with all of the above. With teeenagers however sticking with the plan can get tough. So I would keep enough food in the pantry to scale a meal up or down depending on last minute change of plans. By adding more pasta in the pot, opening another jar of marinara, making the salad larger or add a frozen pizza to the meal you can scale meals up to feed your kids friends.

    1. Great point, Maureen! Yes, the plans seem to always change with teens. 🙂 Like the other night when I had 30 teens in the basement instead of the expected 15!