Taming the Crazy Hour

We have all been there, most of us on a daily basis – the crazy hour before dinner. Kids are tired and hungry. Fights errupt. Tears flow. You may or may not already be thinking about grabbing a drink and hiding out until the kids fall asleep.

I’ve done cooking like this many times.
For me, this has always been the most stressful part of my day. Usually we would get home from the park or shopping just in time for the baby to start crying, demanding to nurse. The older ones would fuss and fight over whose turn it was to pick the video, then beg for juice and snacks. I would be at wits end, often not even knowing what I was going to prepare. By the time the baby finished nursing, dinner would be late, adding to the stress of the evening.

I tried planning meals ahead, and while it helped somewhat, it wasn’t enough. The time I had to spend chopping, boiling, etc. dragged out each night, and I would add a little more vodka to my juice to keep from going insane.

Then recently I got this grand idea – why not do prep for dinner at a more peaceful time of day? So I tried it. For me the best time is before the kids get up from their nap, or while they have a snack. They like to drag out snacktime, so I found I could get a good portion of dinner done at that time. Of course, I still need a menu plan to work from, so if, for example, I want to use meat for dinner, I take it out to thaw in the morning. Or if I am making chickpeas or beans, I soak them in the morning.

When prep time arrives I will put the beans or meat in the pressure cooker, or I’ll marinate or precook the meat, all depending on the dish. While that is going I chop the veggies, or make a salad. Sometimes I can get almost the whole dinner done at that time.

I look more like this now. 🙂
When we get in from the park, I get the kids washed, pottied, and in front of a video (perhaps with a snack for the baby if she is extra fussy) and I get on to finishing dinner. It is working great right now, cause I no longer feel the need to rush and get the food on the stove. Many times I just have to cook the rice or pasta, or fry something, otherwise, I just reheat what I made earlier. Because of this, I found that I was able to move dinner up by 1/2 an hour and give us a little more time before bed – meaning there is time for a little extra play, storytime is more often, and there is less rush to get tired kids into bed.
So if dinner prep hour is your most stressful hour, see if it would work for you to move it to a time that is calmer. It has helped me more than you can imagine.
Have you already come up with a solution to make that hour more peaceful? Please share what works for you.
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