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Topic: Help for SAHM's?

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Subject: Help for SAHM's?
Date Posted: 8/26/2008 1:57 PM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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I guess everyone assumes that being at home all day with my four, I could easily prepare a meal... that is, people assume that who haven't stayed home with two sets of twins 2 and 1 years of age!

We have a late dinner because its the one meal we share on weekdays with their father, and my husband doesn't get home until 6:30. Exactly at 6:30, the table is set. My problem is that this means my time to cook falls in the "witching hour". Its terrible and stressful, and I no longer enjoy cooking, nor do I get the chance. The little twins are screaming unless the t.v. is on (both teething, too), the big twins want me to read to them. The eldest of the big twins hangs on the kitchen gate saying "Eat! Eat!" starting at 6, and he isn't hungry, he just doesn't want to be without me while I try and cook.

I have gotten into this terrible habit of freezer dishes, and things that can be put together in a hurry. We have went from eating pork tenderloin and baked chicken breast with fresh steamed veggies, to eating Seapak shrimp in a box and canned veggies. :-\

I think the best solution would be to buy a crockpot. Never used one before- I had time to plan meals and enjoyed cooking... but, now I think perhaps I should start crockpot cooking. Putting a meal togher around 7:30 a.m., and then letting it slow cook until meal time.

What do you think? what are other SAHM's of toddlers doing for meals?

At least on weekends when my husband is home I do get to cook a nice meal, and I still do alot of baking during naptimes.

Date Posted: 8/26/2008 2:41 PM ET
Member Since: 4/30/2007
Posts: 2,728
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Well, I'm not a SAHM, but as a working mom of 2, it's just as hard getting a decent meal on the table at the end of the day!  My dh is home most of the time with our kids, but I don't let him cook (we just don't like Kraft mac&cheese THAT much!).  So basically I walk in the door at 5:30, and pretty much have to launch into dinner mode, and I'm NOT always in the mood for it, know what I mean??  Over the years (my kids are 12 and almost 8) I have figured out a few things that make the evening meal a bit easier, and maybe some of this would work for you as well.

1) Lower your expectations.  You are not Martha Stewart- Martha Stewart had one child and probably a nanny, too.  It's ok to serve quick & easy meals- just make sure they are relatively healthy.  Mine always include a protien, at least one veggie, a grain (rice, couscous, wheat pasta) and often salad.  Same formula every day, just with different ingredients.

2) Prep ahead.  Freeze chicken already seasoned or in marinade.  Then just thaw and throw in the oven or on the grill.  Freeze ground beef in 1 lb. portions- I buy ground beef at Costco already made into 1/2 lb. patties- all I have to do is combine 2 patties, and voila.  When you buy salad greens at the grocery, wash and dry them when you get home and store in a ziplock bag.  MUCH easier to throw together a salad that way, and way cheaper than buying bagged salad.

3) Cook ahead.  On the weekend, when you're making a nice meal, double it to have later in the week, or to freeze.  Make a huge pot of rice on the weekend to use throughout the week- just reheat and serve.  This goes for couscous or noodles as well.  Roast a chicken on the weekend, and shred the leftovers to use in soup, salad, enchiladas, etc.

4) Crock pot, which you mentioned- always a good way to go, but probably not something you want to do every day.  I leaned a little too heavily on my CP awhile back, and the family got sick of those types of meals.  Now I can hardly get away with it anymore.  I would aim for using it once or twice a week.

5) Try those Reynolds steamer bags for the microwave.  I was totally against microwaved veggies, but I'm a convert.  They taste just as good as if they were steamed on the stovetop.  Really easy too, and takes a fraction of the time.

6) Involve the kids with dinner prep.  Ok, yours are pretty young, but maybe have them color some homemade placemats to give you an extra 5 minutes or so.  Teach them how to put napkins and sliverware on the table- kids that age love doing stuff like that.  Trust me, in 10 years they will give you the evil eye if you even dare to suggest it, lol.

7) If you eat somewhat late, give the kids a snack around 5.  Something healthy- cereal, fruit, yogurt, and then they won't put so much pressure on you to get that dinner on the table the minute dad walks in!

Good luck to you- sounds like you really have your hands full!

Date Posted: 8/26/2008 4:49 PM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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We do the snack thing- they eat yogurt at 5 every day...

Cooking ahead rice or pasta to use later in the week sounds like a good idea. We already do make sure they get a veggie with every meal- but more than not lately, its from a can. :-\ My girl LOVES veggies, but she has choking issues so we don't often get to give them crispy steamed veggies like I love best. I either steam hers until they melt, or use canned low sodium veggies for their meals.

Basically, I am making three meals. One for my husband and myself, one for the two year olds, and one for the one year olds. We have an issue with "tooth delay" in the family, so my 1 year olds will mainly be on jar food just like the older set until 15 months. That has no doubt hurt us in trying to get them eating more. They don't have the teeth to chew, and two of them have choking problems. We have had to finger sweep my daughter so often ffom choking, and one of my little twins gags and vomits regularly now, too. This means most of their veggies also come from jars and cans. I know its not the best, but the lack of teeth and difficulty chewing means that at least we never went the hamburger route. Or french fries. They do get pizza once a week- the only evening of the week I feel like I wasn't worn out- we ALL can eat that (I cut it up with scissors for all four because of choking issues).

I know what you mean about Martha Stewart. I saw Kate Gosselin once say that her kids had never had anything from a can, or frozen. All their foods were fresh made and if SHE could do it, everyone can. Well, she has a mothers helper! I have seen her have a 15 minute conversation with the camera when she wasn't even worried about her kids- CAUSE SOMEONE WAS WATCHING THEM. Anmd even when she doesn't have her mothers helper, she can at least depend on the Discovery crew to not let them choke to death while she makea a meal- not to mention it gives the kids someone to interact with and watch. I have only myself!  And by the way, I haven't been able to watch her show since the little twins came home, LOL.

Ugh. That makes sense about the crock pot. But still, even once or twice a week would be a good change for us, eh?

 

Date Posted: 8/26/2008 6:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/30/2007
Posts: 2,728
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You certainly have my sympathy, as well as admiration for managing as well as you do!  I can see how difficult it is with the different levels of eating abilities among the children- I'm sure that limits what you can serve.  Rest assured that this phase doesn't last forever...in the blink of an eye they will be middle-schoolers asking for tacos and burgers!  The good thing about crock pot meals is that the food does get cooked rather well, so with veggies and such, those will be easy to mash up for the little ones.  Mmmmm...love a pot roast with potatoes and carrots in the CP!

Don't feel bad about the canned veggies- at least now they have the no/low salt kind.  Whatever works right now, go for it- like I said, this phase won't last forever.  When my kid were toddlers, I used to give them strained Campbell's soup- like vegetable beef, just warmed and strained, dumped on the high chair tray.  The veggies are soft and the pieces of meat are small enough that they are generally not a choking hazard, and if you get the reduced sodium soup, it's a pretty decent meal. I make a lot of homemade soups on the weekends now, but they still like the good old Campbell's!

I had people tell me all the time not to get into the habit of feeding my kids something different than what we were having, but you know what, you just have to do what works at the time.  My kids were broken of the "short order chef" expectations by the time they were 3 or 4- you just have to watch them to see when they are capable of eating more solid foods.  I still will modify for them- my oldest doesn't like any type of sauce or condiment, so I just have to serve whatever we're having plain for him.  My daughter doesn't like anything spicy, so I make sure that whatever she has doesn't have much seasoning on it.  I'm still cooking one meal, just being flexible on how it's served, and I'm ok with that.  It does get tiring having to make separate things for some though, not to mention all the extra dirty dishes it creates!  But it's only while they're young, and it's most important that they eat, so you do what you gotta do.  Someday their eating habits will (somewhat) converge and you won't have to go through so much extra effort.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 8/27/2008 2:58 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Oh hon, I totally feel for you!!  I had trouble doing it with ONE.  I cannot imagine FOUR!!  That being said, is there any way you could hire a Mom's helper to come over in the evening for an hour or two to help you with the kids while you cook dinner?  What I did was hired a neighbor girl who was 12.  She'd come for a couple hours after school to entertain DS, and I paid her $4.00/hour.  It gave me time to clean the kitchen and get dinner started. 

If that's not possible, preparing food on the weekends when your DH is there to help you makes things easier.  There are a number of things that can be prepared ahead - including meal "starters".  For example,  brown ground beef (or turkey or sausage) with onions and peppers and freeze it in baggies - enough to make a pot of spaghetti sauce, casserole or chili.  Just take it out and thaw it and throw it in during the last 30 minutes of cooking.  Lasagnes freeze well, as do soups as long as they don't contain noodles.  You can cook pasta (plain) and keep it in the fridge in a Ziploc for anout 4 days.  Just put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and nuke it to reheat it.  The key to keeping it from sticking together is to add a T of cooking oil to the water about 2 minutes before you drain it.

Buy yourself a Tupperware salad spinner and use it twice a week to make a big salad using veggies that don't spoil easily - a couple different kinds of lettuce, baby spinach, carrots, cauliflower, radishes, etc.  Clean and spin the salad and then store it in the self-storage container.  It will keep for 3-4 days as long as your veggies were clean.  Then when you are ready for salad, just add the easily-spolied veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes to your individual bowls.  The salad spinner is spendy but well worth the money.

Grill a bunch of meats on the weekends.  We often do burgers, chicken quarters and pork, then just store it in the fridge or freezer until ready to eat.  Then all you have to do is reheat the meats and make a side or two.  Also, when you cook potatoes, cook 2-3 days worth.  I often will fry up potatoes and onions with spices in a little oil, and store them in the fridge to eat off of over 2-3 days (the onions will get slimy if you wait too long).  Potato salad or parsley potatoes will keep longer.  Rice keeps long - get creative and make a couple kinds of pilaf or stir-fried rice.

As for "quick" dinners - I throw together "Baked Burritos" using cooked chicken, beans, salsa and cheese in tortillas - fold them up, layer them in a buttered dish and throw a little cheese on top.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until heated through. 

Another favorite is "Chicken Pot Roast" - Speay an 11X13 pan with cooking spray, add chicken pieces, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and chili powder.  Add about  1/4 c. water, cover with foil and bake 20 minutes at 350F.  Then open up the pan, add chunks of onions, new potatoes or chinks of peeled russets and carrots - add more HOT water if needed, cover it again with the foil and bake an additional 45 minutes.  Uncover and brown 10-15 minutes at 400F.

A crock-pot is a must, but be aware that the finished product will be much better if you brown your meats prior to adding them to the crock.

Good luck!!  I will post more later if I think of anything else. :)

 

 



Last Edited on: 8/27/08 3:06 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 8/27/2008 3:05 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Just wanted to add - the babies without choking issues can be on adult food ground or chopped - that would eliminate having to prepare at least some of the special meals.  Buy a food mill/grinder if you don't have one. My DS never ate commercially prepared baby food mainly because it was too expensive and it was easier for me to feed him what we were eating.  He ate it all - garlic, spices, etc. (I figured spices don't kill babies in places like India and Thailand - they certainly won't kill my little Oregonian! ;p )

Date Posted: 8/27/2008 7:36 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 7,466
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I love using my crock pot.  I have 4 of them in different sizes!!  LOL  It is a great way to have good meals and time save.

Another thought is you could put the food together in the morning or early afternoon, but not bake it yet, then when it is time to throw it in the oven, it is already prepped and ready to go.

Date Posted: 8/27/2008 7:44 AM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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I think I am going to print out these tips, because there are some good ones, but I know I will forget. I live in a state of "mommy brain". :-)

Any favorite crockpot cook books? I wishlisted a few, including the cooking light one. I figured that would be healthy for us, too.

Date Posted: 8/27/2008 11:15 AM ET
Member Since: 4/30/2007
Posts: 2,728
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Leslie, Fix it and Forget It is my favorite CP cookbook.  I think now there are a few different ones- I know I've seen a light one and an entertaining one recently.  Mine is the original one, and it has a lot of great recipes in it.

I think Paige's idea is excellent- use the morning to prep, so that everything is ready to go when it's time to cook.  I do this sometimes, on days when I know we have a lot going on in the evening, but it's not something I can do every day, since I leave for work at 7 and my time in the morning is limited.  It would be very easy to put together a meatloaf, prep chicken for roasting or baking, brown ground beef or turkey, cut up veggies or make salad, etc.

Paige, I thought I was bad- I have 3 Crock Pots!  Everyone at work thinks I'm nuts- whenever we have a pot luck, I am always asked to bring my extra ones, and no one gets why I need more than 1.  They are different sizes and shapes- the round, deep one is great for soup, stew, chili, etc., while the large oval one (which is more shallow) is more ideal for cooking a roast or chicken.  Then I have a smaller oval one, for when I'm not doing a large amount of food- I found that if there is too much space in the CP, the food tends to dry out.  Works for me, though I have to admit they do take up a lot of space in the cupboards.

Date Posted: 8/27/2008 1:15 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2005
Posts: 463
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I love to cook meatballs and tomato sauce or meat sauce in my crock pot all day, then near dinnertime, cook up a bunch of pasta and use a bagged salad for a meal. 

I make up the meatballs ahead of time and freeze them in portions in bags future meals.  For 3 of us, I use 2 (29 oz. or so)  cans of tomato sauce and 9 meatballs, I know you would use more for your family...put it in my crock pot around noon on HIGH til 6 p.m., and start the pot of spaghetti around 5:15 or so. 

For meat sauce-I brown and drain the hamburger ahead of time and freeze 2 lbs. in each freezer bag.  Then just add the meat (frozen or unthawed) in 2 (29 oz or so) cans of tomato sauce around noon on HIGH until 6, starting your pasta around 5:15.  What's fun is you can take turns letting one child choose his/her favorite pasta shape, and let them "taste test" the pasta for doneness. 

What's nice about these meals is leftovers are even better!  So the next day your kids can have leftovers for lunch, that's why I cook larger amounts than 3 people can eat. 

If your family isn't picky about veggies, onions, or seasonings you can use what you want of these ingredients-my DD is picky so will just make everything as plain as possible, but if there's leftovers for my DH I will add veggies and seasonings for him.   He is a farmer/trucker so has weird work hours-when he's not here at suppertime it's nice to have these leftovers to make up hot meals for him later at night.

Good luck! 

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 8/28/2008 3:38 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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"Cooking Under Cover" isn't a crock pot book, but most recipes can be adapted to the crockpot.  I love it!

http://www.amazon.com/Cooking-Under-Cover-Treasury-Casseroles/dp/0395935210

(BTW I have 3 CPs too - one is never enough! :p )

Date Posted: 8/30/2008 2:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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You have received some good ideas.

I love my slow cooker - use it 1-2 times a week. One pot meals are also great - soups, chili, etc. I also will make a double recipe of favorites (lasagne, chicken and rice, etc) on the weekends and freeze one for a future meal. Those are nice because you can just pop them in the oven on hectic days. I also make cold side dishes up the night before - less prep work during the busy time. Also, I keep side dishes simple, steamed veggies and fresh fruit (some can be prepared the night before) are two standbys.

When your kids get a little older they can be big helpers. At the age of 3-4 they can help set the table, fill the napkin holder, etc. Give them a damp rag and they can wipe down chairs and table legs :-)

Date Posted: 9/10/2008 1:55 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2008
Posts: 84
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I feel for you! You have a lot of small people who need you, and it is hard.

One thing that worked for me was ... lowered expectations. You will get to really cook again. But right now, your priority is getting through the next few months until those teeth come in and your children are less frantic. I used a lot of bottled sauces, meatballs I'd cooked on the weekends & frozen, chili in bags in the freezer. We ate a lot of noodles & frozen vegetables. You can either go the "it cooks Really Quickly" route, or the "I fixed it while others were sleeping" route. That keeps your sanity. My kids were not OK with me being on the other side of a gate until they were 3. At which point, they could climb over it, so good thing.

The other thing that worked for me was turning the room off the kitchen into a playroom. It made a HUGE difference in our lives. That way the kids could see me, I could see them, and all the toys were Right There. I have a "no toys on the kitchen floor" rule for safety.

Once the youngest turned 3, everything seemed to ease up a bit. It gets better. You are in the worst of it right now. Some one told me that when I was at the same stage you are now (only with half the kids) and looking back they were totally right. Good luck.

Date Posted: 9/11/2008 4:45 PM ET
Member Since: 8/14/2006
Posts: 626
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Please don't jump on me for this but I would have the kids fed before daddy gets home.  Save dessert with daddy.  You don't sound like you are enjoying yourself with the way things are going at this time.  Put in a tape for them to watch while the two of you eat a peaceful dinner and are able to catch up with each other.  When they are a little older they can rejoin the table.

 

 

Date Posted: 9/16/2008 3:15 PM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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Not going to jump on you at all Beth! But, that still puts me cooking during the "witching hour"- the main problem- and then when DH is home, he would just not eat at all if we were all fed... he would feel guilty that I was watching them by myself while he ate his meal- and if he waited, it would put him eating after 8 and he has reflux.I do have a friend who does meals and bedtime alone for all four of her kids, and she seems very overwhelmed. At least I do have my dh home to help...

Trust me, even though its  a pain to have a late meal, I am so exhausted that I totally appreciate dh is there to help with the meals. We each have a baby on our left and our right. After meals, he puts ALL the kids into jammies and does bedtime routines while I clean the kitchen. Never did I realize cleaning a kitchen could be a reward, ha ha. Sometimes he says "I feel bad you are always cleaning, want me to clean while you put the kids down?" And I scream NO WAY!!! LOL, Unless its a bath night, then we both do bedtime routines, and both clean on the kitchen.

Celina, we are still in the "thick of it" you are right. I am also a member of a multiples forum, and they all have two sets of twins, too. All of them say that the first two years are the hardest, and that its going to get easier for us from here out.

I have started lowering expectations... and also, just accepting that if they act finicky and won't eat dinner, it just means they will eat a really good breakfast! Last night they ate avocado, beans, and tomatoes for dinner. Wouldn't touch the chicken or macaroni and cheese made just for them. I just said "they will be fine!" and let it go. At least they like veggies. The little twins only like carby pastas right now. Hmpfh!

 

 

Date Posted: 10/3/2008 11:26 AM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2007
Posts: 33
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WOW!! Although it is very busy and crazy, TWO sets of twins!! What a wonderful blessing =)   You'll be so surprised to find that while all these days are just never-ending for you now, they'll be gone and you'll wonder how they went so fast =D

I used to have a tub of pot and pan lids and tin measuring cups and wooden spoons and canning jar rings. My little ones were ONLY allowed to play with them while I was cooking. I'd turn on some up-beat kids music and pull out the tub with great fan-fare, and they'd come toddling (or crawling) over with oh so much excitement. I often put a little butter tub in with a little dry cereal or treat of somekind for them to shake and rattle and try to pry open...kept 'em busy and they thought they'd hit the jackpot when they finally got it open. Just hide it among the other stuff, and they'll learn to go hunting for it.

If you have the space in your kitchen, a set of miniature dishes, pots and pans, broom, etc makes it fun. They cook right along with you. Just make sure they only have access to it when you need are making dinner- it'll keep it entertaining and make it a time to look forward to for them.

I even had little aprons for my crew.  **sigh**  How I miss those days.

One thing I would seriously consider doing- much of the prep work for cooking can be done at any time of day. Do it before the witching hour =) Also, the crock pot is a great idea...definately do that. 

Make sure you set a good mood for this time; they'll feel fussy and cranky much more if they sense that you are stressed. Happy music, mom humming cheerfully, lots of clattering and goofing around makes dinner-making a fun time. As long as they get to feel included in the noise and laughter, they'll feel pretty content.

Date Posted: 10/4/2008 7:30 AM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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I did get a crock pot and have been using it. Man, I wish the wishlist moved faster sometimes! I have ba couple good crockpot books on it!

The little utensils are a good idea when the youngest twin starts walking well. Right now he falls constantly (he doesn't watch where he is going, hee, hee) and our kitchen is ceramic tile and I am afraid of him falling. But, I think I will try that when they are all steady!

Date Posted: 10/9/2008 8:53 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2005
Posts: 4,469
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Crockpots are amazing, amazing things--and you can find lots, lots of recipes online--my favorite is the rival crockpot recipe for chili:0 

Date Posted: 10/13/2008 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 5/20/2008
Posts: 2,161
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Lynn, I haven't seen that, is there a link to it on this site?

Date Posted: 10/28/2008 5:38 AM ET
Member Since: 8/22/2008
Posts: 448
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Slow cooker, soup and sandwiches, & nothing wrong with some frozen dinner!!!!!!!

I am now a grandmother, but when the girls were younger I was a SAHM. I use to knock myself out to make dinners, only to finally sit down and the baby was crying and you know how that went.

But if could to it over, I would prepare alot of crock pot meals. You can start some preparing of the  chopping the night before, and in the morning just throw the  rest  in. I actually do that now. I hate having to do all that at once.  I even do that when preparing for holidays about 2 days ahead.

But try doing the slow cooker,  soup and sandwiches. I wouldn't  hesitate to buy some frozen foods. This won't be forever. Most of what I cook now is all fresh food, but I still keep easy frozen foods on hand, in case of a busy day. And have some of those days with helping with  my grandkids.

I am about to look through my cook books, for another member. And I know I have some slow cooker books, too. So when I get ready to post them. I will PM you.

Keep you chin up, nothing last forever. And I still can't believe how fast time goes, and now have grandkids. Seems like they were just still little girls. On the lighter side, I would still pass over the teenage years LOL

Anyway, I will put you on my list as to when I start to post my cook books. Actually, today, I will check on the Slow Cooker Books.

Hang in there!

Jeanne