What’s for dinner? If the question makes you want to scream, “I don’t know” in exasperation, you might have a mealtime conundrum on your hands.
The good news is that everyone struggles to figure out what to eat. The bad? You still need to solve the problem. Have no fear — you can nip the eight dinner time conundrums below in the bud with these tips.
1. Conundrum: There’s Nothing to Cook
You desperately need to get to the grocery store, but between playing homeschool teachers and covering your work duties, you ran out of time. Now everyone is hungry, and there’s nothing to eat. Is it time to call and order a pizza and pay an expensive delivery fee?
Solution: Play “Chopped” in Your Kitchen
Before you pick up the horn or click that delivery app, take stock with a creative eye. You can do a lot with scraps, even if you typically toss them in the waste bin. You can make a mean and healthy summer slaw with some watermelon rind, red pepper, and carrots. You can also dice up that wilting bunny food with some zucchini and parsnips and bake healthy muffins.
2. Conundrum: My Kids Act Up at Restaurants
Few things top a delicious meal like not having to clean up afterward. However, if your little angels transform into demons in public, you might hesitate to go out to eat.
Solution: Choose Family-Friendly Fare
Fortunately, the restaurant industry recognizes that busy moms and dads deserve breaks, too. They know that 70% of parents prefer eateries with high chairs, and some go out of their way to create a welcoming atmosphere for the little ones. They might include electronic games embedded in tables or add secure play areas that keep your angels occupied while you dig into your pasta primavera.
3. Conundrum: My Kids Won’t Eat Veggies
Do your kids act like George H.W. Bush when it comes to broccoli and other veggies? Getting your kids to eat the green stuff can prove challenging, even if you introduce it from an early age. You know they need the nutrients that vegetables contain for their health, but you don’t want to recreate your childhood trauma by plunking them down for hours in front of a dish of progressively colder peas.
Solution: Hide Them in Treats
Do you call for detente in this seemingly impossible battle? No, but you do don your Mata Hari hat and sneak veggies your kids can’t spy into meals. Your littles won’t notice the summer squash in this chocolate cake recipe that cleverly disguises its health benefits.
4. Conundrum: Everyone Is on a Diet
You suggest chicken parmesan, but your 15-year-old is cutting carbs to make weight for wrestling. Your grandmother’s recipe book offers a ton of deliciousness, but folks in her day didn’t live a modern sedentary lifestyle replete with calorie counting. You want to support everyone’s weight-loss goals, but you can’t imagine life without a few of your favorite dishes.
Solution: Low-Cal and Healthy Substitutions
Why not swap your breadcrumbs for almond flour and use zoodles instead of traditional pasta? You can find low-calorie substitutions for nearly any fattening ingredient. Try applesauce or mashed bananas for butter in baking, and swap out cane sugar for stevia or monk fruit powder.
5. Conundrum: Everyone Has Dietary Restrictions
Your husband has celiac disease, his mother is a vegan and your brother-in-law preaches the Bible according to keto. Happy Thanksgiving — you’ve been elected head chef for the occasion. What to serve while respecting everyone’s restrictions?
Solution: Prepare Dishes That Suit Several
Congratulations, Chef Inclusivity — you decided to go with slow-cooker jackfruit with mashed cauliflower and gluten-free gravy. You went one further by preparing homemade, and thus, sugar-free, cranberry sauce. If Food Network gave out an award for ingenious kitchen wizardry, you’d win first prize.
6. Conundrum: It’s Too Hot to Cook
It’s 90-degrees, as humid as a jungle, and running the oven seems tantamount to volunteering as one of Torquemada’s test subjects. Even standing over the grill means dodging sweat droplets bent on temporarily blinding you.
Solution: Make a No-Bake, No-Cook Meal
You can make dozens of salads, wraps, and Buddha bowls without heating your house or even lighting a single burner. Best of all, you can customize these dishes to each family member’s taste. Spread out ingredients buffet-style, and let everyone create a personalized meal.
7. Conundrum: No Time to Cook
Between a late night at the office and soccer practice, you’re short on time but long on hunger. So is your family, and your littlest natives are growing restless.
Solution: Make a 10-Minute Meal
Have no fear — you can whip up dozens of dishes in 10 minutes or less. Try beef tostadas or pierogi quesadillas for an original and delicious meal with little prep time necessary.
8. Conundrum: I Don’t Know What to Make
The only thing worse than having little food in the house is having a ton of ingredients — none of which sound particularly appealing. You’re tired of the same, old same-old, but Martha Stewart, you are not. What can you serve that you haven’t made in the past month?
Solution: Hop Online
The internet may make for an excellent time-waster at work, but it is a foodie’s dream. You now have access to the world’s most expansive cookbook spread across various websites. It doesn’t matter if you have a taste for Thai or a hankering for Hungarian goulash. You can find ample recipes to fill any craving.
Solve These Dinner Time Conundrums and Feed Your Family Well
You don’t have to resort to fast food or convenience meals when mealtime throws you a curveball. Hit dinner time out of the park with these eight ideas.