Life Hacks for Parents: Solving the "What's for dinner?" Dilemma

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For years, I'd say the worst question anyone could ask me is "What's for dinner?" 

I know I'm not alone in this.  Whether you love to cook or not, it's deciding what to make that is the most exhausting. And it's only made worse when it's followed by groans of "Ew, not that again...." 

Now, there are a variety of ways to solve this problem in our modern world. Of course, we can simply go out to eat. But that gets expensive. And sometimes it gets old. 

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Some like those meal delivery services that send you all the ingredients already prepped. I'm not going to lie--that would be amazing. But, it's also not within everyone's budgets to do that. Or some find the recipe options limiting or the produce not as fresh. (If you've found one you love, I'm dying to know, by the way!)

And some like to batch out a bunch of meals in advance to store in their freezers. This is a great affordable option (in fact, we did this when I was pregnant with my first-born.), but not everyone has a weekend they can set aside for this every month, or the kitchen counter space for all that prepping action--or the freezer space, for that matter.

But, I think I've finally found the hack that works for me. It's a nice middle ground option that takes the hardest part--the decision-making--out of the equation, without sacrificing the freedom of having a huge variety of options.


Check out the video and transcript below for the full scoop.

Video originally aired as a Facebook Live on the Happy With Baby Facebook Page.



What are you guys making for dinner?


Hi, I'm Catherine O'Brien at and I have to say that is my absolute most dreaded question of the day from my kids because usually it comes with "I don't like that" and "That doesn't taste good" or "I don't want that tonight" or "Can't we go out to eat?" and it's just always been like, a dreaded thing.


Like--some little fun facts about me: I don't like to cook. I'm not a very good cook. And I'm not one of those people that can have whatever in my refrigerator and just kind of like put something together that tastes amazing. I have some friends that can do that. I have a cousin who's an amazing chef. And yeah, I like just wish that was a talent I have.


And I just--when my husband and I first met that first year we dated and we went out like probably like three to four times a week I'm guessing. I think we ate in like twice. I think I made him two meals and then I think he made me one meal, so I was like that's like not a really good record.


So yeah, so cooking was definitely not a thing and one of the things I'll talk to parents about is like, you know, how to make your life easier, how to do things, you know--take things off your plate. And especially if you have a new baby, like cooking is usually one of those hard things to do and it's a good to find a way to delegate them.


And I know that we had done this program where you would go in and like prep like, you know, 12 to 15 meals and then put them all into like like Ziploc bags and you can freeze them and then pull them out and it'll have the directions and that was like amazing, since at the time I was like--I mean I can follow a recipe for the most part without totally screwing that up, but this like totally made it easier because everything was like right there ready to go.


Now that was--granted, that was like eight or nine years ago. My son just turned nine.


And they've come up with so many great things because now you can like order food, you know, and have it delivered directly to you, which I highly recommend any of those, especially if you have young kids and a young baby and it's just like, you know, making food is a challenge.


You also have those programs were they'll like deliver you know the food and then you just prep it and that sounds great and amazing as well, but I--someone had recommended this program where they send you the recipes and then you can pick which recipes and then go grocery shopping and do all that.


So, it's actually called eMeals and I'm not affiliated at all. So that's E M E A L S dot com and the awesome thing about it is they have like I think I just counted a couple days ago and it was like 21 different plans so they have like vegetarian and vegan and slow cook meals and like right now I'm not doing like the clean eating or--what's another? Gosh, there's just so many. Like they even have like all recipe meals, so like they'll send you every week--so it comes out on Wednesday, so I just got one. I haven't even looked at it yet. And it's like seven meals for the week and then you pick the ones that you want, so like you can have it on an app or you can have it on your phone which is super convenient.


So, you like pick--say there's seven meals, but you know like, oh I'm not gonna make seven meals, you know, every day. You pick like--like I picked four this week. So I pick the four meals and then it gives you a shopping list of the things that you need from that. And so then you can go through and check off the things you already have or you don't need or maybe you don't like, like maybe it asks for jalapenos and you're like "I don't like spicy stuff", so you don't want that.


So you check off the things that you already have or you don't want or don't need, and then you can go to the grocery store with that shopping list, which is great because it even like divides it up in like sections, like refrigerated and produce and stuff like that. Which is awesome because what usually good shopping lists are all like you know mixed in, and then I'm like, "oh crap, I forgot the eggs over there" and you're going back and forth a million times. So, that makes it super convenient.


And then the other cool thing, which I have yet to do and I keep telling myself I really want to do it, is if you like have Instacart, you can even like send it and it will send your recipe or your shopping list directly to Instacart and then it will like, you can have it delivered to you, to your house, which is super cool and super convenient and I really, really want to try that except that I might not ever go back to the grocery store. And I also like to shop at Trader Joe's and that's not an option. So that's probably one of the main reasons I haven't done it yet, but anyway so super convenient, super easy.


And I have to say that like probably most of the time at least three out of four of us like the recipes. And that's usually like my five-year-old who is definitely a more picky eater, but she'll like eat bits and pieces of things of it and you know I don't end up having to make her anything else. I usually can, you know, get something away or she'll, once I eventually get her to try it, she'll--she usually likes it too, so that's been like super helpful and amazing. And this is nice not to have to like think about it.


Like tonight, I work a little bit later. I have a couple other clients I have to see today. And I just know that when I go home and I make dinner, like I know what I'm gonna make. I know it's like pretty much ready to go because I was able to prep some stuff and it'll just be like so easy. And the other cool thing is like say you do pick a certain like recipe plan, you can change it at any time. So like, if I get something and I'm like, "Oh, none of these really sound good", I can look at any of the other recipe or any of the other menus at any time too, which is super cool and there's been times where I've taken like one or two things from different menu plans, and so that makes it really nice.


And they have like, you know, they usually always take me less than thirty minutes, which is convenient too and even my husband who's not a cook either--like that's probably bad planning that neither one of us like to cook--is like he can even like put them together because it'll like walk you step-by-step on the recipes on how to do them and stuff like that. So that's been like super great so and it's you know it's pretty affordable.


The cool thing too is that the first 14 days is free, so you can try out like two weeks worth of menus and look at them and try out the features and everything and decide if it's something that might work for you. And then, after that, if you sign up for like a year, it's like five dollars a month I think. I'm pretty sure. And then if you want to just do it for three months, it's ten dollars.


And then they also have many plans for like breakfast and lunch, like I think that comes together. And then they also special occasions, which I did one time and like they'll do like for the holidays, but then they'll also do like one time it was like a chili cook-off and they gave like three or four different chili recipes. And so like I had a family dinner or whatever and I made a few different chili recipes which I'd never done and that was like really kind of fun to do. So, you know, lots of fun, creative things. And it's super easy. It's convenient. And I just highly recommend it.


Like even just try it for those two weeks and see how it works and if it's something that you could use and make life a little bit easier when it comes to like--I mean I think it saves a lot of time with like food planning, you know. It's like you don't have to go through the recipe books or whatever. They're all just like right there. It can save you a lot of time, probably a lot of money, like you're not buying extra food that then you don't eat because, if you're like me, you don't know how to mix different things together and at least make them taste great, so anyway so hope that's a good helpful hint.


It's definitely one of my favorite things and I've actually been doing it for at least I think about six months now which is huge. So that's how I know it's like working for me because usually I'm all, "Oh yeah, I can do this" and I'll do it for you know a few weeks or whatever and then I stop doing it. But I'm actually still using it and it's been great and I hope that it's super helpful and convenient too.


And if you have something that you love that makes your life easier in the kitchen, I would love to hear about it because I'm always looking for new things to share with my family. So thank you guys and hope you all have a great day. Bye.



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