We had a funny incident last week when I put peas in the kids’ dinner of egg fried rice. They both love egg fried rice, and B likes peas, but D does not like peas, and he was very displeased that they were in his meal. The next day I said we were having pasta for dinner, and he told me, very firmly, “no, no, atchuyee, we are having egg fried rice but dis time you have to make it right and not put peas in it betause yast time you made it wong Mummy and I was very sad and so tonight da best plan is for us to try again but dis time do it da way I yike it.” It amuses me so much when he’s politely bossy.
Getting the kids fed after creche is a bit stressful. They’re so hungry and so emotionally depleted. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to manage it, from a little plate of pre-dinner snacks to keep them going, to cooking their favourites a lot, to back-up dinners if something more adventurous is presented and rejected (back up of toast and peanut butter, usually). B tanks up on breastmilk in the evenings so dinner for him is less of a concern, he sort of nibbles at finger food and makes a mess of feeding himself, and refuses my offerings of feeding him with a spoon but enjoys chewing on the spoon.
It’s been a lot of trial and error since going back to work figuring out dinners when I don’t know how much they’ve eaten during the day. It was ok when I was working before with just D because I finished work earlier. Now, there’s zero time between getting home and needing to put food on the table.
Reflecting on the “Over-achiever Trap” post, I realised that feeding the kids interesting dinners is a parental performance indicator to jettison. Deliberately jettison, not jettison haphazardly on my way home when I decide they can have porridge because it’s Thursday and Thursdays are almost the end of the week and it’s honouring their Irish heritage to have porridge lots. Anyway – what they really need, especially on weeknights, is a comforting meal as quickly as possible. And, given that they get lunch cooked at creche, I’ve outsourced some of the exposure to variety and expectations of eating as part of a group anyway.
(Also: all of human history “Yay! My child likes eating the staple foods of our community”. Now “Hmmph, my child doesn’t want to try new foods all the time”. We’re making a problem out of nothing!)
Here’s our new meal plan:
Saturday – pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs (I don’t eat the meatballs, but other than that we eat together. I make and freeze this sauce and my husband makes meatballs by cutting the casing off fancy sausages and turning them into balls)
Sunday – wildcard but we eat together (takeaways, attempt at new foods or less favoured foods with back-up of scrambled eggs and toast)
Pre-dinner snack plates of fruit for B, and fruit and nuts for D. It seems weird giving them fruit before dinner but it’s instant and it immediately takes the edge off the post-creche energy dip and I don’t really see why the fruit should have to come after the meal anyway.
Monday – Egg fried rice for both kids with a Token Vegetable. We’ll eat after they’re in bed, and have rice with food from the freezer – my additional hack is that the rice for the kids is pre-cooked and frozen, then quickly defrosted with boiling water. This meal is almost instant. I put our rice in the rice cooker at the same time as making the kids’ dinner, and freeze any leftovers to replenish the instant rice.
Tuesday – Tofu and noodles with a Token Vegetable and soya sauce. This can also be nearly instant. The tofu I slice in the morning, and leave in the fridge between two paper towels, then in the evening dust with cornflour and fry, then sprinkle with soya sauce before serving. They’re kind of like tofu nuggets. D calls them tofu snacks and he loves them. We can then have a stir fry ourselves once they’re in bed, also quick.
Wednesday – this is my day home with the kids so dinner can be slightly less rushed and I don’t quite so much need to plan it in advance. Another wildcard. Also scope for something baked in the oven for desert, especially on days I try something new-ish they might not be keen on.
Thursday – Pasta with something other than tomato sauce – D likes pasta with walnuts and olive oil. We will also offer a Token Vegetable. We can stir pesto or similar through our pasta for something quick to eat after they’re in bed.
Friday – Challah and shakshuka. Mainly challah for D. He’ll just fill up on challah and eat nothing else almost every time it’s an option. And of course grape juice. Friday we try and eat together, or at least, we intend to!
[Weekend and Wednesday lunches – bread rolls with assorted toppings. Weekend and Wednesday snacks – smoothies, home baking, popcorn, nuts, crackers, fruit]
A few wild card options to inspire me for the next few weeks:
- A double up or minor variation (rice with tofu! noodles with egg!).
- A less favoured but still accepted meal:
- Baked beans – perhaps turned into the plainest nachos ever
- Rice with tinned tuna
- Rice with dahl
- A favourite that takes a bit longer
- Fish fingers with oven chips
- Something that we haven’t tried for a while but he liked when we did
- Cauliflower florets coated in egg and fried
- White bean fritters
- Potato salad
- Meat other than sausages or fish fingers (when my husband cooks). It’s going to be strange as the kids get older being the only vegetarian in the household, and I haven’t thought about it much, other than feeling anxious about the whole “dead animals” conversation whenever that happens and wondering whether the kids will decide not to eat them. But D knows about fish and doesn’t care at all. Ha! Maybe he will be similarly unmoved at death of more personable animals.
- New things put together with familiar things so that at least he can eat the familiar things. (Or, unfavoured things put together with favoured things).
- Eating out / takeaways
- E.g. a trip to Burger Fuel on the way home via the supermarket (“Hi, can we please have a tofu burger but just the tofu and the guacamole and the bun? Yeah, like, no salad or satay sauce or relish, just literally bun and tofu and guacamole and nothing else. Thanks. And kumara chips. And a soy malt thickshake. No, he doesn’t want the kids meal he wants his random bizarre stripped back tofu burger. With a soy thickshake. I’m only moderately a hippy, but he’s lactose intolerant. Please stop looking at me like I’m completely off my rocker coming to a burger place and getting a tofu burger then taking out all the bits that make it have flavour. I know it’s weird. He’s three.”).