Putting an End to the Meal-Time Crunch
For years, mothers have described the time between 4 and 7 p.m. as the most challenging part of the day. What's the reason? That's when kids start getting antsy, waiting for dinner to arrive. Their nerves are tense because they are hungry, resulting in increased fussiness. It adds to the mother's workload because she must figure out how to entertain the brood while cooking dinner.
Even if you don't have children, mealtime can be a source of stress. While waiting for dinner, your companion may become irritable, and you may become grumpy as well. Hunger can be a powerful motivator, but it can also be a source of significant stress. You may find it difficult to concentrate at times if your stomach is growling.
Cooking can be a relaxing experience for some, but it can also be stressful. There's a lot of pressure involved in getting the recipe right every time. If dinner goes wrong, your entire evening could be ruined. It can be challenging to recover when you fail to prepare your evening meal.
Although there will always be some stress associated with cooking dinner, it does not have to be stressful. You can use techniques to manage your stress better and make dinnertime a fun event for the whole family. Using these techniques, your mealtime preparations will likely go much more smoothly.
First, you must ensure that you have a relaxing environment to work in. This could be as simple as turning on the radio or inserting your favorite CD. Having music playing in the background, incredibly soothing music, can help you focus on your work in the kitchen. If you have small children, consider providing them with a healthy snack.
You can also entertain them with a special video or game. Another strategy is to encourage them to participate in the preparations. They could stir the soup or set the table. Getting them involved in the action can help relieve their boredom while also providing you with an extra set of hands!
It would be best to consider preparing a few large meals on the weekend when you have more time and freezing them for use during the week. A good stew or casserole can last you most of the week, reducing your mealtime stress significantly.
Some families have banded together to combat mealtime stress. They've formed cooking clubs to share the burden of meal preparation. For example, one family may be in charge of meals for a group of families during a given week. The following week, it will be the turn of another family. This type of system may not work if you are not used to preparing food for many people. However, if you enjoy the idea of sharing meal preparation and the camaraderie that can result, a cooking club may be the perfect fit for you.
You may need to lower your expectations to reduce mealtime stress in some cases.
For example, you might have to forego making the nightly meal from scratch and instead rely on prepared mixes from the grocery store. These convenience foods can save you a lot of time and stress. You can even improve convenience foods by incorporating your ingredients.
Also, don't feel bad about ordering takeout or having a pizza delivered now and then. You can significantly reduce your stress level by delegating the cooking to someone else. While you may not be able to afford to make takeout a habit, doing so on occasion will most likely not break the bank—and will help you maintain your sanity at mealtime.
Mealtime stress may be unavoidable at times. However, you can alleviate the stress associated with dinnertime with a bit of forethought. If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress, talk to a family member. They may be able to recommend other coping strategies to you. A cup of your favorite beverage, such as tea or cocoa, right before mealtime can also help to relax you, allowing you to manage stress better. Make yourself at ease so that you can genuinely enjoy the dinner that follows.
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