A big part of what I try to do on this website is to provide weekly family friendly meal plans. I do this because I know that for me at least, the week goes a lot more smoothly, especially the evenings, if I know what I am cooking and have all of the ingredients I need on hand. The thing with planning meals though is that if something doesn’t go according to plan or if you realize you missed a key ingredient for a particular meal in your last grocery shop. You can usually be a bit creative and modify that nights meal to suit what you do have on hand.
This past week’s experience at our house offers really reinforced with me, just how important it is to me to be as organized as I possibly can be throughout the busy work week.
To set the seen, my husband is running a camp for his work this week, which means he isn’t able to get home from work until just on dinner time and he has to work some nights and weekends. Which means my usual strategy of having him engage with our daughter so I can cook dinner isn’t an option. Enter my near 2 year old, who often falls victim to this ‘witching’ hour that I had heard about before I became a parent but never quite understood. Come 5/5.30pm most afternoons, as soon as I try to get a start on dinner she doesn’t want to be anywhere but in her mammas arms. Which obviously, makes it difficult to cook dinner with a near 2 year old clinging to you!
Witching hour is that time during the late afternoon/early evening when babies, toddlers and children become irritable, which often coincides with when parents are preparing dinner.
The Meal Plan
For example, let me introduce you to how this week was supposed to go according to the meal plan…
Sunday: Baked fish fillet sandwiches
Monday: Zucchini chickpea fritters & side salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and red onion.
Tuesday: Slow roasted pork carnitas – with avocado, cheese and tortillas, maybe also some red cabbage and lime! Warning slow cooker needed!
Wednesday: Incredible italian meatballs
And now here is what actually happened this week!
Sunday: We got home later than usual and there was no time for baking the fish so I quickly fried the fish and threw the sandwiches together. Not the original meal on the menu plan but it worked and is ready in less than 15 minutes!
Monday: Little R was very clingy so it was extremely tough to get anything done for dinner. I was able to make the fritters but had to cook them in 2 batches between her clinginess and had to forgo the onion chutney.
Tuesday: Realized I didn’t have some of the ingredients for the pork carnitas that morning and knew I couldn’t get to the shops so quickly threw something together for a curry before work and put it in the crockpot to cook for the day.
Wednesday: Little R has her cranky pants on again, no time for meatballs. Quickly fry onion, garlic, mince and add sauce. Cook pasta. Get some vegetables out to add to mince. No time to cut them Little R is very upset. Just mince & pasta it is then. Dad gets home and finishes up the cooking while Little R rests happily on my lap until dinner time.
This is on the extreme end of witching hour chaos but also isn’t uncommon in my household (I am sure it happens in many households!). Even though I didn’t stick to my meal plan, without a plan I wouldn’t have the ingredients and ideas to come up with an easy substitute like I did. Like a lot of busy mom’s, working outside or inside the home sometimes it’s hard to be able to get out mid week to pick up ingredients. So often if I don’t have an ingredient, I have to do without it.
Sometimes witching hour especially when there is no one around to help just plain sucks, BUT there are some things we can do to try help out our little ones during witching hour and to help ease the load on ourselves during that time. Here are 10 tips that help me and can hopefully help you!
Tips to help your toddler during witching hour
Enlist help. The biggest help I have found in our household is if your partner or someone else is around to engage with and entertain your toddler and/or share the cooking duties. If this isn’t possible, try any one of the following.
Get creative. If your toddler likes to draw or paint, try setting them up somewhere in your line of site with their art supplies (perhaps washable crayon’s, markers or paint). This one is my go to strategy!
Enlist your kitchen helper. Assign your toddler a small task to help (or pretend to help) with the preparation. Something as simple as asking them to put the vegetables in a bowl for your or stirring something they can’t make too much mess with.
Offer a snack. One of the best purchases I have made this year is something called a kitchen helper. It was just a kijiji find but I know a lot of people like to DIY them as well. I use it all of the time to let my toddler help with food prep or if I offer her a little healthy snack like some cheese while I try and prep dinner. A healthy little snack can be a great distraction to get dinner on the go!
Kitchen dance party. I don’t know about you but my toddler LOVES to dance to her favourite songs. She doesn’t really watch TV yet so I like to put on her favourite nursery rhymes and have a little dance party.
Tips to help parents during witching hour
Freezer meals. I love having a backup of meals ready to go in the freezer! The options are endless, from oven ready meals, to bag and dump crockpot meals and defrost and microwave meals.
Crockpot meals. I only have a tiny little crockpot but I still love it. Being able to throw something together in the crockpot before you leave for work for the day or kick off your busy day with the kids is a life saver!
Meal planning. Meal planning can help with reducing time thinking about what to cook each night and making sure you have fresh ingredients on hand. The bonus is that it can also help save money at the grocery and keep you eating healthy throughout the week.
Food prep. I admit this is one area I need to do better in, but being able to take an hour or two on the weekend and prep your meals for the week ahead can help the week go much smoother!
Double up on batches. If your happy to eat the same meal twice in one week, why not make double the batch so you can simply reheat for another night. OR if you are making something that is freezer friendly, you can kill two birds with one stone.
And finally, if it’s getting you down, just know that this won’t last forever!
If you have stumbled on this post, it’s probably likely your experiencing some issues with your little one or ones at dinner time. If so, I really hope that this post has helped you somewhat, if only at the very least has let you know that you are not alone in this!
I’d love to hear from you all, is anyone else experiencing witching hour at their house? What do you find works for you and your family?
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