A good friend of mine recently gave birth to her first little munchkin. One day when we were chatting, she asked, “How are you able to make dinner and Shabbos with a baby?”. She then continued to vent about how whenever her hands are deep in chopped meat, her baby starts to wail or has a dirty diaper or just needs her.
Personally, I love giving advice, especially when I’m experienced in the area. Once I started talking on this topic, I could not stop. I never realized how passionate I am in the area cooking and baking with babies!
Now, let’s do a quick recap. I have two little ones that are 20 months apart. My daughter is 2 and my son is 8 months. This qualifies me as somewhat competent to give advice in this area!
I’m going to write my precious words of advice in list form:
#1- Aim to do your cooking when your kids are out
I try to plan out my cooking and baking times very strategically. I will never cook or bake anything that requires more than one or two steps while my daughter is home from gan (playgroup). For example, I will make macaroni, heat up french fries, or fry an egg, but I will not bake a cake, make breaded chicken cutlets, or put together lasagna. I really should apply the same rule to my son, but since we spend the whole day together, it’s a bit tougher. I do try and do the bulk of my cooking during his unpredictable nap times though.
It seems rough and restricting, but honestly, if I would try to do stuff in the kitchen with her around I would just end up getting frustrated with her and making a mess!
#2- Always be prepared
I am not a super organized person, at all, but what I could say is that I have learned the value of being organized and prepared!
In the beginning of my marriage, I used to save all my cooking for Friday. Everything! Then when I started to work, I started my cooking on Wednesdays. I still start my cooking on Wednesdays. Some people may think it’s funny, but to me, it’s reassuring that I am a quarter of the way there. By Thursday night, I try to be at least 80% ready for Shabbos. Friday is always a crazy day. There are always things to do, besides for cooking….like cleaning, just for example!
Also, I remember attending kallah classes (one-on-one classes for brides) and my teacher, Mrs. Rappaport, told me to write a menu on Sunday for the rest of the week. This way you will make sure to have all the ingredients you need in your house, and it will be easier for you to have a proper supper on the table. I can’t say that I do this every week, but the weeks when I do it, I am thankful to myself!
#3- Be friends with your freezer
I think it took me a couple of years to appreciate the art of freezing. I keep my freezer well stocked with frozen stir-fry vegetables, frozen green beans, frozen broccoli, and french fries. These products are my secret time-saving weapons…plus, they help me cook healthy! I also like to keep frozen chicken, frozen pizza, frozen falafel balls…. in my freezer; it’s reassuring to know that I have hidden dinner options.
Additionally, my freezer is the whole reason why I am able to bake 5 pounds of challah at a time and start prepping for Shabbos on Wednesday. I neatly tuck all my hard work away and take it out when it’s needed.
My sister in-law told me that her sister would stash away her baked goods in the freezer in aluminum pans and label it “FISH”, to ensure their safety from sweet-hunters.
#4- Be nice to yourself
Yes, as a mother and wife, it is our responsibility to provide our family with healthy, wholesome dinners, with a protein, a carb, a vegetable, and perhaps, even a dessert. But there will be days that were chaotic; there will be days that you are physically not capable; and there will be days that you are simply not in the mood. On those days, dear mothers, please do not drive yourselves crazy about dinner. Your family loves you and wants you to have a break! Who says they can’t have cereal for supper? Who says fish sticks or chicken nuggets are not nutritious?! No one wants to eat a supper that was made with resentment, so block out all the voices of guilt and enjoy the night off!