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The Death Of The Home Cooked Meal?

family eating at dinner table

The other day, Casey and Cole looked at me, the way they do everyday around 5 o’clock and asked me the question that is akin to nails on a chalkboard for me. “What’s for dinner?”

You’d think I’d be used to it by now; after all they are 12 and 14; I’ve had YEARS to come up with an answer or a meal plan.  But once again I was caught short… uh-oh!

Thankfully no sooner had the kids asked that dreaded question, there was a knock at the door. When I opened it, there were two huge boxes on the doorstep. I struggled bringing them inside, all the while mulling over in my mind whether there was lunchmeat in the refrigerator and how many days past the “sell-by” date we might still be able to ingest it without resulting in a trip to the ER.

So you know in the movies when someone opens a box and the light from within shines so brightly because whatever’s inside is so wonderful? Yeah, well that happened in my kitchen when I opened the boxes. That’s because there were no fewer than two-dozen frozen, Healthy Choice Entrees inside, courtesy of the folks at ConAgra (who showed impeccable timing!)

Turns out when I was speaking at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration a few weeks back I happened to mention that I ate a Lean Cuisine entrée in my closet everyday for lunch. ConAgra’s PR folks follow twitter (and you should too!) heard my comments and offered to send me a few of the new dishes from their Healthy Choice line. I highly recommend the Café Steamers’ Chicken Margherita and my other favorite the Chicken Romano Fresco. Mmm!) Before I go any further let me state for the record, I never endorse a product that I don’t personally use and seeing as I am lacking a certain culinary gene, I have been eating Healthy Choice entrees or years.

But as Casey, Cole and I dug into our manna from heaven, there was a little pang of guilt. My children have never come home from school to a house that smelled like pot roast or pie in the oven. More often than not, 5:30 comes and goes before we decide to throw something together piece-meal like and it tends to be heavy on the starch and light on the  handful of vegetables I have introduced them to.

So in an effort to change that, I dug out the crockpot, which had to be one of the first ones off the assembly line, and vowed to use it. I even started following Crock Pots Rock on twitter for some hints. I made one meal, it was good and embarrassingly easy, then I put the crock-pot away and haven’t pulled it out since.

It’s not that I CAN’T do it, it’s just that I don’t WANT to cook. Unlike Buff, who is the chef in our house (thank God the kids are getting home-cooked food on the weekend and leftovers during the week) I derive no pleasure from cooking. None. Zero. Sip. Zilch. Oh I do a little bit but it’s safe to say my skills are on par with a ten-year-old, meaning pasta with canned sauce is about the extent of it. Should I try more? Yeah, probably, for the sake of the kids. But not only do I not enjoy cooking I also struggle to find the time for it. In many ways I think the idea of cooking from scratch has become a luxury in this fast paced and frantic day and age…

But what about you? What does dinner look like in your house? Do you cook? Are they simple dishes or more rudimentary in nature? Do you have some fan favorite (and EASY) recipes I should try? And do you think cooking has become a luxury? I’d love to hear your thoughts…



  1. Irene

    April 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Oh, Lordie bee…the other day I was watching one of my favorite movies, Cher’s Mermaid’s….I still laugh over and over again with those creative meals she made on a stick…

    I set out this year to make some changes….I was like any other 18 year old (years ago) a stick version of the now junk-in-my-trunk me…so I thought I would read and start a new year a little healthier…It isn’t that I don’t like to cook…it is that nuking something is easier…I am in the middle of Dr Oz’s book and I am floored by the poisonous, for lack of a better word, inside processed food….

    To answer your question…I use a few tricks to make cooking more efficient.

    #1 when I go to Sam’s I buy my ground turkey. I bring it home, cook it up, cool down a little and divide in freezer bags….freeze then when I want to make spaghetti…viola Turkey is ready, boil noodles nuke sauce and meal is ready.

    #2 Stay away from the High fructose corn syrup…if it is on a package just pass it up…

    #3 Pick things you like for example I buy chicken breasts, grill them, season them, cut them up freeze them…then you have chicken for a salad anytime. You can use this same chicken for burritos, tacos, fettucine, etc…and at least you know it has not been chemically altered…

    I noticed by having a #gameplan you can make a meal, even after a g.e.m.l.i.k.e. day and you can execute it in the same amount of time it used to take me to fidget all over the kitchen…and yes G.e.m. crockpots can make it all easier…dump it in, turn it on…

  2. m.e. johnson

    April 5, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Irene, excellent info. I’m retired now and do that for myself ` Like make a big pot of spaghetti and freeze portions. When kids were little I liked to cook, made extra money baking pies/cakes for the n’bors.

    Rene, I have 1 granddaught who loves to cook, her sister could care less. You are who you are, who don’t like it can lump it. Bless Buff 🙂

  3. The Happy Housewife

    April 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    As someone who started out unable to make a box of tuna helper let me give you a little advice. 🙂

    First embrace the hate! 🙂 If you don’t like to cook that’s fine. Obviously your kids are surviving on whatever you have been putting on the table over the past 14 years.

    Set the bar low. There is nothing wrong with boxed pasta and a jar of sauce. They even make those vegetable steamer packs that you can throw in the microwave. If you can afford to pay a little more for the healthy convenience stuff, do it.

    Finally, get your kids in the kitchen. At 12 and 14 they can easily make a meal one night a week. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but they should learn some basic cooking skills. What you don’t want are two kids who leave home and are forced to rely on take out and fast food to survive. You can’t do that on a college budget and they will quickly find themselves in financial trouble and probably with an expanding waist line.

    Making a home cooked meal does not make you a good mother! But you know that. 🙂 There are probably many moms who make home cooked meals for their kids but don’t help them with their homework, or pay any attention to them when they are home.

    That’s my two cents, and if your kids are ever dying for a home cooked meal you can send them down here to Florida…. but if they eat in my house they’ll have to do the dishes. I love to cook, but I hate to clean. 🙂


  4. Seth

    April 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Both my fiancee and I work and by time we get home its never early (meaning 530p) and more like anywhere from 7-8p. With getting home around that time, it’s SO much easier to just order in, but growing up in a household where my mom cooked every night, I just can’t do it although it’s easier, but I like to cook at times and know it’s healthier (if you do it right). My fiancee on the other hand grew up with ordered in food every night, so I am trying to teach her slowly how to cook and follow directions.

    I think there’s a joy in cooking together. Splitting up dinner, one does an entree, one a side. Finding quick recipes that can be done within a half hour also helps as well as the most important to me! Figure it out the night before…that way you can take out meat to defrost or know if someone needs to pick up any ingredients on the way home.

    Some favorites of ours:
    Either using the Arnold’s Flat Bread’s or Wheat (Fiber) English Muffins as a bun
    Grilled Chicken w/fresh Mozzerella & Red Peppers (Sweet or Roasted)
    Turkey Burgers w/Avacado & Tomato
    We usually can make with a baked potato or the Steamfresh vegetables, or rice with a can of mixed vegetables.

    Just watch the sodium!!

  5. Justice Fergie

    April 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Figuring out “what’s for dinner” is the story of my life. As anyone who knows me well knows, I walk in the door at 6:15pm and my children are STARVING and waiting for dinner. Luckily, I LOVE cooking (I just wish I had more time!). Here is a recent recipe that I made and was a family hit:

  6. JulieD

    April 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I don’t even have kids and it’s hard to get food on the table sometimes because there’s so much going on. I try to make 4-5 meals a week at home and we love using the slow cooker. This meal is a huge hit & I have made it soo many times!

  7. Tania

    April 5, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I have no kids and live alone. I wouldn’t say I love cooking but it is what it is. I gotta eat and eating out everyday is out of my budget. My favorite ingredient in cooking is aluminum foil. It’s healthy and easy.
    Fish: talipia, salmon. First rub it in olive oil. Season it. Salt and pepper is fine. Wrap it up sealing the edges. Throw it in the oven or toaster oven on 350° for about 15 minutes. Grab the frozen corn, brown rice and broccoli out the freezer and microwave.
    There you go. Fish, veggies and a starch. You can also sub the fish for chicken but keep it in about 30 minutes. And if you forget about it, it’s okay. I’ve left the chicken in for over an hour and it didn’t burn.

  8. Ellen G

    April 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I make myself a nervous wreck preparing a weeknights worth of meals on Sunday. Seriously. I need to learn about take out or frozen dinners or something. Lately, it’s been from The Pioneer Woman because I am embracing butter. But I love eating a home cooked meal. Truly my family is spoiled, in a good way.

  9. Dawn Brady

    April 5, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I work from home, I don’t really like to cook and that is the first thing my husband asks when he walks in the door. Luckily he is a good cook and is willing to do it. I need recipes that don’t involve alot of color or spices…my family doesn’t appreciate new and exciting…just straight meat and potatoes!! I have yet to find a crockpot recipe that they really like…it always seems like the flavors get so intensified in the crockpot and they turn their noses up at my creations…if you get any good recipes, please share!!!

  10. Rene Syler

    April 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    OMG thank you! I’m so gonna try!! I’ll tweet you on how it turns out 🙂

  11. Irene

    April 5, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    “Fish: talipia, salmon. First rub it in olive oil. Season it. Salt and pepper is fine. Wrap it up sealing the edges. Throw it in the oven or toaster oven on 350° for about 15 minutes. Grab the frozen corn, brown rice and broccoli out the freezer and microwave.
    There you go. Fish, veggies and a starch.”tania now that is a g.e.m. recipe after my own heart…love the ideas….

  12. Cindy

    April 5, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I don’t like to cook but I love to bake. Unfortunately we can’t eat cakes, cookies and sweetbreads 3 meals a day. I have developed some easy meal plans that any of us can cook. My sons are 15 and 18 and have been cooking for years. They each have an assigned night of the week to plan dinner and cook it. Hubby cooks 2 days a week and that leaves me with only 3!

    We do a lot of marinated meats. Teriyaki or Sesame Ginger on chicken or pork, pork in Italian dressing are all yummy and cook for the same time on the same temp so they are easy to learn. We do frozen lasagna, steak on the grill, tacos and other easy meals.

    My sides are always boxed, canned or frozen…I cooked real baked potatoes last night and my 18yo said, “What’s up with that?” LOL.

    We both work, and I homeschool our 15yo I don’t have the time or energy to cook from scratch.

  13. Vicki

    April 5, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I have 6 kids (a collection of his, mine and theirs) and on most nights we sit down to dinner together. Friday nights are pizza night so I dont know if that counts as home cooked since it gets delivered. The rest of the week I usually cook something, baked chicken, tilapia, and spaghetti/meatballs are staples in this house. They are relatively inexpensive and everyone from the 5 year old to the 16 year old with eat it. There is usually a veggie of some sort, even if its cold carrots dipped in ranch. I’m a huge fan of the crock pot… toss a roast, carrots, onion, garlic and some potatoes in there with a cup of red wine… fabulous!

    Life gets hectic and we use that time to sit down and joke/laugh, and hear about their days. The little ones love it and it reminds the older ones that even when they don’t think we are paying attention to them, we are.

  14. Rene Syler

    April 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    @Vicki: Where’s my recipe ?? 🙂 Okay so a roast, the veggies and cup of red wine and let it cook all day? You know me, I need details! Thanks for checking in!

  15. Rene Syler

    April 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    @Cindy: sorry, I didn’t hear/read anything past ” My sons are 15 and 18 and have been cooking for years. They each have an assigned night of the week to plan dinner and cook it.”
    Wha.. huh..??? LOVE IT!

  16. Cocoa Fly

    April 5, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I like to cook but not everyday. I usually cook a few days week. Each time I cook, I make enough to last a few days. Baking dishes are my favorite because I just prepare the food, put it in a baking pan and do other things around the house for an hour or two until it is ready. On the weekends I’ll prepare a big meal or eat out.

  17. Pink Kitchen

    April 20, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Dinner is my therapy 🙂
    (Veggies don’t argue.)

  18. Pink Kitchen

    April 20, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I meant cooking, not dinner – see, I really do need therapy LOL

  19. Wendy

    April 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

    As a single mom, the crock pot is my hero. We do everything from pot roast, to potato soup, chicken enchiladas and chili in it! I do cook, I cook well, I don’t actually mind cooking… for me, it’s the clean up (or getting the kids to HELP clean up) that is the issue.

    Dinners don’t have to be complicated in our house (last night it was frozen chicken baked in hot sauce, frozen french fries baked with cheese and bacon bits and a salad)… and on the nights when THAT is too much, our favorite standby is meatloaf (meat, a box of stuffing, egg and milk all mixed and baked together)…

    I can’t be home for them to make breakfast before school and am rarely home until well after school… so this is the one piece of normal I can offer. Sadly for breakfasts it’s usually smoothies they can blend themselves… so if they can handle breakfast at 15 and 11, I can put together a dinner or two. 🙂

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