Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.


    Conquering Dinner

    January 30, 2007 by Brandy Vencel
    She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.

    Proverbs 31:15
    Dinner is always a challenge when there is a newborn in the household. There are never enough hours as it is, and dinner can be especially difficult because newborns often have a sixth sense–they instinctively know when dinner is and how to ruin it.

    But no more! After three kids, I think I have finally figured out how to have the upper hand in this situation, at least more often than not. And I wish I had thought of this back when we had no children but were both working. It was hard to make real dinners then, too.

    Many experienced women will tell a young mom that what she needs to do to conquer dinner is become best friends with her crockpot. The difficulty with this is that the crockpot meal needs to be prepared in the morning.

    In our house, time in the morning is very limited. The alarm rings at 6:45am, with Q.’s first nursing session beginning at 7:00am and lasting nearly an hour. Si is kind enough to prepare breakfast for the other two before he leaves for work at 7:30am. Q. nurses again at 10:00am. This means that I have only two hours to clean kids up, get kids dressed, do morning chores, and more. Dicing and slicing and preparing a crockpot meal could easily eat up half of the time I have available to do everything that needs to be accomplished in the morning.

    However, the evening is worse. We try to eat dinner at 5:30pm, just minutes after Si arrives home. Q. nurses from 4:00pm to almost 5:00pm. This means that after I put her down, I have just over thirty minutes to prepare dinner, which is really not enough time to assemble a dish and bake it.

    So now it is dark when I make dinner. Only I didn’t rise when it was dark, because I’m just not getting enough sleep for that right now. Instead, I am using my evening time. In the past I have been very resistant to working while it was dark. Dark was always playtime in college, and I wanted it to be that way my whole life! But the virtuous woman works while it is dark, and so must I.

    Last night, Si took A. out for an errand and E. remained at home with me. I had about half an hour before Q.’s next feeding. We cut up onions and bell peppers, set up beans to soak overnight, and measured out all the spices, tomatoes and minced garlic needed for tonight’s crockpot chili dinner. Then, I fed Q. and helped get kids put to bed. Later, I browned the ground beef.

    This morning, all I had to do was dump it all in the crockpot. It took less than five minutes to drain and rinse the beans, mix it with the veggies, sauce, and meat, and stir.

    This evening, during my thirty minutes of dinner prep time, I can shred cheese, prepare toppings, set the table {our usual table-setter is sick and has germs right now}, and have a couple minutes to breathe. This is way less stressful than trying to fit all the cooking and baking into the thirty minutes. It also means our food is healthier than it would be if I had to rush.

    Tomorrow night, we are having spinach calzones. This means that tonight, I will completely mix the filling. Tomorrow night, all I will have to do is roll out the dough, fill it up, seal, and bake.

    So I suppose it could be said that I make tomorrow’s dinner tonight. It works for me. Like I said, I wish I would have thought of it when I was a busy working woman. It would have helped me then, as well!


    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Brandy February 1, 2007 at 7:39 pm


    I must admit that my first thought was, “Who is Rachael Raye?” 🙂 I am a bit out of touch with the TV world (unless we are talking about LOST, of course). But I Googled her, and she has a pretty helpful website. I try not to watch television, but I might make an exception and check it out! Thanks for the hint. 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous January 31, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Or you could just watch
    Rachael Raye’s 30 minutes meals program

  • Reply Rebecca January 31, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    The crock pot is a life saver… and Brandy, I have an easy recipe for crock pot chili verde if you think your family would like it. I won’t be having it for awhile as it seemed to disagree with Lauren (it isn’t all that spicy).

    I got the mini crock pot with mine as well. I think my crock pot was only $20.00 at Target last year. It is the large oval and can hold a huge amount of food if needed. That was after I broke the ceramic insert in my original pot.

  • Reply Brandy January 31, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Oooh ooh! I do! I do! I, too, had the “burning plastic” smell. Simultaneously, I had to cook everything on high for at least nine hours because the heating element seemed to be going out. Perhaps these things are programmed to die at 5.5 years? 🙂

    Anyhow, I got a great replacement for Christmas that I LOVE. It works so much better than my previous crockpot, and I’ve been told it should last much longer. Plus, it came with a minicrockpot also that I can make sauces, gravies and dips in on the side. Here is a link to view it on

    Note to all readers: Remember that if you use my searchbox in the sidebar, I get credit for all your purchases! Help feed the three kids! Just kidding…sort of…

  • Reply kristie January 31, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Great idea. I’ve become a big fan of the crock pot myself. However, mine has started making a suspicious “burning plastic” smell, which makes us reluctant to leave it unattended, which by the way defeats the purpose of the crock pot. I think I need to replace it (but thanks to Kim and Dominic for giving it to us to enjoy these 5 1/2 years! Yes, I remember!) Does anyone have a recommendation on which one to purchase next? If not, I’ll go for lowest price…

  • Leave a Reply