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Farm Family Life: Kids, Chores and Cooking Dinner, Too

Hello from central Minnesota!

I'm so excited to join the Land O'Lakes blog. My husband, Glen, and I have been members of the Land O'Lakes Cooperative since we started dairy farming eight years ago.

In addition to working side by side with Glen to care for our cows and calves, I blog about our farm and family and do a little writing for a dairy newspaper.

But my most important job is being a mom. Glen and I have three adorable children: Dan, 6; Monika, 4; and Daphne, 4 months.

A couple of months after Daphne was born, my midwife sent us a card that said, "Hope you are feeling well, getting back to normal, finding a new rhythm to your life with three kids."

The line has been lingering in my head ever since. I've given up on the concept of getting back to normal. There is no normal, as far as I'm concerned. We've all got a bit (or a lot) of craziness in our lives.

But I like the idea of finding a new rhythm. And I like that my midwife wrote "finding" instead of "found," because I think it's going to be a while yet before we can say we've found our new rhythm.

We're milking more cows than we ever have before, which means there are more calves to care for and more chores in general. We're trying to plant our crops and move the cows and heifers out to pasture. And on top of all that, Dan now has math and spelling homework every week, in addition to his letters and reading.

Between farm chores, volunteer work, writing deadlines, getting Dan and Monika to school, taking care of Daphne, helping with homework, and keeping the house somewhat clean, most days I feel like I'm dancing in circles while juggling it all.

Throw dinner into the mix and I nearly drop all the balls. But I've come up with a couple of strategies that make getting dinner together a little more manageable.

I always have a to-do list on the kitchen table. (It's an endless list, but if I don't write tasks down, I forget.) I started writing five words in the upper right corner of every list: beef, salmon, pork, lamb, chicken. It's amazing how that visual reminder helps me do a better job of planning meals and rotating through the stock of different meats we have in the freezer. It also helps minimize the decision making that goes into planning dinner. (We had beef last night. OK. That means we're having salmon tonight.) Anytime I can reduce the amount of thinking that goes into a task, that task becomes easier.

When we first started farming, Glen's mom told me the easiest way to get supper on the table was to always have some kind of meat thawed in the fridge. So, I would take a package of meat out of the freezer, put it in the basement fridge to thaw and then only remember that I took it out once it was green and fuzzy. I started thawing meat in our kitchen fridge and now I don't forget about it.

Having time to prepare that meat is another story. So, I always try to have groceries on hand for a Plan A and a Plan B.

Plan A dinners are the meals I plan to make each day. They usually require a little advance planning or prep time in the kitchen – thawing meat, putting the roast in the slow cooker or dicing the veggies so they can be sautéed later.

I love to cook and bake and try new recipes, but preparing dinner often plays second fiddle to some of my other responsibilities. That's where Plan B meals come in.

Plan B (for Behind Schedule) meals are the ones I make when I end up spending more time working outside or running errands than I had planned. Those meals include breakfast-for-supper (which the kids love) – cheesy eggs, pancakes or waffles, and fruit; cheeseburger bowls with sweet potato fries; quesadillas and baby carrots; or broiled cheesy bread dunked in marinara.

I also try to be creative with leftovers. When Dan asks what we're having for supper and my answer is the same thing we had last night, Dan replies dramatically with, "Not againnnnn." Now, I'll shred leftover roast and use it to make enchiladas. When I boil potatoes for Chicken, Potatoes & Broccoli Alfredo, I boil extra to make into mashed or skillet potatoes later in the week.

I'm sure we'll look back on these past couple of crazy months and wonder how we survived. My hope, though, is that a more consistent and relaxed dinner will lead the way to finding our rhythm as a family of five.

It might be a pretty crazy rhythm, though.

What strategies do you use to make dinnertime more manageable?

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Hi, Congratulations on the new baby and joining the Land O'Lakes blog! I couldn't agree with you more about life running in circles. I too have forgotten many meals thawing in the fridge only to remember too late, thank goodness for microwaves. Sometimes I get in a really good groove of meal planning and other times not so much. The one thing I found that did help the most was to always have a certain type of food to prepare on certain days. Like Monday Pasta, Thursday Mexican, etc.

Posted Jun 21 2013 by Angel J.

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