A woman looks at a tablet with her husband and children in the background making dinner


I Have Three Kids And I Can’t Cook

Mar 13, 2017

Our baby boy, Indiana, just started eating solids this week. At first, sitting in his highchair, he wasn’t sure what to do with puréed sweet potato, letting it dribble out of his mouth almost as soon as it went in. Once I put him in his usual bottle-feeding position, however, he quickly caught on — slowly tasting and swallowing the first of a world full of flavours.

But it won’t always be as easy to feed him as unscrewing a container of baby food, or mashing up a piece of fruit. And here’s my concern, and my confession: I’m a mom to a baby boy and two school-aged stepsons, and I can’t cook. (I do their lunches every morning and pour cereal — those are my jobs.)

I can make a passable (read: edible) spaghetti sauce and I can (over)cook basic cuts of meat, but that about covers it. My husband has always done the cooking for us and the kids. But now, especially since I’m home during the day looking after Indy, I’d like to learn a few basic meals. His days are ridiculously busy, and I’d like him to not have to cook every night when he gets home.

But the truth is, cooking scares me. Thirty-two years is a long time to go without cracking the Joy of Cooking.

So I enlisted professional personal chef Lisa Paul — owner of Toronto’s Monday Night Meal Co. and mom/stepmom to three (with the fourth on the way) — to get me started in the kitchen. 

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Meal plan. It’s annoying, but it works.

Whenever I look at a recipe, I’m overwhelmed. That’s because I have to first determine what ingredients I need, then figure out which ones we have and then go to the store to get the rest. That’s all before turning a burner on.

Meal-planning, says Paul, takes the grocery component out of the equation. “It takes some effort, but creating a weekly meal plan and buying those groceries in advance will make your week a whole lot smoother,” she says.

Make sure you’re stocked with staples.

“In my pantry, I always have kosher salt, olive oil, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce,” says Paul. 

Paul uses these ingredients on the regular to make things like spaghetti, stews and soups. Your must-have ingredients may be different, she says, but when you figure out what they are, you’ll want to make sure you never run out of them.

Meet your partner halfway.

“You might not be as good as your partner at preparing an elaborate meal,” says Paul. “But one night, you might be able to get the rice or pasta portion done before he gets home. Or one day, you may have time to prepare a few different starches in advance.”

I took her advice this week, and asked my husband what I could “start” for dinner. Yesterday, I defrosted and seasoned chicken breasts, and put them in the oven. Today, I steamed broccoli and threw rice into a pot. He still did the heavy lifting, but even having a side or two ready made his life a lot easier. Plus, it felt like we were cooking together, which was much more fun.

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Your deep freeze is your friend.

In our family, setting aside every Sunday afternoon to cook and prepare meals in advance wouldn’t be realistic. Even if we could make the time, we probably wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that we never can.

Paul suggests finding a day — even if it’s once a month, or once every two months — and making a large batch of something that you can separate into meals, freeze and save for later. “Being able to pull out a frozen meal once a week or once every two weeks is huge,” she says, “and saves you tons of money on ordering in.” 

Get help when you need it.

With both partners often working full-time, plus children and their myriad of after-school activities, cooking isn’t realistic seven nights a week. Nobody should feel guilty about that.

Many Canadian cities offer services that prepare and deliver healthy and tasty food or meals to your door. At Monday Night Meal Co., Paul offers meal-planning and preparation so that you have fresh, chef-prepared and tailored meals ready however many nights a week you desire. Other companies like Chef’s Plate — which services Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba — delivers pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to your home in a refrigerated box so that you can do the cooking yourself.

In short, when it comes to eating at home, doing it yourself and Pizza Hut are no longer the only options.

Article Author Julia Lipscombe
Julia Lipscombe

Read more from Julia here.

Julia Lipscombe is an Edmonton-based freelance journalist and former staffer at FLARE magazine, NOW magazine and the Edmonton Journal. Julia is an arts and lifestyle specialist, and these days mostly writes about parenting, music and weddings. Alongside her husband, Jesse Lipscombe, she co-founded and runs the anti-discrimination campaign, #MakeItAwkward, which encourages people to speak up and speak out against racism, homophobia and hate of all kinds. Julia and Jesse are parents to three beautiful boys: Chile, Tripp and Indiana. In her ever-diminishing spare time, Julia likes to swim, bike, run, drink wine, and listen to lots of albums as a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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