You’ve finally decided that the stay-at-home dad’s life is the life for you. You’ve stayed home and made dinner, the kids are all sitting around the table, looking at you expectantly. Suddenly the amount of hungry mouths doubles, then triples. You look at the table and see that there is no food. You rush to the stove, nothing; the oven, nothing; the fridge, nothing. Panic sets in as the hungry faces quadruple. In a rush of adrenaline, you find yourself sitting in bed in a cold sweat—relieved. Just a bad dream.

OK, cooking for the stay-at-home dad isn’t that bad, but deciding what to make for dinner can be a challenge for anyone, stay-at-home dads included. The secret (drum roll, please) is . . . is . . . OK there is no secret, but there are some tips and tricks that will help make cooking, and deciding what to cook, easier for the stay-at-home dad.

Cooking tips and tricks for the stay-at-home dad will make the dinner hour more pleasant not just for dad but also for the whole family. Just follow these simple rules and you can be the stay-at-home dad of any wife or child’s dream.

Rule #1: You can’t please everyone. However, the successful stay-at-home dad will find a compromise. Macaroni and cheese every night is a no go, any dad can agree with that, but perhaps you can save the spinach-and-clam sauce for your own noodles and sprinkle some cheese over your kids’ plates. You’ll soon be the best dad ever.

Rule #2: Cook once, eat twice . . . or 3 times. Turn staying home into an exercise in management and don’t duplicate your efforts. If you’re home grilling chicken for dinner tonight, throw on a few extra pieces, and in 2 days you can fix some enchiladas in just minutes. Suddenly you’ll realize that staying home is getting easier and that you’re the dad who can get it done.

Rule #3: Don’t wait until 5:30 to decide what you want to eat at 6:00. You’re the stay-at-home dad now, make it easy on yourself and have a plan. Create a weekly or monthly menu adapted to fit your families schedule and tastes. Then plan your weekly shopping list around this menu so you always have what you need. If you want some ideas, network with other dads or moms to find out what they’re having for dinner.

Rule #4: Kids are not allergic to vegetables. But remember how you felt about lima beans when you were 9. You can be the dad who forces his child to sit at the table for 2 hours until every last bite is gone, or you can be the dad who sneaks grated carrots and zucchini into the pizza sauce. A wise dad can find a way to do what’s good for his kids and make them like it.

Rule #5: Be aware of what gets eaten and what gets pushed around the plate. Part of being a stay-at-home dad is taking good mental notes about what works for your family and building on that.

With a few simple ideas, the stay-at-home dad’s experience in the kitchen can be a positive one, with nothing to fear. What’s for dinner can be a bright spot in a stay-at-home dad’s day instead of the hour of dread.

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