Hi Moms! Thank you for joining me today.

This week I wanted to share with you an interview that I was so honored to do with Mel from MelskitchenCafe.com, which is a food blog. And not just any food blog. This is my very favorite food blog, so I was so pleased that she wanted to come on my show.

She is a busy mom of five kids and yet she still has time to make cooking a priority. And Mel is such a kind, down-to-earth person as I’m sure you will notice in this interview. It was really so fun to talk to her and I learn so much. We covered so many different things. So, I’m hoping you will listen to this, all the way through till the end because I know you will get out of it exactly what you need. I know that each of you are going to have different things jump out to you according to what you need to hear. And I just know that the words Mel shares with us today will help inspire you, not only in the kitchen but in many different aspects of your motherhood.

So, let’s get to it!

Heather: Hi Mel! Thank you so much for being here with us today!

Mel: Thank you! I’m super excited.

Heather: So, I have been following you for years and I make so many of your recipes for my family. Your recipes are my overall very favorites. If I want to make something, I go to your website and search it first before I go anywhere else. So, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became such a good cook and how you got started with food blogging.

Mel: Well, I think it might be a little bit of a misinterpretation that I’m that good of a cook because if you ask my husband, he would laugh about that. I don’t actually consider myself that great of a cook, but I feel like I could really follow a recipe and I like to be creative. So, maybe it’s a little bit subjective about what a good cook is, but I started blogging about 12 ½ to 13 years ago. And it was an unintentional blogging journey if you want to know the truth. I had started my blog back when I was in the trenches. I had three little boys ages three and under, I was changing a lot of diapers, we were moving every couple of years across the country for my husband’s job, and I just wanted something a little bit outside of what I was doing in motherhood, which I loved, but also it was overwhelming and I just wanted to be creative sometimes and wanted to do something else besides play Legos. So, I started a blog and I thought, I’m going to put these recipes on here so my mom and my sisters, who live across the country, can check it out. And this was way back when blogs weren’t really a thing. People would use blogs as online journals, but in terms of food blogs, there was just a handful of us, I would say; not very many.

I remember when I started, my mom was like, “That sounds like a bad word.” And I was like, “Mom, a blog is totally legit. It’s fine. It’s nothing bad, it’s just like an online journal.” So, I started. I don’t even think I took pictures. I would post these recipes that we loved. And I had all these little kids, so it wasn’t like I was cooking all day every day. I’ve always really loved food and I’ve always really loved to eat good food, so I’ve kind of always had that love in me. But in terms of me being a good cook, I think that’s evolved.

When I first got married, and in college, I made a couple things, but college life is different; you’re on a really strict budget. And then I got married and just kind of made the stuff my mom made growing up, which was good, it was good food, it was what I loved. But I started to feel like I wanted to experiment more, I wanted to get creative, or I wanted to start cooking from scratch a little bit more than what I knew. So, it kind of evolved from there.

A couple years after I started putting recipes out there, I started taking really bad pictures of them. And then beyond that, it was a couple years later that I noticed I was getting more traffic than just my sisters and my mom looking at it. And actually, the day I got my first comment on a recipe from someone who wasn’t related to me, I totally freaked out! Thinking it was some internet stalker, not realizing that people do that.

And honestly, from that point, my blog has kind of taken on a life of its own. It was really five or six years into it, maybe even a little bit longer than that, that I was like, “I’m getting a lot of visitors and I could probably make this into a business.” It just had started as a hobby, and largely it really is still a hobby for me. I have said to my husband so many times, “When I lose sight of why I started a blog–which is really just to provide really great recipes to people who want them–when I lose sight of that, just cut the cord; unplug my blog and let’s just be done.” It’s easy to get at the level where you could sell out and do something different or do a lot of sponsored posts and things like that, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a great business model if it works for people, but for me I just wanted to stay true to really–just sharing family friendly recipes that work for me. I would love for people to think of it like we were like neighbors, like I’m the girl next-door and we’re just chatting about food and what works, so if that tone comes across on my blog then I consider it a success.

Heather: Well, I think that’s why I’ve followed you so long. We figured it out just now when we were talking, that I probably am one of your first followers ‘cause I’ve been following you for like 13 years!

Mel: Why are you still here? I love it!

Heather: I get that feeling from your blog, actually; I do. The way you write about your recipes, you’re just so relatable and I do feel like you’re my friend even though this is the first time I’ve ever met you.

Mel: It really is important to me. I feel like I want to provide something that’s actually really helpful. Maybe not to everyone, not every recipe is going to appeal to every person, but in terms of what I’m providing, I really am a real mom with a real family cooking in a real world on a budget. I mean, there’s nothing secret behind the scenes that’s making this happen differently, it’s just real life, a lot of real life.

Heather: I was curious, as you were talking, has turning this into kind of a business, even if you didn’t think it was going to go that way in the first place, has that made cooking a little bit more of a job sometimes and not as enjoyable as it used to be when you first started?

Mel: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, to be honest as a mom of a bigger family, cooking is just a job sometimes. I think people have this perception that every time I step in the kitchen there are angels singing and I’m super excited to be in there. But I would say 85% of the time I am dreading it, I’m dreading making dinner for my family, I’m dreading their reactions about when they eat that dinner. You know, it’s just real life and so in terms of me cooking for my family sometimes it’s kind of a job, like a dreaded job, anyway. But in terms of my business and blogging, the recipes that I put on my blog genuinely are the recipes that we’re eating. How that changes a little bit is, I’m obviously having to test them out a lot, in order to get them ready for the blog; I’m taking pictures of them. And so, there is kind of a work element of it. I feel grateful that that work element is creative and I love to do it. That’s the part of blogging that I really love. I love interacting with my readers; I love the actual cooking and creating and developing; and I love taking the pictures. So, I love all of that, it just takes a lot of time.

So, the times that I feel like blogging as a burden, and that I am struggling to make that balance fit and when it’s kind of a pressure, like it’s a job, I tend to back off. I post less; I try to re-group on why I really want to be blogging in the first place and just go back to that. So, it’s kind of ebbed and flowed over the years.

Heather: It is so good to hear you say, that even you, who we think is in the kitchen loving it every day, that it’s sometimes a job and sometimes you don’t want to be there cooking for your family. It really is not fun sometimes. I feel that way! I feel that way, often! And I wonder if something’s wrong with me. So that’s really good for me to hear that. I still get myself in the kitchen, but I have to dig really deep sometimes. So how do you overcome that feeling of not wanting to be in there. How do you dig deep and get over that and get in the kitchen and cook anyway?

Mel: Yeah, I’ve kind of learned over the years, and this has been a process because I tend to be really hard on myself and feel guilt, like that mom-guilt. I think if we are talking about that, I feel that in epic proportions, and I’ve really been trying to work through that because it’s not a healthy emotion; it doesn’t do anybody any good. So, I’ve learned over the years that the way that I power through is, I just don’t beat myself up if some nights it’s not a home-cooked meal. Or if some nights, or a succession of nights, maybe it’s three nights in a row where we’re eating leftovers, and then maybe it’s like pancakes for dinner, or maybe it’s cold cereal. There’s always going to be time to have a really wonderful home-cooked meal, and I know I’ll get back to it because I love to do that, but I just try not to beat myself up over the perfection–the ideal of what we think family dinner needs to be.

My biggest thing is that my husband and I have decided it’s really important to try to eat dinner as a family, and so with older kids that have jobs and busy nights sometimes that doesn’t happen with all seven of us there, but we try for the majority of us to eat dinner together. And I feel like that’s the point. The point is for us all to be together. It’s actually less important what we’re eating. In a lot of ways I just tried to lower my expectations. And in my house, my kids are thrilled when we have mac & cheese for dinner because I am making so many new recipes, and our lives are very focused around food, that’s just the nature of me being a blogger, and so sometimes my family will say, “Can we just have like spaghetti or tacos instead of this weird concoction that has come from your brain, that we don’t really want to eat anyway?” And so, in a lot of ways I think it’s not as important about what we’re eating, but just that we’re together and talking over dinner and that kind of thing.

I think simple, weeknight dinners are the best, and part of the other way that I kind of dig deep through it is that I have to plan. I feel like a menu plan is the critical element of me actually executing dinner, and not even any epic, elaborate dinner but just getting dinner on the table. So, for me over the years as I’ve had people reach out and say, “I hate to cook. Like I really hate to cook, but I want to cook for my family. What do you suggest? How do I overcome this hurdle? How do I do this?” And I, every single time, say take 10 minutes on Sunday night or Monday night, or whenever it is the day before you grocery shop, and just write out a menu plan on a sheet of paper, it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. There’s other menu planning apps and systems that work, and I love some of those, but just plan it out. And for me, when I know I have a plan, then I’m like, “OK I can do this.” I may not want to. I may not really want to be in the kitchen tonight, but I do have a plan and I know I have the ingredients and I can try to make that work.

Heather: Well, I really believe in that too. They actually say (I don’t know who they is), but they say, that if you haven’t thought of dinner by lunchtime it’s probably not going to happen.

Mel: And I believe that. I totally believe that. Even the best home cooks in the world, I think, would be challenged at 4:30 to say, “I had no plan and I’m gonna have dinner on the table at 5:15.” I mean it doesn’t realistically happen. And so, I think if we want to get ahead of the game, just write down some meals. And I also think a menu plan doesn’t have to be super strict. I think some people think, on Sunday night I don’t know what I’m going to want to eat on Friday, and that’s okay. So, my tip is, just set three meals you want to make that week. It doesn’t even have to be seven meals. It doesn’t have to be a meal every day of the week. But say three; these are three meals I’m going to buy ingredients for; I’m going to have ready. And then maybe that morning say, “Oh, I’m going to slide this meal into tonight because it works for me.” So, I think menu planning can be more fluid than we realize, but I think being prepared is essential to actually not hating our lives when it gets to dinner time, and we realize we have to feed our kids and ourselves, even if we have small families, even if we’re alone. If you live alone and you’re single, I think just planning is really important.

Heather: Yes. I agree. Thank you for touching on that. I think that is so important for everybody to hear a food blogger say: “Just get a piece of paper; it doesn’t have to be this big elaborate thing.” So, in my home, I’ll dig deep, get in the kitchen even if I don’t want to be there. I mean, I sometimes really like to be there and honestly once I get in there and start cooking, I’m fine being there, especially if I can blast my music. But I’ll spend all of this time on a meal, and then they’ll scarf it down in 2.3 minutes and go back to what they were doing. Do you have a way of making your family mealtime a little more special? Is there anything that happens during mealtime that keeps them at the table? What does your family mealtime look like?

Mel: So, our family mealtime is really simple. Sometimes we sit up at our counter; sometimes we sit at the table. Other than Sunday night, we don’t actually set the table and have a formal setting. We usually dish up at the counter and then we go sit at the table. Or we have just like real family style. It’s very laid-back around my house. But one thing that we’ve always done, and I don’t think my kids are always thrilled with this, but every meal that we eat together, we sit there until everyone’s finished. So, it’s very taboo in our family, once you’re done eating to get up and leave the table or the room, so we try to sit there. I mean we don’t prolong it, obviously, it’s busy. There are some nights where we’re rushing through dinner and we don’t have a lot of time, but we all sit there and just chat. If there’s someone that’s taking a little bit longer or they’re eating seconds or something, we try to sit there.

One thing that we started doing a couple years ago, we don’t do this every night, but I think it helped make dinner a little bit different (and I got this suggestion from a reader and I don’t remember who it was, so I apologize for not giving it proper credit), but when we’re sitting at the dinner table we will ask our kids, “What was your rose today? And what was your thorn?” And they’ll go around and talk. Their rose is obviously the high point of their day, and their thorn is the low point. And we talk about that, and obviously as we’re talking about that, we go into different conversations around it. If there’s a funny story or someone’s giving advice, or whatever it is, and so in a lot of ways we do just a lot of casual chatting, but sometimes if I feel like people are getting antsy, we’ll throw that out there. Our mealtimes are not prolonged, I would say we eat pretty quickly, and there’s just so much to be doing and we’re so busy that we kind of eat and get on, but that’s kind of one thing that we’ve done that seems to help. But our kids already know that expectation that, “Hey let’s just sit here till everyone’s finished.” And then most of that is so they can help clean up dinner. If everyone leaves the kitchen or leaves the table, there’s only a few of us stuck with cleanup and our expectation in our family is that we help with that. So those are a few things we do, but obviously, like any family, not all of our mealtimes are that seamless and that pretty. Sometimes it’s a little bit more chaotic—we’re eating in shifts–but I guess that’s the ideal. That’s what happens most of the time.

Heather: Yes, I love that rose/thorn thing you talked about. Do you ever get your kids involved in the kitchen with you and if you do, what does that look like?

Mel: I try. It’s kind of been a progression over the years. But a few years ago, we tried the whole, “I’m going to assign you a dinner night” and tried to do that. It didn’t work so great for us for a lot of different reasons. So, the system we have right now, my kids actually, a few them just really genuinely like to cook, so especially now during the summer they’ll just say, “Hey can I make cookies?” or that type of thing. As far as dinner time, I will rope them in, if I’m in the kitchen and I’m doing a lot of chopping, I’ll say, “Hey, come over here and help me do this.” But the big system that I found that has worked really well for us, we’ve done for several years, it has a very fancy title, it’s called: Sunday Dinner Assignments. And it is not that intricate of a system; it’s nothing scientific. But what we’ve done is on Sundays, because it’s kind of our day, at least in the evening, we tend to have a little bit more time (my husband is never home but the kids and I are home). And so, I just write on a post-it note what we’re having for dinner–the main dish, a side dish, bread, and a dessert–and then they sign their name up next to it, and they make that portion of dinner. They’re responsible for making it and they’re responsible for cleaning it up. And it has actually worked really, really well for us. It makes the kitchen a little bit chaotic on Sunday. They have to kind of plan in advance, like three of us need the oven; one of us is going to have to make ours early, and one of us is going to have to make it right before dinner, that kind of thing. But I’ve actually seen that it’s really helped improve their skills in the kitchen. Everything from getting them out of their comfort zone (there’s a couple meals I’ll put on there that no one wants to sign up for–a couple recipes. And so there are some Sundays where I say, “You don’t get to sign up; I’m putting your name down.” I have one child that signs up for the pitcher of ice water every Sunday, so I’m like, “We’re going to have to branch out of our comfort zone and do something different.” But they are amazing in the kitchen and they’ve done things that have totally exceeded my expectations and made things that I never thought they could. And it gets a little messy and it gets a little bit crazy, but I guess I feel like doing it one day a week kind of works for us. Now there are some Sundays that I kick everyone out and I’m like, I can’t handle it today I’m just going to do it on my own. And that’s fine, they like the break and I like the break of being able to do it, but that’s worked for us.

There are so many systems out there. I feel like the biggest key to getting kids involved in the kitchen is to make it really positive. So, as someone who tends to be kind of a type A person, it’s hard to let go of the control of when our kids are in the kitchen, but I feel like if I can hold back a little bit on that, and make it a positive experience for them, they’re going to want to be there. And at the end of the day, not all of my kids are going to really love cooking, but my goal is to make it so that someday when they launch from my home, and they can make five solid things, if they can go out and make five things and know how to cut a pineapple, I feel like my work here is done. Those are my two goals.

Heather: How to cut a pineapple; I wouldn’t have thought of that one. Oh no, I have work to do.

Mel: Not that they will ever need that, but I feel like it’s one of those things where some people look at pineapples and they’re like, “How do I attack this?” And I’m like, “I will give you the skills to know how to do this. You may never do it in college, or wherever you live, but you will know, you will have the knowledge.”

Heather: That is so great. I love that so much. I’m going to do your idea because I feel like I need to give them some skills. And they do have some skills. But that, Every Wednesday night someone is in charge of the meal, I’m kind of like you. I have to be in there and it’s more stressful for me, and I’d rather just do it myself.

Mel: And I feel like, not that our system is perfect, but I think what’s it’s done, it hasn’t overwhelmed my kids. So when I think of before when we were trying to do like, “You have a dinner night,” there are several components to that (not that our dinners are elaborate, usually we have a main dish and then like a vegetable; it’s not like we have six different courses on a weeknight), but for a beginning cook, and especially a kid, it’s really overwhelming to think of that whole meal. So now what I’m finding is the longer we do the Sunday Dinner Assignments, I actually feel more confident that I could say to one of my kids, “Hey, why don’t you take Thursday dinner; I’m not gonna be here or I need you to do that.” And they would feel more confident doing that because it’s kind of been like a little training program for them, maybe. So, it’s worked for us, pretty well.

Heather: Oh, that’s so great. That’s such a great idea! Thank you for that. So, with school back in session now, do you have any quick weeknight dinner recipes that you could tell us about or send us to on your blog?

Mel: I do have a section on my blog of “Quick Meals” and another one of a “20-Minute Dinner” section, and a “30-Minute Dinner” section. What’s interesting about weeknight dinner planning is sometimes it’s not the quick meals. I get this comment a lot of people saying, “I don’t have 30 minutes right up until dinner time.” But a slow cooker meal works better for me on those days because I can put that in in the morning and then we can eat right away. So, it’s interesting how different types of meals work better for different families with the structure of your family or what you have going on. But I have a lot of different categories on my website that take all those meals and say, “Okay well here’s all the slow-cooker ones.” If you really have 20 minutes and you want to execute dinner in 20 minutes, here are 20-minute dinners. I have about, over 2000 recipes on my website, but even me in my brain, I have like these six dinners that I know, on a weekly basis, I can execute really fast if we really need to eat. And they’re not anything that elaborate or special. One of them is just like a weeknight spaghetti; it takes 15 minutes. It’s fresh, it’s fast, and my kids love it. And another one that we eat all the time is the Egg Roll Skillet. I don’t know if anyone has had that one. It’s one of our absolute favorites, and it is so fast, it’s so fast and so easy and hands-down is probably one of my kids’ favorite meals. So, in my mind I always have this meal that I know, “This is my fallback. I know I can do this.” I always have ground beef in the freezer, or ground turkey, or whatever they require. I try to choose four or five meals and always have the ingredients for them. So I don’t necessarily menu plan those meals, but I always know that I have the ingredients for them because they’re so fast. And also, I’m really not opposed, on weeknights, to do something super simple like scrambled eggs and toast. We do that a lot; we have a lot of breakfast for dinner. We do English muffins and fried eggs or things like that. We’re pretty simple.

Heather: Breakfast for dinner is the best. I don’t know why, even as a kid I got so excited about breakfast for dinner.

Mel: Yes, same.

Heather: So lunches, school lunches, are another thing that concerns my listeners. Do you have a way to make school lunches more fun; change it up a little bit?

Mel: Yeah, my kids would definitely say our school lunch system is not fun. It’s very basic and very straightforward. My kids pack their own lunches; they do it the morning before school. But one thing that we’ve done that seems to help, is sometimes I think it’s just a brain fog of what to pack and what to put in there. I don’t have like a fancy pantry, I wish I did where I had like little bins of, “Pack one from this bin and one from this bin and one from this bin.” But I did put a list inside of our kitchen cupboard that detailed for my kids—choose a protein to pack in your lunch and then I try to have those on hand: hard-boiled eggs or a sandwich with turkey or peanut butter or you know whatever they’re allowed to take at school. And then a section of snacks and trying to make sure that our lunches isn’t all just the snacks but that there’s some protein in there, there’s some fruit and vegetables. So, I have this list in our cupboard that is just very specific to what we keep on hand. We have a lot of applesauce, my husband works for an applesauce company, so we have a lot of applesauce. They always know that that’s an option. But then there’s also fresh fruit. And so, I think it kind of helps take the decision-making out of that; but largely my kids do just a lot of sandwiches, snacks, yogurt, string cheese, and that kind of stuff.

They do fight over the leftovers we have that are appropriate for school lunches. Like, if I make homemade pizza rolls, those often are the first things to go into lunches, or breadsticks and things like that. So sometimes when I’m menu planning or when I’m making a dinner, I will think ahead to that. I will say, I’m making pizza rolls, this is going to make a really great option to put in a lunch, so I’ll double the recipe and make sure that we have those in the freezer or the refrigerator. But our school lunches are not epically exciting, Heather, they’re really straightforward. I think it’s more the system, trying to help my kids figure out what to put in there, rather than making it super exciting. It’s pretty basic.

Heather: That’s a great way to teach them about nutrition, too. Like, “You need a protein, these snacks are kind of the junk food, so don’t put too many of those in there.

Mel: Yeah, what’s going to fuel your body for the rest of your school day? And it’s been interesting, as I now have high schoolers, some of them eat lunch really late in the day, some of them eat so early in the day, and so we’ve talked about packing the right foods that make your body feel good and that are going to get you through the remainder of the day. Or on those that eat a really late lunch, eating a breakfast that’s going to fuel your body. Because that’s really important, I feel like these kids are in school for a long, if they’re going to public school, they’re at school for a long amount of the day. And even kids who are at home, it’s no different. Homeschooled kids need the same nutrition, and the same type of foods that are going to fuel their body. So, I just try to keep it that list in there. I try not to preach about it too much because I learned with my kids that usually sends them in the opposite direction, but I just try to keep a list up there as a guide of: just look at your lunch and say, “Do I have enough of each category and is it gonna make me feel good after I eat it?”

Heather: That’s a great thing. So how can my listeners find you. Tell us a little bit about your blog so they know how to find you when they’re done listening here.

Mel: Yeah, it’s pretty easy. I’m at melskitchen.com or melskitchencafe.com. Both of those will get you there. I’m actually going through a website redesign, so it’s going to be even better because I’m re-categorizing a lot of things that will make the categories pop a little bit more.

So, on my homepage, you can find a lot of categories for those quick meals, the easy weeknight dinners, and then at the bottom of my website I always have a weekly menu plan that’s Monday through Friday, and then I give one meal to make on the weekends. So, there are six meals there, and it’s intentionally created so that you’re using similar ingredients. Like if you’re buying cilantro, you might be able to use it twice, or if you cook chicken one meal you’re going to be able to maybe use it in a meal on Thursday. It’s not a hard fast plan, but it’s meant to just kind of give some ideas, get the brain juices flowing when it comes to menu planning.

And I also have a section on my website that actually just says “Menu Plans,” and it links you over to a really cool app that I love and it’s the Prepare app. It’s a great app—there are a lot of menu planning apps out there–this is a great one and on that app, I provide weekly menu plans that are fresh and new every single week. So, there are several ways to menu plan via my blog, but there’s also a really great recipe index. If you like to do your own menu planning and you just like to be super creative about it, my recipes are categorized there.

Heather: And like I said, if there’s a recipe I have in mind, I go to your blog first, and I search that up and see, because your recipes are just so amazing. And how are your recipes so amazing? Do you find different recipes and try and find the best one of those? How do you always have the best recipes on your blog, in my opinion?

Mel: Well, you’re super sweet, thank you for saying that. I do a lot of recipe testing, so any recipe that I want to make…I kind of will get ideas in my head, my recipes come from everywhere. If I eat at a restaurant or I see another recipe on the web or I have cookbooks or just a recipe from my youth that I’m like, “I’m going to reinvent that to be homemade.” There are a lot of ideas in my mind, but when I get a recipe that I know that I want to post, I test it out a lot, to the point that my family actually gets sick of it. When a recipe actually makes its way to my blog, you can be rest assured that Mel’s family never wants to eat it again, because we’ve eaten it so many times as I’ve tried to get it just right, and they give me critiques, and they tell me change this flavor or whatever it is.

So, for me I really feel like the key to really good recipes is just knowing that they are tried and tested. I think making a recipe once, it can turn out amazing. I’ve had this happen. I’ve had a recipe I’ve made turned out amazing the first time I made it and I’m like, “This recipe is amazing,” and then like the next five times I make it I’m like, “This is terrible, I’m not sure what went wrong.” And so, for me, I care a lot about making sure the recipes that actually make it to my blog are solidly blog-worthy. So, they’re tried and tested, we’ve gone through a lot of variations because no recipe is going to work out perfectly for 100% of people, but I want those of you that want to try them have the best chance of success at making sure that they do work out, knowing that there’s always going to be things, there’s always going to be factors.

I just did a post on my blog about five reasons that 5-star recipe may have flopped, because there’s always going to be reasons: we have different ovens, we have different ingredients, we measure differently, we live at different elevations, and sometimes I have some people that substitute every ingredient in the recipe and then they get mad at me that it didn’t turn out. So, there’s always going to be reasons that those recipes don’t turn out. But for me, I’d rather provide one really great recipe a week versus five that I never tested. Does that make sense? And so, it’s worth it for me to put in the time and maybe put out a little bit less content, but making sure that that content is super solid.

Heather: Wow, I had no idea there was so much that went into each recipe. No wonder they’re the greatest. You’ve put in so much effort and time, wow!

Mel: Yeah, it’s been fun. I actually really enjoy that process, and of course I’m not making every recipe 17 times. Sometimes it only takes a time or two. Those simple recipes, you don’t need to make a lot of times, but I do make sure that I’m testing it out enough that I feel confident that it’s a recipe I really want to put out onto the Internet.

Heather: Well Mel, I have learned so much from you today. So, I just wanted to ask, if you could tell the moms out there one thing, leave us with one more Mel’s words of wisdom, what would it be?

Mel: Maybe it’s just the phase of life I’m at right now, but my biggest piece of advice, and I am saying this largely to myself, is go easy on yourself. I think that we are so hard on ourselves as moms and it’s okay if some nights don’t look like an Instagram-worthy dinner, or if our kids don’t like what we eat, or if we don’t like what we eat, or we don’t have time to make dinner. I just think that we are so hard on ourselves that sometimes we miss the point that we’re supposed to be happy; we’re supposed to be enjoying this journey; and sometimes it’s okay to eat leftovers for 12 nights in a row, or cereal, or whatever it is. I think we’re doing enough. I think if we have the intentional effort to try, we’re doing enough. So, I’d say go easy on yourself and maybe find a way to make something about cooking fun. Whether it’s trying one new recipe a month, or making something that’s just for yourself, even if you know your family is going to hate it, make that meal for yourself because it’s something that you’ve really wanted and you’ve really wanted to make. Try to find something to make it enjoyable, but also realize that you’re doing enough. I think we’re so hard on ourselves, but I think we need to have a little bit more grace for ourselves and realize we’re trying, and we’re doing our best, and it’s okay if not everything looks absolutely perfect at home, and it’s okay if not all our dinners turn out absolutely perfect.

Heather: I love that and I agree. And thank you so much for being here.

Mel: Thank you.

I really appreciate Mel’s time in coming and talking to us today. I know one thing that I’m going to do differently is have my kids stay at dinner until the last person is done. I’m curious to know what inspired you. Please reach out to me and let me know on any of my social media platforms, or on my website the-mommywhisperer.com or you can even email me heather@the-mommywhisperer.com. I would really love to hear from you. And just remember, cooking for your family is love made visible. Thank you for listening today and I’ll talk to you next time.

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I am a Certified Life Coach with a Master’s Degree in Education, and a happy mother of 10 wonderful children (4 children of my own plus 6 bonus children) and 7 grandchildren. I am just like you. I am a mother who wants the absolute best for myself, my children, and my family. I have the privilege of helping hundreds of mothers just like you who want to be better and feel better. Mothers who want to learn more effective parenting skills, who want their children to be more respectful and responsive, who want to improve their relationships with all those around them, and who want to hit the pillow each night feeling happy about their efforts and accomplishments…

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