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Moms Reveal Their 'Crappy Dinners'

Photograph by Twenty20

I always imagined that by the time I had kids who were walking and talking, I'd be preparing healthy, tasty meals for them on the regular.

There were two major flaws in my plan:

1. I don't know how to cook.

2. The few meals that I do know how to make, like the tasty Southwest-styled quinoa dish or the savory vegan sweet potato stew? My kids make gagging sounds and plug their noses when those dishes come anywhere near them.

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And so it came to be that my children are almost 4 and 7, and the idealized version of myself as Chef BoyarMom never materialized. More often than not, 6 p.m. finds us cobbling together an assortment of random foods and calling it dinner.

For instance, one night last week, my daughter dined on yogurt and green beans, while my son munched on rice cakes lovingly smeared with SunButte—not unhealthy, but not the well-balanced, warm meals my mom always made.

I feel a nagging guilt that I'm doing my kids a disservice by not being a better cook, and by not being able to coerce them into eating these imaginary fancy meals I think I should be making. In order to assuage my turmoil, I reached out to some of my favorite mom bloggers and writers. It turns out I'm not alone in my struggle to create civilized meals.

If it's good enough to eat in the morning, why not at night, too?

Jen Simon, whose boys are 6 and 2, says her crappy go-to dinner consists of frozen fish sticks and frozen peas—"With the peas actually served frozen."

Elizabeth Catalano confided she once served her 5-year-old, "Cheese cut into cubes. And that's it." I always suspected that cheese was a complete food group.

"Sometimes I just throw salami at them and they try to catch it by wildly gnashing at the air with their teeth," says Kristen Mae of her kids, ages 9 and 5. "Just kidding. I put it on a paper plate for them," she adds.

Even Sarah Smiley‪, who penned the popular memoir, "Dinner With the Smiley's," which recounts her year of suppering with guests ranging from state senators to her kids' teachers while her husband was deployed, indulges in an occasional crappy dinner. "I've been known to just say, 'Forget it, let's go get ice cream,'" she says. I'm sure her three sons, who are 15, 13 and 8, appreciate this.

Rachael Pavlik of RachRiot has turned crappy dinners into a competitive non-cooking event. Every Hump Day, she holds a White Trash Wednesday contest on her Facebook page, and hundreds of her followers share their sub-par menus in an attempt to earn the crappiest dinner crown. Rachael says, "White Trash Wednesday is a night of solidarity for parents everywhere to say, 'We will do better tomorrow, but tonight, my family can suck it.'" Rachael reports that her kids, who are 9 and 12, love White Trash Wednesday, which in her home might consist of drive-thru dinner or corn dogs. Once, her kids picked out their entire meal from a gas station—choosing Slim Jims, Cheetos, a pickle and a Strawberry Fanta. "All food groups represented!" Rachael said.

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And of course, parents everywhere occasionally head to the cereal box at dinnertime, with the option of upgrading to oatmeal if they're feeling extra fancy. After all, if it's good enough to eat in the morning, why not at night, too?

While I may not be proud of the crappy dinners I make for my kids, it helps to know that I'm not alone in the nightly struggle. Maybe when my kids are older, their palates and my kitchen skills will both grow more sophisticated. But for now, my kids are healthy and growing, and that's good enough for me.

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