Melissa Kimbrell: Prepping All-Star

“Work with your significant other (and definitely older children) to come up with a game plan for how evenings are going to look and work . . . so that it [dinnertime] flows smoothly.”

Melissa Kimbrell Cook Smarts' Hero in the Kitchen
Melissa and her husband have a game plan to get family dinner on the table. By taking some time to prep and not getting too stuck on the details, this husband and wife team’s well-orchestrated routine ensures that dinner’s usually homemade. Read her Hero in the Kitchen story below (and make sure you catch her trick to get her kids to eat tofu):

Name: Melissa Kimbrell
Age: 32
City, State: Anderson, South Carolina
Outside of the kitchen I: am an Oncology Nurse. I work as a Patient Navigator, educating and orienting newly diagnosed cancer patients into our healthcare system and providing support, education, and act as an advocate throughout their cancer care experience. I’m also a wife and mother of 2.
I cook for: my husband Glenn, my 5 year old son, and 2 year old daughter.
Being able to cook allows me to: provide for and serve my family the way my mom always did. It’s also something I enjoy. I get to zone out a little, so it’s a form of stress relief for me. Plus, I love spending time together to eat at the end of a day.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal:┬áIt’s a toss up between the Adobo Shrimp with Cilantro Lime Rice and the Sauteed Chicken and Pan Sauce with mashed Sweet Potatoes.

What’s been your biggest kitchen challenge?
Definitely finding the time! My husband and I both work full time, and of course the kids need a bunch of things done as soon as we get home. We tackle it as a team, because it’s important to us to eat at home most nights.

The other challenge, that I think most parents can relate to is getting kids to eat foods they don’t immediately recognize as something good. One way we tackle this is to change the name of things to something we know they think is good. My kids love chicken, so if something is called chicken, it’s good. In our house, all fish is called “ocean chicken,” tofu (which I cooked for the first time since joining Cook Smarts) is called “hippie chicken.” If I had said “tofu,” my son would have looked at me like I’d grown 3 heads. We didn’t plan that; it just happened, and it works for our family.

How has your cooking routine changed recently?
I now prep as much as I can. I chop veggies that will keep for the week and make sauces/dressings on the weekend so that I don’t have to take the time to do that during the week.

I also am not so strict with measuring as I once was; I don’t mind eyeballing it a little. I used to be very concerned about following a recipe exactly, now I will add or take away something if I want. I began baking before cooking meals, so that might be why. I would like to get to the point where there are things I can pull together without a recipe at all, but I’m not there yet.

How has meal planning changed your approach in the kitchen?
I tried meal planning before finding Cook Smarts, but I didn’t have the resources or experience to come up with the variety. The pressure of trying to figure that out on top of the rest of my job/wife/mom duties was a bit stressful. My weeks are much less stressful now, and I am cooking much more healthfully for my family.

I am no longer wandering the aisles of the grocery store while pulling up Pinterest on my phone to try to come up with my meals for the week. It’s all ready to go for me, and I’m so thankful for that!

I think I also save money because I’m not buying a bunch of ingredients that I think I might use, and end up wasting. I’m also cooking with foods and flavors that I never would have thought to before.

“[With Cook Smarts] I am no longer wandering the aisles of the grocery store while pulling up Pinterest on my phone to try to come up with my meals for the week. It’s all ready to go for me, and I’m so thankful for that!”

What recent kitchen accomplishment are you most proud of?
Since joining Cook Smarts, I am most proud of preparing so many dressings and sauces myself instead of buying something bottled or processed. Buying things already made used to be my time saver, but I’m saving so much time in other ways that it’s not an issue at all. Oh, and it’s so much tastier!!!

What advice would you give to other moms trying to juggle all the demands on their lives but also want to get family dinner on the table?
Work with your significant other (and definitely older children) to come up with a game plan for how evenings are going to look and work. Our routine is I’ll pick up the kiddos and get them settled at home and start dinner. My husband gets home about 15 to 30 minutes after me and plays with the kids and gets drinks, silverware, etc. ready.

After we eat, my husband does baths and pajamas, and I clean up the kitchen and do homework with my older child. After that we have some family downtime before bed. Of course, there has to be flexibility in that, with sports schedules and all, but that’s what most evenings look like for us.

We came up with a plan that works for us and know what to expect from each other so that it flows smoothly. Also take advantage of any 30 minute or so spot to prep for upcoming meals . . . it makes a big big difference in the evening!


Melissa, thank you so much for sharing how you and your husband balance domestic duties to make family dinners happen. Your organization and motivation is inspirational! And I hope more parents adopt your “hippie chicken” terminology.

Melissa Kimbrell's Favorite Cook Smarts Meal
To join Melissa and cook meals like her favorite adobo shrimp and cilantro and lime rice, sign up for our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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