Our generation has never been more rushed. Whether you are a homeschool mom, working mom, stay at home or a working wife we have convinced ourselves that there is no time for family dinner in our busy schedules. How do we prioritize something that has little value to many families of our generation?
Family mealtime is important whether you have little ones, big ones or simply a hungry husband coming home for dinner at night. It is a chance to nourish both our bodies and our minds with two delicious things: food and conversation.
A moment of brutal honesty for the Mothers here is that if you have babies or toddlers amidst, dinner time usually includes Mom having to nurse the baby the minute the food is hot on the table or the toddler pushing the plate forward the minute the food is put in front of them. This usually, after preparing the meal with a crying baby on your hip or a toddler wrapped around your leg. Am I right? No doubt it can feel defeating day after day.
I used to let it bother me, the mealtime distractions, and sometimes I still do. Now that we have big smalls as well at little smalls the perspective is different. The big smalls have learned to appreciate this time together as well as the food and the little smalls will follow along in due time. We have sat down for family dinner consistently since our little ones were small and I believe this practice will have them cherishing our mealtimes together for a lifetime.
Many women are overwhelmed with trying to plan family dinners. This is second nature to me because I grew up the oldest of six kids. For a while there we had a meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack. My Dad and I even took over the responsibility of grocery shopping for a few years so I was blessed to have these skills before I hit adulthood. The effort my parents made to give us memories of good mealtimes has left me with the desire to pass this tradition to my littles.
How can we simplify it? Here are the things I have learned NOT to do.
1. Prepare Gourmet or New Meals
Especially for the working or homeschool moms. We aren’t coming home from working or finishing up teaching to an empty house to think about cooking a complicated meal. I reserve those meals for Summer when I am not in the middle of teaching school. Gourmet cooking holds an absolute place in my heart however these are just not the years for that.
2. Cook on the Weekend
We need rest too! The only people I cook for on the weekend are guests. Family gets leftovers or an upcycled meal as well as a pleasant(er) Mother.
3. Real Dishes Always
Sometimes we eat yummy food on paper plates. Nobody complains. True Story.
4. Wing It
Never. Never ever. It would make me a special kind of crazy nobody wants to see. I Flexible Meal Plan every week!
Here is what I have learned TO do.
1. Flexible Meal Plan
Every week I sit down and plan out meals a week at a time. A few things to do when planning meals is to consider the week ahead. If I have busy nights I plan easier meals so I can focus more on the relational part of the meal and not the meal itself. Usually I only have one week a month that looks like that and we go right back to eating nicer meals the following week.
2. Upcycled Meals
I’m just going to make this a thing. What does upcycled meals mean? It doesn’t mean that I turned Tough Toddling Boy’s uneaten food into a meal. What it does mean is that I take leftover food from one dinner and turn it into another meal! So if we have Crockpot Chicken Tacos one night, a few nights later I use the leftover Chicken to make Chicken Bean Burritos! If we have Lasagna I reserve some of the filling for a Stromboli on the weekend! 2 meals in 1! Your welcome. Now go put those feet up Mama!
3. <3 That Slow Cooker
Lemme tell ya! Working Wife throw some food in before work! Stay at Home or Homeschool Mom throw in some food while the kiddos eat lunch, mine usually take 30 minutes to eat a sandwich so I have plenty of time to get a meal in the crockpot. Then I am off the hook the rest of the afternoon.
4. Breakfast Once A Week
I’m not talking cereal here folks. Pancakes, Bacon, Fruit, Breakfast Burritos or Waffles. The good stuff that warms your tummy!
4. Order Pizza
Due to the fact that I usually cook frugal, decent meals I do this GUILT FREE. I never feel bad about it and the littles are usually cheering.
5. Light A Candle
Why wait for the kiddos to grow up to enjoy candle lit dinners? When they see that candle lit at our family table they know that means we are going to have an especially quiet and well mannered meal together. It relaxes me and someday they will laugh about the fact that Mommy lit a candle so we could have civilized dinners together on occasion. Usually we have pretty relaxed, loud and sometimes crazy dinners together thanks to my extremely fun loving, kid hearted husband.
5. Be At Home
So simple right? It isn’t though as many of us know. A few nights a week we might be heading to an activity after dinner but we are always at home for dinner. When our kids get older and we have sports practice to go to we will have snacks and a late dinner! It is our desire to maintain this tradition for as long as we can before our nest is empty.
I dare you to try some of these tips out for a few weeks and I think you might fall deeply in love.
Let’s bring peace back to dinnertime.
Slow and Steady wins the race.