We are a farm family. We live and work here. We eat here. Three times a day, seven days a week, five people eat. Another question I get from other moms is “How do I handle mealtimes?” Moms want to feed their families good food. They want their family gathered around the table sharing a meal. This house isn’t perfect, but I’ll gladly share the things I think are important to handling mealtimes.
1. PLAN – Plan your meals, plan your shopping lists, plan your meal schedule. For almost two years, I’ve done Once-a-Month Cooking as the cornerstone of my meal planning. I cook for one day and make about 35 meals to stock in my freezer. It has saved the supper time panic that would strike at 5pm. I also plan breakfasts. We almost always have hot breakfast in our house: pancakes, scrambled eggs, poached eggs and bacon, malt-o-meal, oatmeal, waffles, fruit and yogurt are our seven weekly breakfasts. I always have breakfast ingredients on hand and try to keep the days the same. For example, I make steel-cut oatmeal in my crockpot for Sunday mornings (giving me a bit of a break on the breakfast prep). Lunches are often cold: bread, cheese, fruit and veggies. We may have leftovers. Sundays, again, are different. Our church is over at 12:30 which means we get home just before 1pm and lunch needs to appear instantly. Enter “Soup Sunday”. I put a soup from my freezer meals into another crockpot when I get up and when we arrive home, I dish it up and we’re ready to eat. On Sunday evenings, we have popcorn. On Fridays, we usually have homemade pizza and ice cream. See how easy meal-planning can be?
2. GET KIDS INVOLVED – My kids are currently 5, 4, and almost 3. Many would think that they wouldn’t be much of a help in the kitchen, but they are great help! I found myself relying on the 5 year old because she is good help. Then I realized that she knows how to do things: mix up pancakes, fry bacon, crack eggs. But the other two also needed to learn so I organized a chore chart and assigned each child to help me prep a meal for a week. So for this past week, the almost-3-year-old has been helped me get lunch on the table. She sets the table, gets things out of the fridge, pick grapes off the stem, fill water glasses, etc. Why is it important to get kids involved? Because soon they will be able to do it on their own. And won’t it be nice when you can ask them to get lunch on the table and they can??!! I just know angels will sing…
3. COME NOW – First, come to the table the first time you are called. Nothing gets my dander up faster than working hard to get a meal on the table and then no one comes to eat it. Strolling in whenever they want and plunking down at the table. No. Not in this house. I will call one time. You will come. And you will be happy that food has magically appeared on your table. Have I started eating by myself? You bet! And the point was driven home. Honor the effort of the cook by rushing to the table with a thankful heart.
4. FOCUS – We have a few rules at our table: no toys, no reading, no shouting. When we are gathered around the table, be all there! Don’t hold your smartphone with one hand and your fork with the other. Have conversations. Ask your kids what their favorite part of the day was. Tell them your favorite part. The family meal time is where children learn to make conversation. Teach them by being present without distraction.
5. EAT AT THE TABLE – It is very easy these days to eat at the breakfast bar or in front of the television. But you can’t focus on each other when you aren’t looking at one another, passing items around the table, or speaking to their face gathering non-verbal communication. Television simply eliminates the space for conversation to happen.
Day 23 Homework: How would you rate mealtimes at your house? What areas do you enjoy? What areas would you like to work on?