Happy New Year! Happy Family Meals!

Hello and Happy New Year!  We’re so excited to get this new project started, that we’ve all been working on it for the past week.  But I use the word ‘working’ very loosely – we’ve been having fun, talking and thinking about our family meals.

I want to note right away, that we didn’t choose this focus on family meals for the month of January because it’s something that we’re great at already.  This is not a how-to-do-xyz-perfectly blog – it’s really more about the process of tackling an area that is challenging, and working to make small, sustainable changes.

Family meals are currently very challenging in our home.  We mean to sit down together to connect, and we want to eat delicious, healthy meals, but our current reality is far from that ideal.

M and I both work full-time, so the whole family usually makes it back to the house by about 5:45 each evening. We all return exhausted and sometimes pretty grouchy.  The kids are ready to eat immediately, so this has led to lots of overly processed quick meals.  The kids usually start eating first, while we finish cooking the rest of the meal, or work on other chores around the house.  The ubiquitous iPhone has been known to make appearances at our table, so that we can check one last work e-mail, or catch up on the headlines.  We rush through our meal, and then one of us gets the kids ready for bed, while the other cleans the kitchen.

How many family meal-time mistakes did you spot?

I know there’s no one right way to do family meals, and that I need to cut us some slack and recognize that some of what we do is working for us.  I actually entered into this project with a little skepticism about the importance of sitting down together.  But as I read more about the topic, and as we tried to sit down in a more civilized manner over the last few weeks, I realized that I was in complete denial that we weren’t doing that well at all.

One of the best book resources I found is The Family Dinner, written by Laurie David, with recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt.  It’s a wonderful resource, full of down-to-earth advice, tips, ideas, and recipes.  Laurie has two teenage daughters, who still like to talk with their mom over a meal.  I think that’s why her advice is so useful – she’s really lived through the pressures and realities that pull all of us away from family meals.  She lays out ten steps that can make family dinners a place for connection and joy (Step Three:  No Phones!).  We had already made some of the steps part of our day-to-day life, but we can already tell that implementing more of them will make a big difference for our family.

I’ll undoubtedly be referencing The Family Dinner from time to time over the next month.  In addition to pulling from this resource, we’re also working on menu planning and trying new recipes.  We spent time looking at a lot of kid-friendly cookbooks over the past few weeks, which I’ll refer to as we use specific recipes.  Our main goal was to give our five-year-old son more ownership and excitement about our meals.  We want him to feel involved in the entire process of creating menu plans, shopping, preparing the food, enjoying the food, and cleaning up.  Our almost-two-year-old will also be part of the process, as often as she’s interested.

If you’re also working on improving your family meals, here are some brainstorm sheets I made for this month – FLIP – Family Meals – January PDF.  I’ve included an area for thinking about what’s going right and what’s challenging (Page 1), an area for visualizing your best family meal scenario (Page 2), a rough sheet for menu planning (Page 3), and a spot for jotting down your grocery list (Page 4).  These are very simple documents – I know there are many other free resources out there, especially for menu planning and shopping lists – I’ll make note of different resources in another PDF that I’ll share at the end of the month.

We’re planning to post every day this month, about our family meal experiences and the ideas we’re trying.  We hope you’ll join us on our journey and share your experiences too!

Do you have any meal-time related goals or resolutions you’re thinking about this year?  

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4 thoughts on “Happy New Year! Happy Family Meals!

  1. Yes, dinner is something we’ve been working on for awhile! We have The Family Dinner book, and I agree it is a great resource. Our biggest challenge is agreeing on one main meal. I will pretty much eat anything except meat–I eat a vegetarian diet–and my husband and daughter have limited things they will eat. They’re open to trying, but it usually is a taste or two, and “no thanks”–So, I try to focus on the foods they will eat, and think about ways I can use sides to supplement the variety I like to have. I welcome any suggestions you will share this month on making one main meal that the whole family will enjoy! I feel the key is the side dishes, but we’re still challenged to get all the food ready at the same time, as you shared.

    I know many people prepare meals on the weekend, freeze them, and that cuts down on prep time, but I haven’t ever done that myself.

    Happy New Year, Happy New Project, Elise!

    • Hi Lisa! Not making multiple meals is one of our biggest challenges too. I’m hoping that the more the whole family plans and cooks together, the more buy in there’ll be to eat it. What kinds of foods and flavors do S. and S. really like?

      Hope your New Year has been happy so far 🙂

      • Sorry for the late reply to your follow-up questions.
        “Big” S. could eat pizza Every Day! He loves bread, cheese, marinara. His flavor: Plain His foods: Carbs!
        “Little” S. also likes plain and carbs–cheese, pasta, peanut butter…She used to eat more variety in terms of flavors and foods, but has taken more after her father now. She loves broccoli and will eat most fruits. I have used vegetable purees in the macaroni and cheese, and she does like it. I just wish they enjoyed more variety, and more vegetables, because that it what I like and feel good about serving to my family–A healthy variety.

        Think I’m caught up on all the comments I wanted to share with you–Great job on your Family Meals Project–I give your efforts 5+ Stars! You’ve motivated me to look through our recipes, to toss the ones that haven’t worked for us, that I wish would have (have tried SO many recipes over the years), and to focus on the ones we really enjoy.

      • Thank you Lisa! I’m late with my follow-up to replies, but I really appreciate your comments and support!

        It seems like the purees might be a good way to go, for S. and S. Marinara sauce is pretty healthy though! And way to go S. with the broccoli – I don’t think I liked it until I was about 30 🙂

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