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?