Picture this: it is 6:30 in the evening and mom has cooked a gourmet meal. She met dad at the door with his paper and cold beverage and slippers in hand. All 5 kids are perfectly cleaned, well behaved and seated angelically looking at their favorite story books. The happy family moves into the dining room where dinner will now be served on china and silver. The dad’s job is to say grace. There are no elbows on the table and no talking with mouths full here. Does this scene sound like something from the 50’s? That is when this evening ritual – The Family Dinner – actually happened with great PRIDE.
Sadly enough, in the era we are living in, the evening meal – once called “family dinner” – is in danger of actually making history and being on the extinct list.
Unlike the families of the 50’s and even the 60’s, we, the new millennium families find ourselves heading a million different directions with work schedules, activities, television, computers, and even church events all competing for our time. Our homes may feel like hotels with customers waving to each other as they pass in the hallways.
Yes, we all have plenty of great excuses for not having regular Family Dinner Times together, but let me remind you that the family meal time is an investment in your children. A recent survey from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation profiled national merit scholars from the past 20 years to see what these students had in common. Surprisingly, without exception they came from homes that ate together as a family three or more nights a week.
So not only can family meals make your kids smarter, but spending quality time over a meal can also contribute to your child’s spiritual and emotional growth. The dinner table is where real bonding time can happen, discussing your daily lives with each other. Kids who feel close to their families will also take their family’s value system to heart.
So, why is the family meal time about to be placed on the extinct list? Here are what I believe to be the TOP 4 reasons, and how to overcome them:
1. No Plan = No Dinner
Step 1 : Write out a master list of meals you and your family enjoy. If your children are old enough, allow them to help you make this list. Look in recipe books for new, simple recipes and be sure to check the 24/7 MOMS blog for weekly recipe ideas.
Step 2: Get out your calendar (I use a blank one for meal planning) and begin filling in each night with what you will make for dinner. I prefer to do this one month at a time. Maybe start with one week. It is important to look at your calendar as you’re planning so that you do not plan a big meal when no one will be home to eat it or a recipe that takes a lot of time to prepare when it is a busy day. Map out your time.
Step3: Make your grocery list. Take inventory of what you already have in your pantry, freezer, etc. Look at sale ads for loss leaders, gather your coupons, etc.
Step 4: Try to prepare as much of the meal as you can earlier in the day or the night before. During breakfast turn on the Crock-pot. During lunch cut up things, set the table etc.Try to have as much as possible done before chaos breaks out with hungry kids.
Step 5: Prepare meals ahead with the store loss leaders. Make double batches of things and freeze them for later.
HAVE A PLAN
2. Afternoon starvation sets in
If the kids are hungry before both parents are home, feed them a healthy snack – veggies, crackers and cheese, something to tide them over. This will curb their appetite so they can wait until the entire family sits down to eat.
3. Picky Eater Syndrome
The wonderful picky eaters. Well, in our home that is actually me. I actually have 5, 6 including the dad, seriously NON picky eaters. They say every family has one, so I guess I’m it. But, my advice to you, if you do have picky eaters, is include them in choosing the menu, and as they get bigger include them in cooking it as well. They like to eat what they cook. Never stop trying. One day they may truly eat more than macaroni and cheese. Find simple things like cheese, fruit, etc. that you can give them when you’re fixing something they do not care for.
4. Too many afternoon activities.
Schedule your activities around meal times, or if there are conflicts, prepare meals that can be ready when you walk in the door – soups, chili, spaghetti, etc. That is what those Crock-pots you got for your wedding are for. They actually should be baby shower gifts – who needs one till you have kids?
Delay dinner or eat earlier. Remember there are no set rules about when dinner has to be eaten.
No more excuses – Time for Dinner!