Your Family, Your Simple & Intentional Life

The Family Dinner Table

Candy blogs: One sad result of the hurried, harried lifestyle of today is the demise of the family dinner table. I’m not a fancy cook but I did try to fix dinner at home most of the time when our kids were growing up. We didn’t usually actually eat at the table either but we usually ate at home.

What has happened to family meals at home? There are so many benefits.

* children learn table manners
Where else will children learn how to behave and eat as a guest in someone’s home or in public? Don’t be the mealtime police but do emphasize the basics: no elbows on the table, chew with your mouth closed, use a napkin, ask for food to be passed to you, be willing to try new foods, ask to be excused, take your dishes to the kitchen.
* children learn the art of conversation
Most kids and teens today won’t look you in the eye, don’t know how to give a firm handshake and don’t know how to speak with words using more than one syllable. This type of “conversation” won’t work in a job interview. Conversation with real people has been exchanged for its electronic counterpart. Consistently eating meals at the family dinner table can help counteract this dangerous trend that keeps young people from functioning on their own when they “try” to leave home.
* children can expand their vocabulary
Speak to your kids in a normal tone and voice. Baby talk is for babies. Use words as you would talk to other adults. Let your children ask you what the words mean. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
* children can be taught to cook
Now is the time to learn to cook. It won’t happen through osmosis and you don’t wait until you think your child WANTS to learn to cook. Meals should be part of every household, not just the ones where everyone likes to cook.
* part of childhood chores
Use mealtimes to give your kids a way to contribute to the family. Setting and clearing the table, food preparation and clean up … one or more of these chores should be part of everyone’s day.
* you have more control over what your family consumes
Concerned about salt or preservatives or quantity intake? You have the powuh!
* eating at home is much less expensive
Duh.

Why people don’t eat at home much anymore

* Women don’t know how to cook.
I do love the resurgence of all the cooking shows. I think cooking at home is making a comeback, especially in our unstable economy. But many people never grew up learning to cook. The popularity of the cooking shows is an indicator that there is a need out there to teach people how to cook. There are many ways now to learn to cook. No excuses.
* Women don’t think they should have to cook.
I worked full time most of my adult life until two years ago. I often dreaded the drive home from work because I knew the first words I would hear would be, “What’s for dinner?” I had already put in a full day and would now continue the work that waited at home. Funny how I usually thought of ‘home’ as ‘work’. Funny how I had chosen my life and often resented it.
* I am Woman, hear me roar
Oh, hadn’t I heard? Women don’t get coffee for their bosses anymore … women have college degrees now … women don’t cook and clean anymore … women have more important things to do. (Boy, you should have read what I just deleted.) Families appreciate a home-cooked meal more than almost anything else. Ask your family.

What kept me from cooking at home?
* I was tired.
Oh, well. We Americans are so fixated on not being uncomfortable or unhappy. Get over yourself. We work tired for everyone else and use ourselves up by the time we get to our family time. Is that living your priorities?
* I didn’t have all the ingredients.
Prepare a menu and grocery list based on how you shop. And I recommend shopping based on how you get paid. If you get paid every two weeks, plan 12-14 meals and include all the ingredients you’ll need for those meals on your grocery list. Keep your shelves stocked with the usual things your family eats on a regular basis.
* I didn’t know what to fix.
See above
* I didn’t have enough time.
There are options. Collect crock pot recipes. Everyone will love the smell of dinner when they walk in the door, especially you. Most other meals can be on the table in 30-45 minutes. That’s from start to finish.

Some Practical Tips

* It’s all in the recipes
Collect simple recipes from friends, actually look in your cookbooks, on the Internet, cooking blogs, cooking Facebook pages.  Try to stay away from boxed and processed foods.  You can  make a wholesome meal quickly.
* Share the cooking
Everyone can be involved. Make it a family “event”. Mom doesn’t have to prepare every meal. And sometimes Dad is the one who loves to cook. Great! As long as someone is doing it.  Or let each child choose a night of the week to pick the menu and be involved in the shopping and preparing of the meal.  I love this idea! Wish I’d heard of it when my kids were at home. I kind of do this now. Once a month I invite our grown kids and their spouses over for MFD (monthly family dinner). I always ask one of them what they’d like me to make. They always pick a childhood favorite. Sometimes I ask them to bring a part of the meal.
* Freezer meals
This is one of my favorite finds! Make a double batch and freeze the other half. It won’t take you any more time to prepare but it will save you a lot of time on another busy or tired day. You might have to rearrange your freezer.
* Set a budget
Do you know how much to spend on groceries? Dave Ramsey recommends 5-15% of your take home pay. Of course the percentage depends on the size of your family and your total income. Do you really want something else more than you don’t want to cook? When we became empty-nesters I spent the first few years demanding that we eat out more because I’d been cooking for 28 years, after all. But when we sat down and figured up how much we’d been spending on eating out, I quickly changed my mind. We were spending hundreds of dollars every month on restaurants and I was throwing away food I had purchased in the grocery budget. So we were spending money on groceries AND eating out. I decided that I wanted to use the money we saved instead for getting out of debt and to be able to stop working at a job that tied me to a schedule. Do I like to cook? Not really. But now I want to spend that money on other things.

Now ladies, I am NOT saying that one should never eat out. We still do. There are times you just can’t make it work to get a meal prepared at home. And sometimes we’re really just so tired that a family meal at a restaurant is just what the doctor ordered. And I have always thought a green salad tastes better when someone else makes it.

But I think eating out should be the exeception, not the rule. It might be a little chaotic getting to the table but once you’re there, take a deep breath, look around at your ‘life’, remember you chose it, give thanks and dig in. Use this time to really get to know your family.

Breathe in the simple. Breathe in the contentment. Breathe in the joy.

3 thoughts on “The Family Dinner Table”

  1. There is a wonderful book called Fix, Freeze and Feast that has been a help to me. The book has a recipe for chili that is always a favorite, and I make it in large batches. Freezer meals are very helpful.

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    1. Thank you for the wonderful tip about the book! Having a meal in the freezer has saved me on many occasions. I wish I’d done it years ago. We get tired of eating out and usually prefer something from home. And I can leave something for my husband when I’m out of town … as long as I also leave the instructions for the oven!

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      1. The book even comes with instructions for reheating that you can copy and tape to the bag. Planning ahead helps make the family meal together more of a possibility. It also helps the family finances. I always enjoy your posts.

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