Welcome to part 2 of what I believe will be a three part series. In case you missed part one, you can catch up here. I almost feel a little guilty continuing on as this last week, we have not been so great, but I guess that’s life. You shoot for the ideal, work really hard and do your best, and then accept your best.
So I left off with why we made the decision to take back our mealtimes. Now it’s onto the how to take it back.
I’m not a big movie watcher, but I love the movie Enchanted. Any girl that tells you she doesn’t long to be a princess is in denial, but that’s another post for another day. One of my favorite parts is when they are singing and dancing around Central Park – How does she know, you love her? You know that song?
When we made the decision to take back our mealtimes, we had to ask ourselves, if someone were to come and visit us, how would they know that family mealtimes are a priority for us. What did we need to do?
Well, right away I knew I needed to plan better. Waiting until 4:30 to decide what to make for dinner was not working well. More often than not, I ran around like a mad woman getting grouchier by the second. By the time I sat down, I was done. There was food on the table, but I had nothing left to give. By the end of the meal, my family was fed, but not nourished.
Now, I plan. There are about a bazillion blog posts about meal planning, and you can find a ton of ways to showcase your plan. If you don’t believe me, check out pinterest. I like to keep it simple. I plan a week at a time. Planning a whole month of meals seems overwhelming so I put it off and put it off and next thing I know, the month is over. Planning for a week, takes about 10 minutes. I can handle that. Most of the time, I just sit down in front of the computer with our weekly schedule in front of me and write it out on a piece of paper.
Doing a week at a time allows me to cater meals to our family’s activities. Is someone having a game? Does Greg have to work late – whatever. I can also plan around what we are currently producing at home. Right now, we’re eating A LOT of zucchini. Pretty soon, we will be eating A LOT of spaghetti squash. I know many people plan around what is on sale that week. Still others plan using systems like the Food Nanny. Each day of the week is assigned a theme – chicken, seafood, Mexican, etc. I felt trapped when I tried it that way, but my sister loves planning this way. The best planning system is the one that works for you because it’s the only one you will do consistently.
Also included in planning is the preparation. If you go to make your planned meal of macaroni and cheese at 4:00 only to find that you are out of cheese, things become a little hairy. When I plan for the week, I make notes of what I need to buy and what can be done ahead of time. In our home, we try to eat whole foods as much as possible. If black bean burgers are on the menu for Wednesday, I would probably prepare the beans on Monday so Wednesday wouldn’t be so rushed. For another family, it might just mean making sure you have a can of beans ready to go. And still for another family, it might mean making sure you have bean patties in the freezer.
Once you have a plan, you need to remember to be flexible. Things come up – go with it. Easier said than done for some of us, but when you are prepared you can be more flexible. They go hand in hand. Stock your pantry with the basics, whatever the basics are for your family. Things like flour, sugar, salt are givens for us, but there are some not so basic things I simply don’t want to be caught without – milk, eggs, apples, bananas, bread (I know, I should make my own bread, but we have a local bakery that sells organic whole grain bread for a dollar, yes a dollar. You can’t beat that.), peanuts and raisins. I can work around almost anything else. I can work around these things as well, but everyone is happier when these things are on hand.
Have a list of go to meals that you can make in a snap without preparation – for us it’s grilled cheese and peas – nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. That way if a game goes long or a project comes up that you can’t break away from, you can still have a meal without running to McDonalds.
If you have kids, include them in the planning and preparation. While it may not always seem like it — check out this bunch below — they can be your number one asset.
Summertime is a great time for this – I often divide dinner jobs up so that everyone plays a role on getting dinner on the table. For example a couple of Sundays ago, we had breakfast for dinner. Taryn and Muffa made the pancakes, Hayden made the syrup, Thomas and I worked on the eggs, and Hailey set the table. By working together we were not only fed, but nourished as we spent this quality time together.
Getting into a groove that works for your family takes time. Don’t expect miracles overnight. There are days I just don’t feel like planning, and I do it anyway. And then there are those times that I don’t feel like it so I don’t, and then I usually regret it. I don’t think I’ve ever finished up a meal and said, man, I wish I had just thrown something together at the last minute while snapping at my kids and getting frazzled. But I have finished a meal and said, wow, I’m so glad I planned ahead and had the kids helping. That was really nice. Not a meal planner — give it a try. I know you’ll like it.