My husband and I both grew up in “small town” Nebraska.
Our high school graduating classes were less than 45 people. People always did the one or two finger wave. And we always ate dinner with our families.
When I got to college, I was shocked and surprised at how few of my friends grew up with the same tradition. So few of them ate dinner, around a table, as a family, together. Most talked about “grabbing something” on their own before activities or they would eat before their parents got home because they worked late or traveled.
Fast forward twenty years. I’m now the parent of a teenager and pre-teen.
It is HARD to eat dinner together.
Between my activities – work meetings, PTA meetings, other classes; the kid’s activities – sports, religion classes, Boy Scouts; and my husband’s obligations – coaching, classes, and leadership meetings…it was taking some serious MEAL PLANNING and MEAL COORDINATION to make dinner as a family actually happen.
However, carrying on the tradition of eating dinner together as a family (and making the sacrifices to do it) is important to my husband and myself for the following reasons:
- We realize that families who eat together, stay together. Conversations around the dinner table often don’t happen anywhere else.
- We wanted to eat as much homemade food as possible. With obesity and other health epidemics, it was important to us to KNOW what ingredients were going into our food.
- Eating at home, together, was better for our budget. At this point, going through the drive-thru for our family of four was an easy $30.00. Eating at home (and a really good meal) cut that number in half.
But we realized if wanted to keep this tradition, it was time to get organized and creative.
1. Create a meal plan. We now take 20 minutes on Sunday and create a meal plan for the week. We usually start with items we already have on hand and then create a grocery list of items needed. If the list is big enough (and the week busy enough), we might enlist grocery delivery services. (Hy-Vee has a great one.)
2. Place someone “in charge” of prep and cleanup. After the meal plan is complete, we assign an “in-charge family member” that includes our kids. Because of the crazy schedules, there are days when my husband or I take the lead; and there are other days when my son is responsible for starting and putting the casserole in the oven. This includes not only the prep, but the cleanup as well. (Children’s Mercy has a great resource for how to include children in meal preparation.)
3. Freezer Cooking. Once a month, we take a Sunday and make 15 – 20 meals than be stored in the freezer until a later date. The freezer meals are GOLD on weeks that just eating together is hard enough…cooking, that is a whole other story.
4. Instill the love and joy of cooking in our kids. The only way to get our kids to love cooking is to have them cook with us. Their recipes aren’t always perfect or presentation great…but they are learning life skills – how to read a recipe, how to create a plan, how to gather ingredients, the difference between baking soda and baking powder (especially in cookies). We try to include them as much as possible and encourage them to try things on their own.
Is our situation perfect every night? No.
Do we get it more right than wrong during the week? Yes.
Our children know it is a priority and one of our core family values that we eat together. It might not always be perfect, but we try. I love this quote from Meredith Dreyer-Gillette, PhD.
“Everyone in the family can learn new healthy behaviors together. Start with one goal to work on together and support each other throughout the process.”
We have a goal. We work together. And we keep the traditional alive.
- Frugal Meal Planning Tips
- How To Create Inexpensive Healthy Meals
- Quick Healthy Dinner Options For Busy Families
- Why Dinnertime is Non-Negotiable In My House
- Kid’s Health – Family Meals
- Fit-tastic – Understanding the 12345
- Conversations Starters (HERE or HERE or HERE)
You can also check out the Children’s Mercy Mom’s Page for more information eating together, meal preparation and conversation starters.
Disclosure: Children’s Mercy is a partner of RedefinedMom. However, the written remarks and opinions are entirely my own. Want more information – check out my full disclosure statement.