You’ve seen the old sitcoms with the family all seated around the table, place settings at the ready and the doting mother bringing out the perfectly seared pork chops on a lovely platter in one hand, and a steaming side of farm fresh vegetables in the other. It’s like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and for many mothers today, it’s a downright fantasy.
The truth is, fiction is fiction. The average family’s day consists of so many moving parts that it’s typically unrealistic to have one person in charge of cooking meals—and getting everyone around the dinner table to eat is a whole other story! The trick is to have your family tackle meal time in a way that works for them! The best place to start is right in your kitchen, making meals (and memories) together!
Let Go of the Leave It To Beaver Fantasy
Today the mother watching that same sitcom scene could easily dissect it piece-by-piece, finding the essence of what’s wrong with the image easily by asking herself questions along the way.
How is that mother, father and children all home at the same time for dinner? Surely her children don’t all agree to eat the same thing without complaining? How does she have time to cook an elaborate meal while working a full-time job and running each of her kids to soccer practice and ballet?
It’s okay that the scene in your household at mealtimes doesn’t exactly match what’s on the TV. What’s important is to know your family and the kinds of meals that really bring them together, regardless of when or how they are served. Create a meal plan and cooking schedule that best supports the life each of you leads in your home, and success will follow!
Get Everyone Involved In the Planning
There is no better time to get your family involved than at the very start of things! Regardless of your children’s ages, you can have them help with the planning process. Do you have littles? Take them to the grocery store to help pick out their favorite fruits and veggies, asking them to choose one item they’ve never tried before this week. Preteens or teenagers on your hands? Have them find a recipe on YouTube that they are excited to try and write the ingredients on a grocery list themselves. Those everyday breakfasts, lunches and dinners you create are a great opportunity to teach your family about nutrition from a young age and to build good habits.
Find Joy in the Process
Of course, cooking together may take more time, but there’s so much value in the process. In a house with a lot of hustle and bustle, having time with your family to plan a meal and to cook together can quickly become the best part of your week. Remember that as you continue to invest more time in the kitchen together that skills and tastes will grow! You can make some age-appropriate recipes with your small children, even if it’s something as simple as making PB&J’s for lunches, mixing the pancake batter for breakfast or counting grapes to go in little bags for snacks. Expect messes, whether they come from the kids or your spouse! Who says the family that cooks together can’t also clean together?
Make It Part of Your Weekly Routine
Once you decide to start, ask your family to pick a day and time each week to have all of your cooks in the kitchen for meal prep! Make it something everyone looks forward to! Maybe it’s Sunday afternoons after church and you make a fun brunch as a family. Are Wednesdays after work and school the one time the door isn’t constantly revolving? Tackle getting lunches together for everyone by pulling out all the sandwich necessities from the refrigerator and sitting at the table ready to assembly-line-style some delicatessen deliciousness. If you have a calendar hanging in the house or a family calendar app, add a reminder of which time slot is for family cooking, so everybody remembers to block that time.
When you carve out time as a family to cook together, you can transform an otherwise daunting task into a memory-making time with the ones you love the most.