Family mealtime at the table is important to the success of your family; and especially your children.
When I was growing up, we had a dining room table. The dining room was the first room inside the front door, next to the kitchen. We didn’t eat there though. My family had our meals in the living room while watching Seinfeld, Roseanne, or The Simpsons. I didn’t mind, but if I had known then what I know now, I would have protested (I was good at that).
As it turns out, eating meals at the table as a family has lots of great benefits; especially for the children of the family. Here are a few ways that children can benefit from family mealtime at the table.
Children who experience family mealtime at least a few times a week:
- Learn good eating habits
- have more feelings of security and belonging
- learn about where their food comes from
- experience how to prepare foods at an early age
- do less drugs
- have higher self esteem
- are better informed of the events of the day
- become masters of conversation
- generally tend to be happier and more successful people
In fact, in her TEDx video, Heidi Weinstein says that eating as a family means we are partaking in an age-old ritual. It is in our DNA and it creates our family’s identity. The audio in the video isn’t great but she makes some valuable arguments for family mealtime.
Living in a society that promotes an on-the-go lifestyle can be very detrimental to the health of individuals but also to the health of our families. Sitting down to a meal with your family provides an opportunity to build strong familial bonds. Conversation comes naturally when you are sitting around a table. It becomes natural to discuss the days’ events as well as what is happening in the lives of each family member.
By the time children and especially teenagers encounter truly challenging or troubling issues, they are more likely to discuss those issues with their parents thanks to all those conversations about life during family mealtime at the table. As a parent, I know I want my children to feel like they can come and talk to me about anything that is troubling them. If I’m being honest, watching them eat their veggies without a fuss is pretty sweet too.
I can hear what you’re thinking…family mealtime? At the table? All at the same time? Several times a week or ever day? Who has the time?!?
It can be super overwhelming to prepare home-cooked meals every day, whether you work outside the home or not. Take heart, there are some tips and tricks that could help to make it a bit easier.
Here are some of the first things to incorporate into your kitchen life.
Simplify, simplify, simplify
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of working in your kitchen, you may need to reduce your inventory. Yes, I said reduce your inventory. There are so many gadgets and gizmos that promise to make meal time prep a breeze but really, they end up clogging up our spaces, making it harder for us to find the simple tools we need to get the job done.
Over the past year and a half or so, I have been reducing the inventory throughout my entire home and my kitchen is no exception. I’m not as simplified yet as I think I should be but it is becoming easier to get in there and get the work done. Some days almost feel effortless! …OK, that might be a bit of a stretch but there have been days that felt to flow really well with little to know frustration over moving things around to make space or to get to the tool, pot, or utensil I need.
Start small, if there are utensils in your drawer that you never use because you don’t like them…get them out of your house. They aren’t serving you; they are stressing you.
Take it easy on yourself, life is busy and you likely don’t have time to empty all of your cabinets to do a full kitchen purge and reorganization at one time. Just fold it into your way of thinking. I always have a donation box or bag in a designated spot in my home. That way, whenever I come across something that is no longer serving me, I have a place to go with it right in that moment. Just this week, I took another loaded van to my local donation site and within a few hours of being home, I had placed another item in my designated donation site. It is pretty cool to see how easy it becomes.
cook in batches
Do you eat a lot of chicken? Get the big pot out and cook two birds at the same time. I have been cooking our chicken in the instant pot because it’s fast and the meat just falls of the bone for easy picking but I can only fit one bird in there at a time. I’ll be starting to cook two each time so I don’t have to cook chicken as often. Shred that chicken meat and you have your protein ready to make
- grilled chicken salads
- chicken soup
- roasted chicken sandwiches
- chicken tacos
- chicken salad sandwiches
- BBQ chicken pizza
- chicken and broccoli stir fry
- etc etc etc
It can be the same with other proteins. Cook extra while you’re doing it and then extend it throughout your week.
- spaghetti with meat sauce
- meat balls
- meat loaf
- hamburger barley soup
- beef stew
Breaded Chicken Cutlets
- chicken parmesan
- buffalo chicken wraps
- chicken bacon ranch wraps
- chicken salads
Share in the comments some of your favorite ways to extend proteins through the week. I’d love some fresh ideas!
You could also easily make a big batch of rice at the beginning of the week if you eat a lot of rice. Veggies are usually pretty quick so I would actually try to make them fresh with each meal if possible.
Oh, and when you’re making soup, go ahead and make a BIG pot. Not because you’re going to eat it all week, but because you are going to eat it for one or two meals that week and then pressure can or freeze the rest for easy meals another week!
You have likely heard this one before too but if you can dice and chop your veggies ahead of time, cooking becomes that much easier.
If you need guidance on how to keep your prepped produce fresh, check out my friend Amy Cross at The Cross Legacy. She has simple and wildly useful tips!
avoid mental overload
It may seem silly but trying a new recipe can be really mentally draining. While I’m a huge fan of trying new recipes, I don’t recommend trying any more than one a week. For me, even that can be too much some months.
Give yourself grace. It’s perfectly acceptable to stick to a few old standbys regularly while you build up your cooking repertoire.
stock the pantry
Keeping some of your family’s favorite staples on hand in the pantry for your old standby meals is a surefire way to ensure that you won’t be reaching for the phone to order in a pizza at the last minute.
Building your list of staples can take some time but once it’s done, your pantry will always be ready for you. It actually makes creating your grocery list a good bit easier too!
Well, there is a lot more I could say on this subject of family mealtime at the table but I’ll save some of that for another day. Thanks so much for coming with me on this trip through the kitchen. What are some of your family’s old standby meals that you know you can whip up in a hurry on a busy day? Drop a comment and let me know! Bonus points if you include the recipe!
It’s getting colder outside. Likely, you and your family will start spending more hours inside. Seems like a great time to start focusing on spending more of that time indoors at the table to share family mealtime.
All my best to you and your family.
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see other posts by through the kitchen here:
Learn more about my best suggestions for kitchen utensils here: Reasons to use wooden spoons and other kitchen utensils
Did you know you can Make Buttermilk at Home? You sure can! I’ll show you how.
As simple as it sounds, simplifying your life can be hard. I guide you through some of that overwhelm here: Overcoming Overwhelm When Simplifying Your Lifestyle
links in this post:
Heidi Weinstein TEDx The Importance of Family Mealtime – https://youtu.be/v36i6Wn-UaA
The Cross Legacy – Amy Cross – https://thecrosslegacy.com/