While cleaning up the house after our big holiday extravaganza this week, I started to reflect on what makes this time of year so special. One of my favorite things about the holidays is gathering with my family around the table to eat a nice home cooked meal. During the Hanukkah–Christmas-Kwanzaa holiday season many of us make more time to do just that. These relaxed family meals create joyful memories that last us the entire year through.
But during the rest of the year modern life seems to get in the way. To-do lists that just seem to get longer and busy schedules can get in the way of the traditional family dinnertime. Combine that with kids who can sometimes be picky eaters and the family meal can become an overwhelming challenge.
For example, here in my house we almost never have a weeknight dinner all together. My husband usually gets home just in time to help tuck our young son into bed. I do hope that one day we’ll be able to push the kids' dinnertime to 7 PM so we can all eat together, but right now that is just too late.
But eating together doesn’t have to be mission impossible. With a little extra planning and the right approach, you can bring your family around the table regularly. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to get our family together for as many meals as possible. So I will devote the month of January to writing about how to commit to getting a meal the whole family will eat on the table in a manageable way.
The solution for my family is to eat breakfast together in the morning, and on the weekends we eat all our meals together. That way we are still sharing many of our meals together as a family. Another way is to get as much prepared in advance as is possible. During our holiday meals, many of the foods were prepared in advance and simply reheated in the oven. You can use this approach to get dinner together for busy weeknights by doing much of the cooking or prep work the weekend before. Spending a couple hours will eliminate a lot of last minute scrambling, and maybe even a few fast food runs.
Finally, you can streamline mealtime so everyone can eat together by offering only one choice for everyone at each meal. This has been our latest challenge – trying to get my son to eat the same foods that the rest of the family is eating (well maybe not the family dog, but he has tasted her food a couple of times!). This will eliminate having to make special meals or packing special foods before going out.
For example, the other night we ate at an Italian restaurant. I knew dinner might be somewhat of a challenge when my two year old started chanting “pizza, pizza, pizza” in the car, and I wasn’t sure it was on the menu. It wasn’t, but he loved the Mozzarella in Carozza appetizer, a fried mozzarella cheese sandwich with marinara sauce (The closest thing on the menu to pizza). Many times, young kids might be interested in at least trying what the adults are eating, and since he saw all of us enjoying it he decided he liked it too!
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