Making Meal Time Easy
1. Take out non-perishable ingredients the night before.
I find this helpful because it is a reminder to me all day of what I need to do to get dinner done. Everything is out and ready to go, and it makes prepping dinner a cinch. It is also a great reminder if anything needs to be thawed for the next day.
2. Prep dinner early in the day so there is no rushing at 5:00pm.
The worst feeling is rushing through preparing a meal when everyone needs you, everyone is hungry, everyone is cranky, and you still have to prepare a whole meal. Start early! If you can crock pot your meal in the am, do it! If not, prep around midday so that it is warming and ready by dinner time.
3. Have a system and delegate jobs to the kids.
This is so important because although mom CAN do everything, dinner time is a great time to have all hands on deck and the family team in high gear. Everyone should have a job and know their role and feel important. In our home I cook the meals during the week, John cooks on the weekends if he is available, and the kids are our helpers. Julia does the plates and cups and Mark does the napkins and forks. After all, many hands make light work, and since we ARE a family team all our jobs are valuable and necessary.
4. During dinner make it happy conversation time.
Many times I have found myself at the table disciplining during the whole meal. "Julia sit properly." "Mark eat your food." Dinner time began to feel like a drag instead of family bonding time. Now I try to remember to ask their kids about their day (since I am with them all day this can get creative) I ask them to tell me what their favorite part was, what they are thankful for, what subject in school was their favorite, or what they are looking forward to tomorrow. Then I don't feel like I am a drill sergeant the whole time.
5. Have a clean up system.
Whatever works for you as a family is key. In our home, Dad cleans up the dishes, Mom dries the dishes and puts them away. Julia clears the table, and Mark sweeps with the mini broom and dustpan or uses the hand held vacuum for under the table. I just find that when you have a system, and everyone knows their job, then the meal flows nicer and everyone chips in to help instead of disappearing into the playroom.