We recently interviewed busy parents who are successful at making family mealtime work in their house. We thought they were going to have rules about no TV or smartphone use but what we found is that they are very motivated to keep making the meals so delicious and such a part of their routine that they never have to have any rules. Their families are happy to come to the table for a home-cooked meal!
Here are a few of the success tips from the parents who make family mealtime on most days of the week.
Shop Together and Make Food an Activity
- Some parents have great success when the family grocery shops together every week. Many delegate a task to each family member, like go find the ripest avocados, pick out the best fruit for the week, go and find the protein items on the list, or help push the cart.
- Food acquisition and preparation become family entertainment every week.
- Kids get to prepare meals or help prepare them if they are interested.
- Some families watch the food channel so they all learn about new foods and keep the motivation high. Or they go to farmer's markets during the week.
- Food shopping and preparation becomes an activity instead of leaving home and spending money doing other activities.
Plan to Fail But Don't Fail to Plan
- By having enough emergency meal ingredients on hand many parents are able to overcome upsets to the regular schedule because they can make quick meals that everyone loves. They are also able to make meals between shopping trips. Ideas for these emergency meals include tacos, ravioli, soups, pasta, burritos, healthy frozen meals, stir fry, bowls, and soups.
- One mom keeps chicken and noodles on hand so she can make a fast soup using leftover vegetables and bouillon cubes.
- Many moms like to make a "make your own meal" using veggie burgers, tacos, salads, and chili. Bowls are very popular, too, because they can use up leftovers and allow family members to make their own bowl.
Make it Fun for You As The Cook - Keep Trying New Things
- Almost all parents who are successful with family meals are doing things to keep themselves motivated and interested in food. This includes following your favorite foodie on Instagram, looking for meal ideas on Pinterest, reading family meal bloggers or plant-based meal gurus, or subscribing to magazines and Instagram feeds to get recipe and meal ideas. Most say they try at least one new recipe per week.
- Parents who are successful at making family meals on a regular basis view cooking as a positive benefit that saves time and money compared to eating out. A few commented that if you order takeout or deliver the food often arrives cold and you still have all of the cleanup chores afterward so it is not a treat unless they actually go out!
- They also view family mealtime as sacred family time.
It's Okay to Take Time Off
- Some parents have a schedule for meals that is similar to the one used for work. They work Sunday through Thursday and take Friday and Saturday off. This is helpful for parents who are really stressed.
- Still, others manage by never planning too far ahead. One mom is so stressed at the thought of planning too far in advance that she shops every day. Another one shops for three days. Whatever you like is the best idea!
- Another mom uses the buffet in the Whole Foods store to bring home meals that are ready to go so she gets her shopping day off from cooking. What a great idea!
When In Doubt Serve Breakfast
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.