Kitchen Titbits - Family Stress-free Mealtimes
Enjoying stress-free mealtimes
Do you wake up in the morning not only wondering what you’re going to have for breakfast but also what’s going to be on the menu in the evening? Do you also panic about whether you’ll get a chance to eat lunch or if it’ll be a 2.30pm afterthought?
Food can take up our whole day if we’re not careful. There’s the seemingly constant supply our little ones need, plus we’ve got to come up with something wonderful and nutritious for our family every night. Not to mention the shopping and all the clearing up.
It takes time and energy and an awful lot of headspace. Factor in concern over whether your child is eating enough, how to get vegetables into them or why they just won’t look at, let alone touch, the meal you lovingly prepared and no wonder it’s stressful!
So here are some simple ways for you to enjoy stress-free mealtimes more.
Make a plan
I know it feels like just another job to do but if you can invest a little time in your week and make it a priority, you’ll have done all the hard work and the thinking so there’s no more waking up and spending the whole day asking yourself ‘what’s for dinner?’.
There are other benefits to planning too.
You’ll eat a wider range of meals and as a result you’ll be eating better/more healthily and your little one is exposed to a greater variety of foods, which is one of the best ways to both prevent and deal with fussy eating.
You’ll take fewer trips to the shops – saving you time and money.
You’ll be able to spot where you can be more efficient with food, time and energy – for example, identifying what else you can prepare whilst cooking dinner to make another meal quicker and easier – or to ensure you eat at lunchtime.
It reduces food waste - you wouldn’t throw a fiver in the bin without thinking so why food?
We all need routine
As adults, we’re well aware of the importance of routine – for us as well as our children – and we’re keen to get them into a bedtime and sleep routine. But what about a meal routine?
A routine ensures a steady supply of food throughout the day and provides plenty of opportunities to get a variety of foods into everyone.
Having a routine can also help with those constant demands for snacks and keep hanger tantrums at bay.
Maximise your time and energy
Planning a regular batch cook meal will keep your freezer stocked up for busy nights or those nights when you just need some time off cooking.
You don’t have to spend your whole Sunday meal prepping – instead think about what you’re cooking and whether there are items you can prepare or cook extra of to have in the fridge and freezer. In only takes an extra few minutes to prepare enough for a few meals but it can save you hours in the long run.
So many ingredients can be frozen, allowing you to bulk buy where economical, get ahead with prep and reduce your food waste.
Use the whole day
What if, instead of cooking the whole meal just before you’re ready to eat, you prepared bits and pieces throughout the day whenever you had a bit of time? You can even incorporate this into the activities you do with your children.
Five minutes here to do some chopping, 10 minutes there to cook off the vegetables, 5 minutes to prep the fish for the oven. Come 5pm, dinner happens so much quicker and is a whole lot less stressful.
Enjoy family time together
Whenever possible, eat as a family. Sit at the table together, try to have fun and conversations to encourage your children to join in with the social parts of eating.
Renaming family mealtime as 'family time' will take the pressure off and away from the food. See it as your opportunity to come together, catch up on what’s going on in your worlds, have a chat and a laugh.
If schedules don’t allow you to eat a meal together, try to sit with your children whilst they eat and model the behaviour you want to encourage.
Take care of yourself
We regularly hear that we need to prioritise ourselves and mealtimes are no different. By looking after our own wellbeing, we can look after our family’s too.
If we’re looking after ourselves, we can come to the table calm and our children are more likely to be relaxed, meaning mealtimes will run a lot more smoothly.
Part of this self-care is making and serving one meal for everyone and giving yourself a break!
What is your favourite meal to cook? Let us know in the comments.
Bio and links
Sarah Alder of Kitchen Titbits is a family mealtimes mentor, helping parents to transform mealtimes from stressful to stress-free.
She specialises in working with parents on the practical aspects of family mealtimes. She will help you to support your fussy eater to develop a love of food and your child to eat a wider variety of foods, but also work with you on how the whole family can have fun at mealtimes and enjoy quality family time together whilst sharing food or cooking together.
She combines this with teaching key skills around meal planning and reducing food waste to help you feel more organised and in control in the kitchen, making best use of your time, energy and ingredients. Whilst her cookery sessions build confidence and her recipes provide inspiration, helping you answer that age old question of ‘what’s for dinner?’!
To find out more about Sarah, her courses, workshops and online courses, visit her website.
You can also follow her on social media:
And she shares her tips and advice in her free Facebook group:
If you’re a breastfeeding mum, with a baby like mine that always wanted to eat when I was, you might be needing some ideas for nourishing and tasty meals and snacks that you can eat one handed!