Family mealtimes should be fun, sociable affairs, full of laughter and a way to reconnect after a busy day or week. Instead, they’re all too often a stressful and upsetting time.
Some days, feeding the family will be very hard, that’s for certain, and with young children, especially, it can feel like you’re on a constant run of food prep, but there are ways to make life that little bit easier. Here are my top tips for feeding the family.
1. Plan ahead
Meal planning is the answer to so many problems. But for those of us juggling more hats than we care to think about, it’s going to be key to survival!
Meal planning will make it easier to feed everyone three meals a day plus snacks and will cut down the shopping trips.
Spend a little time thinking about the dishes you can make for the week so you can get on with preparing a meal without having to scratch around for ideas when everyone’s already hungry.
You’ll find more help with meal planning and feeding the family over on my website.
2. Implement a routine
If there’s a constant request for snacks from your children, set a meal and snack routine to ensure there’s a steady supply of food throughout the day and use this as an opportunity to get a variety of foods into you and your family.
Snack times can be seen as mini meals which include a balance of fruit, veg, protein and carbs which will help keep children fuller for longer and reduce the nagging for food.
3. Batch cook
Use your time wisely by doing some batch cooking. Stock up the freezer and when you’ve limited time or no energy to cook, homemade ready meals will come to your rescue.
4. Make best use of your time, energy and ingredients
You can do this by thinking about what else you can make or what you might be able to cook extra of whilst you’re cooking tea one night.
Can you cook extra rice, pasta, potatoes, grains, pulses, meat, fish or veg that will make another meal quicker and easier or that combined with bits and pieces from another few days will make up a couple of lunches?
How about breakfast? Could you make enough overnight oats, for example, to last two days and prepare a fruit salad or fruit compote to go with it as well as for the children to snack on throughout the day?
Meal planning will really help make this easier.
5. Cook together
See cooking as an activity you can do with your children, spending quality time with them. Your cooking activities don’t always need to be about baking, but can be focussed on getting dinner on the table quicker later.
Embrace the mess! Prepare for a cooking session like you would any craft activity by allowing plenty of time for it and having everything ready to go (for example, utensils and ingredients out). Bear in mind that you’re going to need clean up time too!
6. Eat together
Whenever possible, eat as a family, with everyone eating the same meal. Sit at the table together and try to have conversations and encourage your children to join in with the social parts of eating.
If schedules don’t allow you eat a meal together, for example during the week, at least try to sit with your children whilst they eat. Have a snack (a small portion of whatever they’re having or cook extra vegetables for you to snack on) and model the behaviour you want to encourage.
Sarah Alder of Kitchen Titbits is a meal planning and family mealtimes expert, transforming mealtimes from stressful to stress-free. She teaches her clients how to save money on their food bills, reduce their food waste, save time and energy in the kitchen, and to prepare meals the whole family will enjoy. She also helps them support their fussy eaters to develop a positive relationship with food, increasing the number and variety of foods they’ll eat.
To find out more about Sarah, her courses, workshops, and online programmes, visit her website or follow her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
You might also like to join one of Sarah’s Facebook groups. Stress-free family mealtimes is a supportive environment for parents searching for meal and snack ideas, time saving tips, food related activities to do with children as well as dealing with fussy eating issues. Making food (and your money) go further is a place for sharing meal ideas as well as tips for saving money, reducing food waste and being more efficient in the kitchen.