At the table

85 thoughts on “At the table”

  1. My family always ate together, and I hope to make sure that it continues with my daughter. But life’s busy schedule already makes it tough. I can only imagine what it’ll be like when she’s older and if we have more.

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  2. My mother always made sure that we ate our dinner together each night, and breakfast as well on weekends. In my family that has not worked out. But may I suggest “Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals”? Does advocate use of some canned ingredients, but that book might be a start!

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion- I’ll have to take a look at his book. I’m not opposed to canned ingredients, especially when it means a home cooked meal on the table.

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  3. Every time I read one of your posts, I remember why I gravitated toward you in college. We are so alike. I heard that story on NPR, too, and suddenly having this baby growing in my stomach scared me more than usual. I love the dinner at the table routine. Even now, I let my husband off the hook several nights a week by letting us eat in front of the tv so he/we can catch up on the Daily Show or the all-important “Top Chef” or “Modern Family”. (I was about to say “ah, the irony”, but now I’m not sure if that is ironic!) Anyway, the point is, I’m with you. I want the evening meal to be shared, without distraction, both for bonding and because if I’ve made a nice meal, I want it to be noticed and appreciated. On the nights when we bring home Chipotle, the tv is fine, but if I’ve taken a day off work or spent several hours on the weekend making something wonderful, I want to notice how great it is!
    Of course, I’m much more aware now that I have an almost hour commute in the evenings and heartburn like crazy if I eat too late that not every dish can take 3 hours (and we’ll say nothing about my energy level these days). My go-to solution has been the 30-minute meals from Cooking Light. There are several that we really love. Another old stand-by that I need to make more of (and that I could see potentially working for your family) – lentil burgers from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook. Back in my days as a singleton, I would make up giant batches of them, all ready to go, and freeze them in individual patties with Press & Seal and then a ziploc. I like them on English Muffins, so I’d freeze those, too. When I had a late night, I’d zap them in the microwave to defrost them (or pull them out in the morning to the fridge if I knew I had stuff in the evening), and then, it’s a quick pan fry in some toasted sesame oil, with a nice slice of cheese melted over them at the end, ketchup, mustard, and my strange weakness, Miracle Whip, a few slices of lettuce, perhaps pickle or tomato, on my nicely toasted English muffin, and all seemed right with the world. And now I’m officially salivating!
    Another regular in our rotation is Chicken Makhani (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-makhani-indian-butter-chicken/)…you could prep/cook the chicken ahead and the sauce ahead, and then just warm them up together. We usually add green beans or a side salad, plus warm whole-wheat naan. And I, being the lassi queen, usually have a mango lassi (usually with mangos I’ve prepped and wrapped in the right portion size and frozen when I buy an entire flat at Costco). I’m convinced that quick meals can happen with planning, and especially if you are able to prep earlier in the day while the kids are at school or on the weekend, but for me, the problem comes down to not planning or not going to the grocery store. As long as I’ve gone grocery shopping, we are set, but on weekends that are too packed to fit that in, then we’re screwed. This is ridiculously long, but my one other source for recipes that are quicker and shockingly good…”What to Eat When You’re Expecting”. The grilled chicken creamy caesar salad from there is another in our regular rotation, except I add homemade croutons that have lots of butter and garlic powder on them. OK, gotta go check on the pot roast that I put in too late and prep the salad, so that I can pretend to be a good wife when Bryan gets home! Good luck, and please let us know what you figure out (and know that you aren’t alone in valuing that time at the table!)!

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  4. This Fall/Winter, when my son had swim practice daily between 4 and 6 pm, I was in the same boat you’re in and couldnt figure out how to manage healthy dinners AND get my son to swim…Since we never made it IN the DOOR until 6:30pm, I was not up for cooking so late with so many other things that needed to get done before bed too…I found myself cooking dinner early (2-3pm) and saving it for “dinner time” as soon as we got home. Sure, we had to re-heat it but it was still good and the great thing is I’d already cleaned up the cooking messes so all I had to do was enjoy dinner with my family and wash a few plates and silver ware making clean-up quick. Friday nights were swim meet nights and they were long nights, so we’d have something small to get us through the night (Chance didnt want to over eat before meets) and after the meets we’d have late-night junk food ala McD’s or Wendy’s, BK, Taco Bell…We’d let Chance pick. That was our real junk night.

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    1. Yes! I’m figuring out how to adapt some of our standards (meatloaf) to the crockpot so I can get it done during the day, clean up, and have supper on the table after sports. It’s such an awesome feeling to have dinner made by 2pm 😀

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      1. It really did feel great to know dinner was done and ready for us when we got home. My son was always SUPER hungry after swim and did not have the patience to wait for me to cook anyways! so having it done already was a lifesaver on so many levels! …and I actually still had time to enjoy the evening before it was time for bed.

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  5. Sounds like you’ve got it together pretty good. So many mom’s don’t care what their children eat, let alone take the time to sit down as a family and enjoy a healthy meal. My hats off to you. You are an awesome woman! 🙂

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  6. We ate dinner around the table until my sisters and I became teenagers, then it was like, yeah right…My husband and I just had a baby eight months ago. We both used to work fulltime, come home, eat spaghetti with butter and parm in front of the TV almost every night – now, Lily notices what we eat and wants to paw at our food – she also notices that we stare at a big obnoxious box while we eat. I don’t want that to be our tradition with her…I told my husband last night I wanted us to start eating around the table! I applaud you for keeping it up when you can.

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  7. I grew up eating dinner at the table with my family…always..and so did my husband.

    Getting everyone together at the table now is a challenge. Husband’s schedule can be a little wishy washy and my kids are completely different eaters (youngest eats everything, oldest wants nothing). Plus…my husband wants hearty cooked meals and I’m perfectly fine w/ light dinners (salads, sandwiches) and we have different tastes in food (me..healthier food…husband…bad for you).

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  8. I think having family dinners together at the table is very important, but I can imagine how difficult it can be to actually do, given how many activities children have nowadays. (I don’t have children yet, but it sounds like a challenging task!) Good for you though, for trying to make it happen in your family, and congrats on getting FP! 🙂

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  9. You’re post made me dizzy just thinking about all the kids’ activities! I grew up eating on the fly. We were lucky to have one meal a week at the table together. Then I was a bachelor and may have gone a decade without eating at a table that wasn’t in a restaurant.

    Now that we have little ones growing into little bigger ones, we’re trying to eat at the table every night. I cook pretty well, but it’s hard. We won’t feed the kids anything separate unless we’re having something that no child should be expected to eat. Ah, thanks for letting me vent!

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  10. I grew up with nightly candle lit dinners, cloth napkins, and dinner conversation. Dinner time was dinner time–not soccer time, not ice skating time, not television time, not nothing. My father wasn’t allowed to grade papers then, my sister was not allowed to bring a book to the table. Our dining room was strategically positioned with the best view in the house so even if the conversation lagged, we had the sunset or the bird feeders to ponder.

    It’s real simple: decide what is most important and then put your foot down. You are not your children’s employees and not attending group sports will not doom them to an unproductive life. In fact, a huge percentage of millionaires and billionaires dropped out of school and used their brain to guide them, not their parent’s SUVs. There must be a time void to fill with creative ideas for a child to truly blossom, otherwise all they will master is self-medication and the pleasing of others.

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  11. I like the pie chart, you have ALL this space for your husband’s compliments that’s not bad at all ^^. From my family experience, my mother cooks like a goddess and my father eats like a bird so compliments mostly came from the children.

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      1. Have you read the book that everyone is talking about about the way French children are raised ? Apparently we are kind of strict compared to American families.

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  12. For now commitments outside our home are scheduled around our evening meal. Occasionally I compromise the dinner hour to embrace an opportunity, but the coming together over a meal, each member of our family linked in conversation between bites is an essential element of our experience as family.

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    1. My original comment was a little self-centered. Missing from my applause for family dinners is the acknowledgement that you took an often overlooked meal and gave voice to the multitude of considerations behind-the-scenes of a well-choreographed, multi-tasked modern day miracle of family meals.

      Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

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      1. Thanks so much. And no worries! I agree that family dinners are a priority, which is why the juggling becomes so prominent in our lives – because athletics and leading active lives are just as much a priority to us as eating good food is. We may have to push dinner time back a little bit to make room for sports, but dinner at the table will still happen, by God. The meatloaf in the crock pot smells delicious right now, and it will be awesome to walk in the door from swim lessons tonight and lay that baby on the table!

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  13. Oh the battle of dinner at the table versus kids in sports… It commences today at my house with our soccer practices beginning for one of the three soccer playing children. If we are lucky it will only take three of our week nights with church taking another, but we eat before that one….

    I’m feeling your pain as I ponder what in heck we will do in the next two and a half months during soccer seasons… Maybe I’ll pray for lots of rain to cancel soccer practices and lift the drought!

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  14. When I was younger, I had something going on pretty much every day of the week. Combined with my brother’s activities and my Dad being out at work, it still amazes me that we got by without any takeouts and with all four of round the table almost every day of the week. There were times when I (sorry Mum!) was out every day of the week and Dad (sorry Dad!) was running my own personalised taxi service. Dinner basically revolved around me (sorry brother!) and I was able to never miss out on anything.

    When I got a bit older and activities tended to last longer, I got in later. Dinner couldn’t be rearranged for me any more. I was dancing a lot and I particularly remember Thursday evenings when I usually would be lucky to get in at 10. Having gone straight from school with a honey sandwich thrust in my hand, I couldn’t go without dinner. Instead, my dinner would be put between two plates so I could heat it up when I got home and my mum would sit with me at the table while I ate it. We would talk about our day and I didn’t feel I had missed out on anything.

    I was very lucky that I was able to do so much and yet not have to sacrifice anything at all really. Quite honestly, I think my mum must have magic powers because I have no idea how she did it. She is my very own angel sent from God. By the sounds of it, your kids probably think the same about you, or they will do when they reach an age that they can appreciate the impossibility of it all. Just keep doing what you’re doing already and remember that so long as everyone spends time together most of the time, it’s OK to not get everyone around the table together every night. I really enjoyed those Thursday evening with my dinner being heated up in the microwave. Time doing what I loved AND special time with my Mum: what more does a child need?

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  15. I don’t have kids yet and I already feel like I spend 90% of my waking hours on food planning/prep and consumption for my family of two. Eating healthy is essential no matter what your age, so you make the time. The same thing is true for building relationships. Sitting down to eat together is the best way to ensure everyone is healthy and feels connected as a family.

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  16. I talk to a lot of parents who say, my teenager doesn’t want anything to do with me, they won’t talk to me…but you know which parents still have relationships with their teens? You guessed it, the one’s who take the time to cook delicious food. This isn’t rocket science…food is nourishment, and care, and it takes time and thought and this makes kids feel good and safe and loved. Honestly, feeding them well is akin to a civilizing practice. Just like you said, those meals spent together teach us so much about how to be in relationship with each other.

    I can’t make dinner every night, but on the nights I am home, I try and cook for my daughter who is now 17 yo. She cooks for me and her dad too, when she’s got time. And sometimes her dad cooks the meals. We all like the feeling of being fed and also having the chance to feed. It’s very primal. Although we are all super busy, we manage the madness by taking the time to eat something healthy and yummy together. I don’t make fancy stuff very often anymore, but I always have a lot of basics in the house so we can throw together something good.

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    1. “You know which parents still have relationships with their teens? You guessed it, the one’s who take the time to cook delicious food.” Thank you, thank you, thank you! Honestly, you have no idea how much your comment means to me. I wish there was a way to highlight it for everyone to read.

      It took me a long time to finally relinquish the fancy stuff we used to make pre-kids. All the effort we put into the meals wound up causing stress instead of bringing enjoyment. Once we ditched the fancy stuff and started working with simple, protein-veg-veg-starch, dinner became more about the time together instead of the time spent preparing food. We try to do more basic dinners now that can be thrown together on the fly, and then we get more time around the table.

      Thanks again for your comment. It inspires me to keep at it.

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      1. We inspire each other : ).

        The funny thing is, people often times give up on meal prep because they work and don’t see their kids as much, that’s me. But you know, as soon as I get home from work or whereever, my kiddo will look up from her homework and ask, “you hungry?”. And even though I’m all tired and don’t want to cook, we’ll go into the kitchen and poke around and see what we can throw together and she’ll start talking about her day as I start chopping veges and before you know it, I’m learning a little of what’s going on in my kid’s head, plus we’re happier because there’s some food we’re about to eat together.

        Before her life got super crazy with school our mealtimes were much more routine, but now that we’ve lost some of that structure, I realized we’ve internalized the lesson that regularly eating together all those years taught us…I find this internalizing process really fascinating, it gives me hope that we can take the spirit of an activity or tradition into us and even when we can’t replicate the tradition exactly, the spirit of the tradition remains with us.

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  17. We have a teenage friend who has just headed off to university. He said before he went that he had the best parents *for him* – they were not perfect but they were perfect *for him.* As he is best buddies with my five year old and I would be quite happy for my five year old to turn out like him, I asked him what they did that was so special.

    Dinners round the table.

    Every night they could.

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    1. Oh, and we have a rolling four week menu, including some fast options. I’ll swap a look at my rolling menu for yours, if you like? The other thing that I found works quite well, if I can get into synch is to prep the veggies today for tomorrow’s meal – while today’s is cooking. Same amount of work each night, but the meal is on the table faster.

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    2. Love it!!! I am so encouraged by all of these comments about dinners around the table. And as for swapping menus, I’d be happy to. Maybe I can put together a post about it in the next week or and we could do some sort of blog hop for families juggling meals and life. If I can only figure out how to do a blog hop.

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      1. Yes, if you do another post on it, I will happily chip in with our menu list. We like to eat out as a family, too, and I have found that my five year old is a JOY to take to a restaurant – due in no small part I believe to us having modelled good manners at home.

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  18. There is no easy solution. I too firmly believe thatvstrong family relationships are built around the dinner table. With three teenage children all actively involved in sport and extra curricular activities we work hard to make this happen. I have a veritable arsenal of easy recipes that can be prepared in advance, slow cooked in the oven or thrown together in less than half an hour. Occassionally ill pick up take away.Sometimes we even have two dinner sittings. It’s not perfect but works. Sometimes we even have two dinner sittings but i’ll always sit down with my kids. At the table. TV switched off.

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  19. I think it’s great that you place so much emphasis on the family eating together! I am always amazed by the number of my kids’ friends who DON’T get a hot meal with their family at night.

    Leanne Ely’s “Saving Dinner” books have been a life saver for me. She gives lots of great ideas for healthy meals you can prepare ahead to make dinner time faster and easier.

    And don’t give up on the slow-cooker. You just need a good cookbook. I make lasagne, pot roast, meatloaf . . . I’ve even made fruit cobblers and chocolate lava cakes in mine.

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  20. I totally agree! It’s a tradition always present in all cultures but sadly disappearing fast. I really had a wish to do so for my family( a hubby and a 3 years old daughter) but regret that I am still waiting for it to happen. My husband clings to his computer as soon soon and as long as he’s home and the concept of preparing or eating dinner together just fails. It’s not helping in training my little one but can’t do much about it..

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  21. My favourite memories growing up are all 7 of us sitting down to eat dinner together. We spent quaility time with each other during those times and some of the best and most honest conversations between parents, siblings and children occured at that table. We had to ask to be excused and now we still cry out “please I leave the table!” when dining together as adults.

    I don’t have a family yet but I know when I do dinner time will be a sit down meal enjoyed together.

    Congrats on being FP’d

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  22. I think you’ve got the right idea. My kids are in their teens and older now. Dinner at the table didn’t always mean literally at the table with a home cooked meal, but it did mean all eating together and discussing our day. Stick with it. Your kids will definitely benefit from your efforts!

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  23. Beautiful! Family dinners are worth fighting for. It is so important to have those times to connect with one another. Keep turning off the electronics and have those meals together. Bravo! Keep up the good work.

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  24. **Very nice spin on eating together as a family. Loved reading this..Brought back beautiful memories..And just so you know its a tradition worth saving; the impact (I feel) will last a lifetime for your kids. When my bro & I were small dinner time was a big deal in our house. It was my Daddy’s wishes , NO matter, how busy schedules were for us to eat dinner at the table. He meant that too! He felt it was the 1 time a day during the week for our family to “connect”. It was highly important..Some don’t look at breaking bread together(a meal) quite the same as I do these days. IF I eat a meal with someone? It means I truly think they’re special enough for me to do so..I don’t know why but sharing a meal together is a form of a bond..When I co-raised my sons my husband and I shared the same sentiment about meal times. With 3 sons it took quite an effort to arrange(alot of schedules!) but now that they’re all grown and off to college; meal times are one of the many things they recall fondly. It matters more than alot of busy parents may realize…Again excellent write and keep up the superb parenting!

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  25. And this is just one of the many reasons why parents are the REAL heroes of the world. I’m not one yet, but I can only imagine the challenges that lie ahead, should that become part of my future. Every day goes from simple to Rube Goldberg in a second it seems.

    Congrats on being Pressed!

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  26. Great post, my boyfriend and I moved in together about 7 months ago and we eat together every night and talk about our days and we really enjoy that time. I’m having a baby in around 2 weeks so I hope we can continue keeping that tradition up!

    I also totally understand what you mean about how long cooking and preparation takes. I feel like I have just finished cleaning up for lunch and we’re getting hungry again! I sometimes find that very frustrating.

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  27. Wonderful post. Really resonates with me as a mother to three. Also have a vegetarian daughter, very picky son who only wants about six things, and then there’s the ballet, soccer and basketball. I didn’t hear the NPR story, but sitting down at the table as a family is very important to me, too. It’s a juggling act, not always the greatest meals, but I think the children appreciate our time together, too.

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  28. Family meal time is important, some of my best childhood memories are from around the dinner table- hope this simple tradition of eating together will be appreciated by my kids when I get around to having some

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  29. So few people see the value in eating together, but I know it’s been a great part of my family’s life. Not only do we all love food, but we sincerely enjoy one another’s company. Nightly dinner conversations are usually quality family time.
    My family dealt with the making dinner problem by stocking our deep freeze with “emergency rations” – homemade spaghetti sauce, chili, baked goods and similar foods which could be transformed into a home cooked meal in a matter of minutes.
    There are those days, though, when frozen pizza boxes or McDonalds wrappers show up in our trash can.

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  30. This really resonated with me. My kids know that I insist on sharing a meal around a table, doesn’t matter if it is a take away every now and then. It is the only time we get to talk. No phones, no TV, just talking.
    But I do agree, that feeding 2 teenagers is a nightmare! The 14 yr old is cutting out carbs to loose weight and the younger one will be quite happy eating pasta and sauce every night…aaargh. Can’t wait for winter, when I just mix up the vegetables in soup and all is happy with me!

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  31. Glad to know that some families still value time spent together around a table, and home-cooked meals (even in a crock pot!) over drive-thru food. Great post!

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  32. Love this! I love your chart, mine would look the same! hahahaha. Breakfast, lunches, dinners. A constant chore. Our family does daily menus for the week. everyone gets to put their fave on the list. Then it’s grocery shopping time. I’ve got three teens, well actually two teens and one young adult. School, work and whatever else in-between, it’s great to still have dinner times together. Huge part of keeping the family together. Thanks for this post! 🙂

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  33. Love your chart. Sounds like you’re working a good solution to the hectic life of childrearing. One thing I haven’t seen in any of the comments: Has anyone ever considered the option of not doing the sport thing with little kid lets. Can’t they just play, hang out at home, go to the park, help mom in the kitchen? The whole nostalgic meals with the family time was back in the day when having kids super scheduled was not the norm. Just wondering, not being critical. May be I’m out of touch with reality.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Kami! In our family, we find sports to be just as important as eating together. We are all active and my husband and I are hoping to model and promote both healthy exercise and eating habits for our kids. They love their sports, and we do, too, so we don’t want to deny anyone that fun. We still spend lots of time hanging out at home, playing games together, eating, hiking, and baking together. The tricky part is that during the week we have to do some juggling to exercise AND do everything else. Given the trouble that even adults have with doing that – fitting exercise into their already hectic lives, and then deciding there’s no time for it, so they end up leaving it out all together – I think it’s worth it now to figure out solutions that allow for sports in our lives.

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      1. I could tell from your post that you had thought through this very well. I get concerned when I see parents I know so slammed by their kids’ multiple activities. It’s not an easy balancing act, that’s for sure. Keep up the great job. You sound like a wonderful mom!

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  34. Oh Andrea- l always thought it was just me whose whole life seemed to revolve around food as my children were growing up.
    I NEVER seemed to have a day off from this & I remember going on a training course for my job where we all had to say out loud what caused us the most job related stress.I made the whole room fall about with laughter when I said I hated having to stay later at work because all i couid think about was what i was going to cook to feed my (perpetually hungry) when I finally got home.
    Seems even us working mums just cannot unplug the hard wired nurturing instinct.Xx
    Best tip -teach your kids to cook from an early age.

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  35. You sound like a very busy mum, perhaps you should take a look at the website howdoesshedoit.com, it’s full of great recipes and tips so that you don’t over shop!!! good luck!!!

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  36. What a great post! I agree. We have three children and we always eat together, whatever anyone is doing. I was so concerned by the idea that people thought processed food was always cheaper (read this on facebook and in news reports) that I started my own blog ‘Easy Cooking on a Budget’. It’s not been going long, but I really hope to encourage people. I try to be very clear in my instructions, because often cookery books expect you to already know things – and what if you’ve never been taught? I hope to encourage people to know that cooking is not difficult, and it doesn’t have to take a long time to cook something healthy and appealing to all ages. I also unashamedly take a few short-cuts (such as tinned or frozen instead of fresh), but that’s the point – that it is achievable! 🙂

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  37. We sit down at 5pm with whoever is home to eat. That’s not always everyone.
    When the kids were little, we made some sacrifices to have a parent home with them, so food was made in time for supper. Now that they are teenagers, they do the cooking after school, so supper is always homemade and always ready. Days with after school activities use the crockpot.
    It’s important for children to know that they will find their parents some place regularly. Then, when they have something to say, they will know where you are. That place doesn’t need to be the supper table, and it doesn’t need to be every single day.
    Be available to you kids, and they will continue to talk to you, even in their teenage years.

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  38. I really enjoyed your post! My husband heard the same NPR feature and when he got home from work he said he finally understood why family dinners meant so much to me. Our kids are not in school yet, but I could see mealtime getting much harder once they are.

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  39. nice post. my wife and i always believed in eating at least one meal together as a family – dinner. ‘the family that eats together stays together’ kind of philosophy i guess. but now our kids have left us for university and we are back to just the two of us, and she no longer needs to plan food (as she did when the kids were with us), we find ourselves getting by with whatever is in the fridge…. 😉

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