Family Dinner Class Notes
These are the notes from a class I taught recently. I learned so much as I prepared and I hope you do too:)
Is it a time of major stress??
It used to be for me… when 4-5pm rolled around and I was scrambling to figure out what to make—with every recipe I looked at— realizing I was missing a key ingredient or two!
I had a whiny toddler hanging on my leg… one son wanting to chat…another needing help with his homework.. and a crying baby!
I knew my husband would be home soon from a long hard day at work expecting (or hoping) to eat dinner…
And everyone is STARVING!!
So if your experiences are like mine one of two things happened:
Scenario #1—I would load up the kids for a fast food run—we would come home with bags of nutrition devoid meals and not to mention the chunk this takes out of your budget—this is a pricey way to feed your family. Feeding your family this way does not feel good—it is not wholesome or heartwarming.
Scenario #2-I would find a recipe that I had the ingredients for and I would be rip snorting around the kitchen trying to get a nice meal pulled together---at the expensive of piles of dishes, a trashed kitchen, neglected children (with little ones usually crying and older ones teasing and tormenting each other—at least that is what my boys seem to do when they are tired hungry and being ignored by a stressed out Mom) By the time we eat it is usually closer to bedtime than dinner time and I am exhausted. Those are nights that I hated cooking and couldn't believe I was in for years of this!! Just looking at the kitchen and all the work of cleaning up was discouraging.
So we had a delicious dinner—but look at the cost—phew it makes me tired just thinking about it.
Can anyone relate to this?
I do believe that this type of experience is getting more and more common for busy Mom’s and families these days.
I think in light of this dinner experience I have shared a lot of people have given up on the traditional family dinner—thinking it is just not possible in our crazy hectic lives.
Dallin H. Oaks in one of my favorite talks quoted a Time magazine article...
"The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.” Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. "
He goes on to say
"There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you. "
Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign November 2007
full text here and Time Magazine article here
Deiter Uchtdorf counseled:
“My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.”
I think that family dinner is one of those things that we need to slow down and make time for—having dinner as a family is of great importance. Here is more recent counsel from the apostles…
"Since 'no other success can compensate for failure' here, we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. (Deiter F Uchtdorf, Ensign Nov 2010) Full text here: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1298-7,00.html
“ Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to their children. For example, a naturally occurring family conversation at dinner may be the perfect setting for a parent to recount and testify of specific blessings he or she received during the course of relatively routine activities that day." ( David A. Bednar, Ensign May 2010) Full text here
(I posted the video with this in it here.)
"When we sit down at the dinner table, is our whole family there? I remember as a young man asking permission to play baseball through dinnertime. “Just put my meal in the oven,” I said to my mother. She responded, “Robert, I really want you to take a break, come home, be with the family for dinner, and then you can go out and play baseball until dark.” She taught all of us that where family meals are concerned, it’s not the food but the family interaction that nourishes the soul"
(Robert D. Hales, Ensign May 2010) Full Text here:
Even though the rest of the world may be too busy for family dinner we can listen to these inspired messages and gather our family around the table –slowing down enough to make family dinner an important part of day.
Quoting from a book I love, (written by a southern boy and Oprah's personal chef), "Back to the Table; a Reunion of Food and Family":
"Throughout history, humans have sat down together at the table to break bread. The simple ritual of the shared meal reunites our family and brings balance to our lives.
Unfortunately, in our fast paced world the symbolic role of the table has been threatened. In many households, family members all eat separately, according to their own schedules, on the run or in front of the TV."
I hope that I can inspire you to bring your family back to the table and back to each other.
Family dinner does take time—but it is worth it and you can learn to plan ahead.
Work smart instead of hard.
Recipe for Stress Free Family Dinners
While we discuss these ideas think about what
Leonardo da Vinci is quoted as saying that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” (as quoted by Dieter F. Uchtdorf)
I got tired of the the frazzled and stressful dinner time scenarios I described in the beginning. I knew there had to be a better way. These are the ideas that I have come up with that greatly reduced my stress and made our dinner a happy time. Take the ideas that work for you and leave what doesn't:)
1st Have a Plan---saves so much time and stress
Menu planning-- Take some time to plan your weekly menu. I do this on Saturday sometime or Monday morning as soon as I get my boys off to school. Look in your pantry/fridge see what needs to be used, check the ads for sales, ask for requests, flip through cookbooks and online for recipes you want to try etc.
Create a week or two week menu. **I have a great menu planner to share with you--find it www.thesisterscafe.com print for free!**
Looking at the recipes you have chosen—right down what you need to pick up at the grocery store. Then you will have every ingredient you need for the planned meals.
Meal planning is a lot easier if your recipes are easily accessible. Keep all your recipes in an organized way that works for you. I like to type favorite recipes up, print them out and place them in page protectors in 3 ring binders. I started out with one binder divided into appetizers/ breads/ breakfast/desserts/drinks/entrees / sides/salads/soups. I have collected so many that I now have separate binders for most of those categories. Find a system that works for you and start collecting your favorites. The secret to being a good cook is having good recipes (and following them) Having organized recipes will save a lot of time in the long run!
2nd Work your plan
Hang your menu up—somewhere easy to see and refer to—check it before bed—once kids are off in the morning or when you have a little down time during the day—try to get a jump on the planned dinner—do as much ahead of time as possible.
*chop vegetables—also save time for the future by chopping extra --onions and peppers freeze perfectly
*crockpot- utilize this great kitchen appliance. Some of my favorite crockpot dinners are: Sweet and Spicy Chicken, Rumbi Mango Chicken and Rice and more found here.
*make your dough for fresh bread early so it can have time to rise. Fresh bread is the secret to a fantastic dinner--at least that is what my family thinks! Everyone loves some warm bread. For easy home baked bread check out the 5 minute artisan bread recipe, 30 minute rolls, my favorite--Buttermilk Refrigerator Rolls, and easy breadsticks and the many muffin recipes here.
*marinade or grill meat for salads or pasta dishes—grill extra for the freezer. We love 7up chicken, lemon chicken. They both freeze well. To save time with marinades—freeze your meat in the marinades. Then while you are thawing the meat it will be marinating and can save you some time on a busy day.
*make certain dishes in the morning like, stuffed shells, lasagna, enchiladas etc—make an extra batch for the freezer. Lots of freezer meal ideas here.
**back up Plan**
Sometimes even the best laid plans don’t work-that is just life. Things come up, you get home late, you don’t feel well, a child needs your help with a project (the list goes on) I like to have a few meals on hand all the time that literally take minutes to get on the table. Here are some of my go to quick dinners:
1st Our family favorite is “brupper” (breakfast for supper)
Pancakes, waffles, hootenanny pancake, green smoothie, French toast, scrambled eggs and toast, Egg sandwiches with precooked bacon strips on biscuits from freezer
Meatball sandwiches, shrimp (or chicken) quesadillas with guacamole (I keep the premade fresh guacamole from Costco in my freezer), chickpea and noodle soup, paninis, Fiesta ravioli dinner, tacos (meat already cooked in the freezer)
It is a good idea to come up with a few meals that you always have on hand when you are in a pinch.
3rd Set the table
Warm, welcoming family meals begin with the table. Put your best foot forward for your family. Don’t save the table linens, and good dishes for company. When a table is set your family both adults and children will approach it with eagerness. This gives reverence to the meal and the family. Your family will feel loved and special when they see that you have taken the time to set a nice table for them.
Also—my Mom taught me to set the table first—then when your husband and children come home tired and hungry they see the table and think—“yes” dinner is almost ready—even if it is not!
Last but not least: Enjoy dinner with your family.
As Mothers we set the tone for family dinner—choose to make it a wonderful daily tradition—something for your family to look forward to after a long day out in the world. I really believe that gathering your family around the table to share a meal together is sacred. Not only do you nourish their bodies, but most importantly you can “nourish their souls”—who knows what kind treatment they received at school or work—to come home to a warm, wholesome dinner… surrounded by people who love them most in the world—what a blessing! What a way to bond and build good self esteem in your family.
As I prepared for this class I was very prayer full. I hope that no one feels overwhelmed or discouraged. As I thought about you--those who will take the time to come to this class (or read this), women who love their families and are trying to be good Mothers, wives, grandmothers, friends etc. I felt so much love and appreciation for you! I know that our Heavenly Father is aware of the desires of our hearts and he will consecrate our efforts for the good of our families. We are all trying to do our best and that is what matters!
Here is to happy family dinners!!