Since I have started this blog, I have had some great conversations with friends about the concept of planning with kids, in particular meal planning. As I noted in my fist post on menu planning, I used to keep quiet about my love of planning, the blog however has put an end to that!
THE BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING
One of the most common questions I get asked is does it work? And my answer is yes it does. There are many benefits that result from taking the time to meal plan. The benefits that our family receives from having a weekly menu plan are as follows:
- Consistent time for our evening meals.
- Variety in what we eat.
- A healthy and balanced diet.
- Only have to go to the supermarket/market once a week.
- Waste very little food, as it is used within its use by date.
- Less stress as there is no last minute rush to think about what we will eat.
IMPORTANCE OF SHARED MEAL TIME
Most importantly, all of these factors work together to ensure that we can then sit down and enjoy our evening meal together in a harmonious way. The evening family meal is a very important time in our house. We use this opportunity as a time to share stories about our day, talk about things that might be worrying us, talk about what is making news in the world and for the adults, a time for us to role model dinner table etiquette.
It is expected that all children sit at the dinner table and that there are no other distractions; that is the TV/stereo is turned off, no toys at the table and if the phone rings it goes to message bank. Conversation is natural and informal, but if things are a little quiet, I will generally start about giving an update on my day and some things that happened that I think the kids will find interesting.
We have been doing this since our oldest son started to eat proper meals. Our daughter Possum quite often takes the lead role now in instigating the conversation (if it is lacking), by saying “Who wants to talk about their day?” When Possum first started to contribute to the conversations, it was literally a babble, with one or two words that we might be able to understand. However she understood what every one else was doing and wanted to participate to. We made sure she had her turn and that she knew we had listened to her, by repeating back the words that we understood. For example “Thank you for telling us about the dog.”
It is at meal times that I find out some of the more interesting stuff that is going on in their school lives. I think this happens because the atmosphere is warm, attentive and light hearted. If there are issues that I think need to be addressed from what has been shared, I prefer to take it up later with the child in an individual setting. The aim of this is to keep family meal time enjoyable.
It is hard to produce this type of setting, if I have just come back from a rushed trip to the supermarket and the toddler and preschooler are crying/whining because they are hungry and tired, whilst I am trying to put the meal together. I then tend to go to the dinner table with increased stress levels, which the children seem to feed off.
By planning my meals it eliminates most of the above. Life with children is never perfect so there are times when we are running late etc and some of us are irritable at the table, but the majority of our evening meals are a pleasant shared experience with the children that I enjoy.