Dinnertime Tips and Rituals
By Jyotsna Sreenivasan
We all know that eating dinner as a family is an important way to make children feel nurtured. However, shopping for, cooking and serving a meal every night can sometimes seem like a superhuman task!
Here are some tips and rituals to make shopping, cooking and eating easier and more pleasant when kids are part of the picture. A lot of these tips are things I would have resisted or laughed at before I had children. I have a strong aversion to routine. But when you have kids, if you, the adult, don’t establish a routine, the kids will take over and life will descend into chaos really fast.
Create a master shopping list. How many times have you come home from the grocery store after a big shopping trip and realized that you were down to your last drop of ketchup and forgot to get more? Or that you had only half a roll of toilet paper in the entire house? A master shopping list will help prevent this kind of disaster.
On your computer, make a list of all the things you want to have in the house. Take your time and make it as complete as you can. When you get ready to go shopping, just print out a copy of your list, go through your kitchen cabinets, and circle what you are low on.
Of course, even though I do this, I still somehow forget one thing or the other! Nevertheless, this method has helped me to cut out at least some extra trips to the store.
Make a “meal rotation” schedule or a master list of meals. A meal schedule is supposed to be a great way to stay on top of dinner: you make a schedule for two or three weeks and write down which meals will happen on which days. When you get to the end of your schedule, you just start over. This way, you don’t have to stand in the kitchen at 4:30 scratching your head and wondering what to fix for dinner. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to implement this at my house, probably due to lack of discipline on my part. Maybe you will have better luck.
I have, however, combed through my cookbooks and come up with a list of easy meals that I can glance at before I go grocery shopping. I pick out several meals, write them in my daily planner, and make sure to buy the ingredients for those meals. This method works most of the time – except when my family eats the ingredients before I get to cook the meal!
Dinnertime rituals. Sometimes my kids are “not hungry” at dinnertime, and refuse to join us at the table. Of course, shortly after dinner is over, they are so hungry that they have to have a bowl of cereal. So we came up with two dinnertime rituals. One is saying grace before meals. The kids know they have to join us at the table for grace. We make up our own informal blessings each time, and the kids can have a turn saying grace.
Then, in order to keep them at the table for a reasonable amount of time in the hope that some good food will enter their mouths, we came up with a second ritual: “One Good Thing.” Everyone at the table says at least one good thing that happened that day. This has worked very well for us because it allows the children to be part of the dinnertime conversation if they wish to be. (Sometimes my older son likes to say “one bad thing” that happened in his day, and that’s fine too, because it’s usually good for a laugh.)
I hope these tips and rituals will help you enjoy your family meals!
Jyotsna “Jo” Sreenivasan is the mother of two boys, ages 7 and 3. She is the author of two novels for children: The Moon Over Crete and Aruna’s Journeys. For a list of over 80 books that help kids break out of gender stereotypes, see her site: Brave Girls and Strong Women Books, http://members.aol.com/brvgirls. She also helps individuals and businesses with writing needs: http://members.aol.com/writebook64.
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