Of the multiple factors that affect feeding the family, the kids rank up there with money in terms of impact. Both how many kids you have and their ages.
There’s no difficulty whatsoever when the child is an infant and not yet graduated to real food. It’s when that happens that the challenge starts. The earliest eaters are learning to eat solid foods that are limited in variety to ascertain if food allergies exist, so they’re generally easy to fix. At the same time, the small children are near the end of their days and hence more prone to being cranky and needing additional attention – and grace. If you are pressed for time, consider shortening the preparation time by having their meals pre-made on microwaveable dishes and ready to go immediately. Be certain that the food is warm instead of hot before you serve it out of the microwave as small children are more sensitive to food temperature.
Having a family meal is not innate to children as they’ll frequently want to bolt to play and television afterwards; it’s an experience that children learn from their parents through countless repetition. If you are feeding the kids before you yourself eat, try to take the time to sit with them while they eat and engage them. Talk to them about their day and listen to what the say, even if only for a brief period so that they learn the experience.
As kids age and move beyond the toddler stage, it does become easier as you’re no longer fixing multiple simultaneous meals and the bedtimes are pushed farther back, allowing a greater meal window. The kids are also not as worn out as when they were toddlers. That said, you then have to work out the routine of checking the backpacks to ascertain what homework has to happen.
So what can you do to ease the situation, especially if you work?
- Have the kids preset the table for the next meal after it’s been cleaned from the evening meal, which cuts the next day’s work considerably.
- Choose to fix meals that are largely premade and ready to eat when you arrive home. This would include crockpot cooking that occurs before you leave in the morning.
- Cook in bulk during the weekend and refrigerate portion-sized servings to place in the microwave upon return in the evening.
The unfortunate reality is that there’s no simple – and inexpensive – way to prepare family meals without taking enough time to make it work. But the time spent can make the evening family meal something that helps cement the family despite the rush and rigors of everyday life.