However satisfying the activities, busy schedules wreck havoc on family mealtime. To accommodate hectic lifestyles, the average family spends $2,000 each year on outside dining. Unless you are vigilant, family meals can easily disappear from your routine. August is designated National Family Meal Month to remind families to break bread together each day.
Multiple studies confirm that families who eat together enjoy better physical and mental health. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Stephen Covey affirms the importance of eating together. I wrote about how this daily ritual benefits children nutritionally, emotionally and academically in an article titled “Three Tips for Creating Family Meals, Memories and Ties That Bind” that appeared on www.gotogabby.com on August 19, 2008. Go here for the full article.
Time to shop, prepare and clean up after meals is a scarce commodity, particularly when school starts. Yet creative planning for nightly suppers can trim the family budget and enrich family ties. Here are three tips (FIT) to bring back family meals:
F: Fill your freezer with cooked-ahead meals and fill your cupboard with ready-made sauces or marinades. Double your entrée recipes so you have a freezer full of meals ready to serve with a minimum of effort. Take advantage of prepared, nutritious foods at the supermarket, such as roasted chicken or cooked prawns. Adding a baked potato or brown rice, green beans and a salad completes the meal.
I: Involve everyone in meal preparation. Let children help decide the menu, set the table, prepare the food and clean up. Let small children become tasters. Older kids can follow recipes and become chef for the evening. Invest in a slow cooker and a bread maker. Slow cooking allows you to use less expensive cuts of meat, and a bread maker will give your family wholesome bread for pennies. Swap recipes with neighbors and friends.
T: Take time to share the day’s events as you sit around the table. Make eating together each night a treasured family tradition. Turn off the television and connect with each other through a dynamic exchange of ideas and feelings. Take advantage of teachable moments to share your values and insights with your children. Begin each meal with a moment of appreciation—for the food, for family and for the cook’s efforts. Teach manners by saying please and thank you, passing serving bowls and waiting until everyone is seated to begin eating.
The family that eats together stays together. When we share a centuries-old tradition of breaking bread together, we nourish not only our bodies but our minds and spirits as well. Establishing a nightly ritual of sharing stories about the day’s events creates priceless memories and a valuable sense of belonging. Aren’t these benefits worth making time for?
"Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family." Mother Teresa