Alright, you said you wouldn’t laugh at me…
So, here’s my How-To on getting meals from the kitchen to the table and actually getting to eat WITH your family.
First of all, I must give credit where credit is due. This was painstakingly taught to me by a lovely Titus 2 of a woman named Pam. I am actually thrilled to be able to pass on my tweaked version of what she taught me!
First issue to tackle is whether or not you know how to get all the food done close to the same time so you can bring it out at the same time. If you don’t have this down, then you are in a whole heap of trouble before we even start.
The easiest way to figure this one out is to pay attention to the bake time and add to it a rough estimate of the prep time of each menu item. Count backward in time from when you want the meal ready according to the longest prep+bake time. Let me give you a tangible example of a meal so you can see how this would work:
Our meal is lasagna, salad, homemade french bread, and peach cobbler.
The french bread is the longest prep+bake time. Start there. It is going to take us 2 hours from start to finish; however, I need the bread to be out of the oven before the lasagna goes in. We want to eat at 6pm. I start the french bread at 2:15pm. (ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS give yourself MORE time than you think you need!)
The lasagna takes 1.5 hours start to finish. That means I have to have it started by 4:30pm. By that time, the french bread should be close to finished.
Next is the lasagna. It can bake at the same temp as the bread (but they will slow each other down…that is why I’m baking them separately).
Once the lasagna is in the oven, I can prepare the peach cobbler and set it aside because I will bake it while we are eating.
I figure a salad only takes about 10 minutes to prepare, so I can wait until the lasagna is out of the oven and cooling just a bit to finalize the salad.
See how that all works together?
Oh, and make sure you have a timer handy to keep you on track!
OK, here’s where I needed help…the actual art of getting to sit down during the meal!
1. Rustle up any help you can find to set the table while you finalize the meal.
Even small children can carry things to the table! If there’s no one to help, then do it yourself as soon as you have all the food in order.
2. Get EVERYTHING you need for the meal on the table (if you have a buffet or bar where you can put extra items use that too). Plates, silverware, glasses, butter, salad dressing, napkins, serving utensils, trivets, salt, pepper, etc. need to all be on or near the table. This is something else your children can help with. You set the items out while your little ones transfer them to the table.
3. Don’t forget the items that will make your life easier, mom!
Do your children gulp down their water, leaving you to do 90 million mad dashes to the faucet and back? Fill a pitcher of water!
Does everyone want to sit by Daddy? Set up an assigned seating rotation!
Does someone always spill their drink? Have a large towel hung over the back of your chair!
Is someone always acting up at the table? Have your If/Then Chart handy!
Where are your problem areas? Brainstorm a solution!
4. Call ‘em to the table.
My latest tool to get the children to the table is a bell. I’ve trained the children to drop everything and come when the bell rings. I seriously despise yelling for people to come to the table…the bell is MUCH more effective!
5. Bring out the food!
As they are coming to the table, bring out the food and place on the trivets/hot pads you’ve already set out. If you have mostly littles, choose a main serving area where most of the food will congregate. For us, this is in front of Daddy. He is the official server-upper.
7. Pray and THEN serve.
This was one of my biggest mistakes. I used to always dish up the food and then expect everyone to stop chowing down in order to pray. With a large family, it wasn’t uncommon for at least one person to be entirely through their first helping of food before prayers took place. The only exception to this rule is the baby. I usually have a small dish that I put his food in to cool and be cut up prior to prayers, but I still wait until after prayers to give the food to him.
We also serve youngest to oldest, with any guests we have over being the first to be served. Our thoughts here are that the olders are better able to patiently wait for their food. Each child passes his plate down to Daddy, who fills the plate (with Mommy’s help), and passes it back. It’s a fairly quick and painless process. Second helpings work the same way.
8. Enjoy your family.
Don’t scarf the food down and run off to the next project. Look your family in the eye. Engage them in conversation. Enjoy them. This is hard for moms-on-the-go. Especially for those of us who really like to check things off our lists…dinner…check…on to the next thing. So many Americans lament the fact that they have very little opportunity to eat meals as a family. If you are able to enjoy a sit down meal with your family, don’t squander that time by mindlessly eating while you daydream about your to-do list. Savor your family mealtimes. They will be beautiful memories someday.
So, there’s my little tutorial! Now, GO SIT DOWN, MAMA and ENJOY YOUR MEAL!