How much energy do you lose on preparing dinner? As a busy working mom, you’ve got a lot going on – you’re growing your business, but you also want to provide for your family. So how can you simplify meals?
We all sometimes feel like we have to be Supermom: making a gourmet meal, having quality family time, and slaying it at work as well. But that’s just not practical in a sustainable way.
How to simplify meals and dinner time
I used to give into the notion of perfection and a perfect family dinner time, but it’s madness. I’d spend a lot of time and energy planning and creating amazing meals, doing the cooking and the clean-up.
I wanted to make everybody happy, but the truth is, it took up too much time, and it ran me ragged. If you do this, you can’t manage homework, bath and bedtime too. You can’t work on your business or have any energy left for late night housework.
There are some quick tricks you can use to not only streamline mealtimes, but to manage expectations and improve your family relationships.
Family time isn’t only at dinner!
To begin with, quality family time doesn’t have to be at dinner. It’s a notion we’ve acquired; we need to sit around the table to appreciate each other. Hogwash! If dinner isn’t the best time to get together as a family, pick another time.
You can also choose how much time you have together, too. Quality is more important than quantity – it’s not about coexisting under one roof. Spend meaningful periods together.
What helped me was to look at our family rhythms, and work out when to carve in connection time. I also learned that it doesn’t have to be the same time every day. We work our family time around our commitments.
If there are extracurricular activities, community events or the sun sets earlier, we move our family time. We get together as a family and figure out what’s most fun for us.
How prep lets you simplify meals
Children want simplicity and are happy to have the same few meals over and over again. Instead of trying to get everyone to eat the same thing, poll your family members to find their favorites. Then, simply make those staples available in the fridge.
Depending on the age of your kids, either they can pull out their meals themselves or you can do it for them. Everyone can pick and choose, and all you have to do is a bit of planning and meal prep once a week.
This works whether you’re eating solo or as a family – pulling out what each person likes makes mealtimes so much easier. And everybody is happy! Get creative, think outside the box and start with the end in mind. You don’t have to be a personal chef for each person.
Use the rainbow regulations
Remember – you’re Mom and you’ve got veto power. Use it to make sure the kids are eating healthy food by giving them guidelines. ‘Rainbow regulations’ work really well.
This is where we encourage our children to eat foods that are every color of the rainbow. Ask them to pick a range of food they like, and help them to eat every color throughout the day.
Stick a rainbow chart onto the fridge and ask the kids to color it in as they go. It becomes a fun challenge for them to eat the rainbow. If you’ve supplied all the options, you can relax and let the kids choose their own rainbow foods.
You’re still making sure they eat well, but each person has autonomy over what they eat. You’re not forcing the family to eat the same thing and not enjoy their meals. You’ve already polled them on what they like, so they know they’ll get enjoyable options to choose from.
More importantly, you’re providing for them and making sure everyone is well-fed and happy. You’ve done some planning and saved yourself time and worry over making the perfect dinner. So use that time for quality family time instead of stressing over meal prep.