Prior to having kids, I will admit, I did not cook much. And, when I say much, I mean hardly at all. My husband and I always enjoy(ed!) the dining out experience. However, once we had kids the entire dining out “experience” changed. When our first child was real young and she slept through dinner, we thought, “Hey, this isn’t going to be so bad … we can still enjoy our nights out.” Boy were we ever wrong about that. Fast forward 5 months or so and we realized that restaurants were going to be a thing of the past. Dinner out turned into seeing who could eat the fastest, while feeding the baby and then trying to pay the bill before the ticking time bomb went off. Despite our repeated unsuccessful attempts at dining out with the little one, we continued to “test” it and see if ‘maybe this next time would be different.’ I vividly remember our post-meal conversations in the car going like this, “Why do we do it?” “Why do we even try?” “We are NOT doing that again!”
I am proud to say that we eventually learned from our previous mistakes and decided that in the end eating out just wasn’t worth the hassle. Once we made the decision to stay in for family dinners, it has become something that I look forward to. I have become an avid meal planner and while I still am not a professional cook, I am pretty darn good at being able to follow a recipe! I typically plan my meals and do the grocery shopping for the week sometime during the weekend so we are ready to go by Monday. I must note, that I am not cooking fancy meals, but meals that I can put together rather quickly (the crockpot is my new best friend) and I typically always try and modify the recipes to lower fat ingredients when possible.
In addition to saving money, eating healthier foods, and avoiding the restaurant meltdowns, one of the most rewarding things that has come about from the home-cooked meals, is that my daughter wants to help! Her usual contributions to meal preparation include pouring in ingredients, mixing, stirring, and of course tasting. She insists on sitting on the counter right next to the food so she can contribute and ask A LOT of questions. Once dinner is prepped, I have discovered that she is good at assisting me with setting the table, getting out any necessary condiments, and also keeping her little brother happy by supplying him with “puffs” to eat.
It has been such a gratifying experience to first realize the practical benefits of eating in, but in the end discover that my little girl is so excited to be a part of the dinner time rituals. Family meal time has become so much more enjoyable in our household! We would love to hear about your family’s meal time … are your kids involved?