It’s Family Meals Month!

making-meals-easierYes, apparently September is Family Meals Month. Who knew?

Throughout the month, grocers and the Food Marketing Institute are working to raise awareness about the benefits of family meals. They are challenging families to pledge to share one more meal per week at home using items purchased from the grocery store.

Obviously, some (a lot?) of this is self serving. Grocery stores are certainly going to encourage people to purchase food from them instead of getting take-out. That said, there are definite benefits to cooking and sharing a meal together. There are many statistics that link regular at-home family meals with such things as reduced obesity, better grades and self-esteem in kids, reduced substance abuse, and probably world peace.

Sharing meals is not a magic bullet. It’s far more likely that families that emphasize things like education and strong relationships and fitness are also going to place a high value on sharing meals. (My Research Methods professor would be so proud of me right now.)

But that doesn’t always mean it’s easy.

Full disclosure: I’m a stay at home mom with only two kids left in the house and a very flexible schedule, and even I find it a challenge to get a meal on the table some nights. Add in a job, deadlines, after-school activities, and all those other pieces of modern life, and it’s a wonder the country isn’t living on pizza and peanut butter sandwiches.

For me, the best way to make sure we eat a home-cooked meal each night is by planning. I’ve already written about my rotating menu.  I still use one, though I’ve updated it a number of times over the years. Basically, I generate a list of twenty-five meals we’ll all eat, assign one to each weeknight for five weeks, and then repeat.

I’m not wedded to the menu. I shift meals around, skip some completely, and throw in special requests. That’s okay. This is meant to make life easier. Everything on the menu is quick, tasty, and usually healthy. If I need to switch, swap, or skip to accommodate schedule or taste changes, I can do so knowing that most bases will still be covered.

There are lots of links and resources on the Family Meals Month website, so if you’d like to learn more, have a gander. My advice: carve out half an hour, make a menu plan that works for your life (two nights per week is absolutely FINE), and go from there. Every time you can replace What will I make for dinner? with Oooh, I know what I’m making for dinner, you’ll thank yourself.

Tuesday Tip: rotating menus are a Godsend.