Getting dinner on the table night after night can be a challenge for families in today’s hectic world. Sometimes strategies like menu planning and timesaving cooking techniques can help home cooks pull together family dinners. Sometimes ordering take-out or eating out are solutions for busy families. But I wonder if you’ve ever considered swapping meals as a possible solution.
I write and speak frequently about the “4 P’s” of successful family meals: prioritizing, planning, preparation techniques, and putting together a support system. It’s that 4th P that seems to get the least attention. Often in our busyness we don’t find or make the opportunities to create communities of mutually supportive cooperation.
I was very fortunate to have a meal swapping arrangement with my neighbor when my kids were younger. I would cook dinner for her family every Monday night, and she would cook for mine every Wednesday. Whatever I was making on Mondays, I would just double to have enough to feed two families. We used a big flat cardboard box to transport the meals. Often my older daughters would run the box over to their house on Mondays. And after working on Wednesday evenings, it was nice for me to come home to a prepared meal that I could just sit down to eat with my family. This system saved time for both of us, allowed us to feed our families good home-cooked meals, and helped us stay connected and in touch with each other. Occasionally, we would eat together with both families, but more often the meals were just delivered from one family to the other. Even with quick deliveries, there was a chance to chat, touch base, and stay updated on each other’s lives.
This exact system may not work for everyone, but maybe it can spark some ideas of your own. If not a neighbor, maybe you have a relative or coworker nearby who would be willing to participate in some sort of meal sharing arrangement with you. It’s hard to get a good tasting, home-cooked meal on the table every night. We don’t always have to do it alone. There are ways that we can support each other and build community while still providing our families with healthy meals. I’d love to hear any creative ideas that any of you have tried.
Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D. is proud to be one of the co-founders of the Blog for Family Dinner. She is a psychologist, parent coach, and mom. Her mission is to help parents raise happy and healthy kids – without making themselves or their kids crazy! She provides education and support to parents through her websites www.dinnertogether.com,www.drcuneo.com, and www.kitchentableparents.com.