The following story was first submitted to the Time at the Table project that focussed on real life family dinners on 1.25.11, founded by Bill Mawhiney
by Deb Dishman
Dinner at our house in more than just a 6-letter word. I have a very busy husband who travels for work, 5 month old twins, and two dogs that dream of sitting at the kitchen table with us. If anything, dinner means time to reconnect after several nights of being apart, watching our babies smile and squeal, and laughing at the dogs as they beg for food.
As I said, my husband travels a lot for work, but he’s also a very picky eater. I, on the other hand, am usually up to try anything. So how do you plan for a varying schedule, a picky eater, and twins? It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it!
In order to please everyone, we do a weekly shopping trip together. Given our busy lives, this is usually the first time we discuss my husband’s work schedule for the week which means my meal planning is done on a whim in the middle of aisle 4. I began to notice that this leads to us always falling back on the same meals, because I know those recipes by heart, they require no planning and they are husband approved.
For a while, I had given up. We would just have tacos, spaghetti, and take out every night for all I cared. Then I got tired of it. I desperately wanted my children to grow up eating recipes that reminded them of home, those meals that only your mom can make. To get out of this rut, I’ve learned how to find recipes that are satisfying to all, without me missing out on any flavor and without my husband having any flavor.
I find recipes that are easy to prepare, and easy to prepare in two different ways without ending up with a kitchen full of dirty dishes. For example, my husband hates to eat anything cooked with onions and peppers, while I love nothing more. I have found recipes that allow me to cook everything together, take his portion out, and then finish cooking the meal how I would like it.
This has turned out to make our whole life much easier. I had to stop complaining about his eating habits and find a way around them. He wasn’t going to change and unless I wanted tacos every night, I had to figure out something.
We often take turns cooking meals, but there is never a set schedule on whose turn it is. There are certain meals that he always makes and certain ones that I always make. We don’t get to spend a lot of time together during the week, so preparing dinner together has also became one of our favorite times. Even clean up can be fun when we do it together.
Another issue with our meal planning is meals for myself when my husband is gone. I’ve learned to enjoy this time and prepare meals that I especially love. We have a local grocery store that has an amazing meat department. I love to buy their fresh fish, put a little topping of some sort on and pop it in the oven. It is mess free and takes little time.
For 2011, I made a goal to be better at meal planning. Not only did I want to have meals planned out for the week, but I wanted to have leftovers to take to work for lunch. It seems like every week we were throwing out food that didn’t get used. I will be the first to admit that I’ve always thought about meal planning but never gave it a shot. Another thing I’ve always wanted to try was making meals ahead of time and freezing for a later use.
This has required me to stop and think about the logistics of a meal, but only once a week versus every single day. How could I make it easier? Could I make it in a slow cooker? Would this be good for me to make on the weekend and freeze for a later use? I’m still answering these questions day by day, but it’s all becoming a smoother process. I was really tired of hearing and thinking, “What’s for dinner?” Now I can answer without having to stress about what we have in the pantry, what I need to stop and get at the store, and what will make everyone happy.
As our twins are starting to eat solid foods, it is becoming more apparent to me that I need to treasure dinner time with my family. I won’t get this time back, it’s as simple as that. Enjoying the small moments with my husband and children is much more valuable than the ten minutes it takes me to look ahead at our schedule and make a meal plan.
I feel that if we don’t take a stand as a family, then our children are going to miss out on memories that they will cherish as they grow older. A sacrifice of my time is worth it for my family, any day of the week.
You can read more about the Dishman Family on their blog.