As parents, meal times can be such a heavenly and intimate time or can be the hour from hell. When you consider the fact that you’ve got to prep the meal, cook the meal, serve the meal, sit your kids down (preferably on a booster seat to make your job easier!) to eat the meal and then wash up, all while looking after them and ensuring that they’re happy.
However, gone are the days of stressful meal times! Follow these essential mealtime hacks, making sure that your dinner times always go off without a hitch.
Utilize Your Children’s Screen Time
We all know as parents that you don’t want to give your children too much screen time throughout the day. Let’s say you limit your children to an hour a day. Why not save this time for when you’re making meals, keeping them quiet and entertained? This will enable you to really focus on what you’re doing.
If you’ve been out and about all day with your children, around dinner time, they’re going to start getting hungry, irritated and fussing. Saving your children’s TV time until this time gives you more than enough time to cook all your meals ready for a nice, stress-free dinner time.
Get Organized and Prepared
One of the leading causes of hassle-free mealtimes is by walking into your kitchen, looking at what you’ve got in the cupboards and struggling to think of something to make. Instead, create weekly meal plans and set meals so you can be sure you know exactly what you’ve got to cook and when.
Let’s say you spend around 10 minutes looking after your kids while trying to think of something to cook; this hack will save you an hour and ten minutes a week.
What’s more, you can create awesome and fun names for your food days, getting your children excited for dinner times. With my kids, a favorite is Fish and Chips Friday!
Carry Out Meal Prep
One of the best ways to save time during the week is to complete meal prep. The easiest way to do this is cutting up your veg into dedicated plastic containers, allowing you to easily take what you need during the week, saving so much time.
Personally, I like to organize and plan my meals on a weekly basis and, on a Sunday night when my children have gone to bed, I simply cut up all my vegetables, but store them in their own plastic containers and pop them in the fridge in an organized way.
This means when it comes to dinner time the next day, I can simply take what I need when I need it, without having to worry about cutting, peeling or slicing up the veg, reducing the bigger meal cooking times by as much as 50%. This will also ensure that you only buy what you need, saving you from discovering those forgotten pieces of fruit and veg in the back of your fridge.
Define a Dinnertime Routine
One of the easiest ways to get your children into the swing of meal times and so they know exactly what they are doing and when is to establish a routine, as with all aspects of their life.
I found that a great way to do this was by printing out a couple of A4 sheets of paper with simple pictures and titles that I stuck up on the wall for my children to follow. On the cards, I had actions such as ‘Wash Hands’, ‘Get Cutlery’, ‘Sit Down’, ‘Eat’, ‘Put Plates Away’ and a few different cards I could easily put up if we were having a different meal or had guests come over.
This was also a great to teach my kids what jobs needed to be carried out for meal times to happen. This worked so well that they sometimes even help with the washing up!