My new year’s resolution is to make our family mealtimes matter. I’ve reluctantly accepted that my days will never be as simple or as slow as I’d like. Thankfully, I believe it’s possible to be busy, but still live ‘slowly’. For me, the key is to pause and create moments of calm among the chaos. Mealtimes are one of my favourite moments to pause and reconnect.
Here’s my plan of attack for making family mealtimes matter.
1. Create a calm and inviting dining environment.
Turn off the TV, place phones and toys out of reach and clear the clutter from the dining room table. I’ve started adding a vase of flowers. I feel like the flowers send a message that our meal times are worthy of decoration. As an added bonus, sending Little Eco outside to pick a bunch of flowers provides a few moments free from pre-dinner winging: “Is dinner ready yet? I’m hungry.”
2. Meal plan.
Meal planning makes the evening rush hour easier. Frantically trying to work out what to cook or realising I’m missing an ingredient are the last things I feel like doing at the end of a busy day.
3. Create a mealtime ritual.
A family ritual at the start of each meal creates separation from the previous moments of chaos. I like to think of it as a ‘reset’ button - separating the previous rush from the subsequent calm. We’ll continue to start our meals with ‘roses and thorns’, a family tradition I first encountered at a friend’s table. I was inspired by how it facilitated communication. Everyone takes a turn describing a good thing that happened that day (rose) and a low moment or tough problem that they had to deal with (thorn).
4. Serve food that nourishes the body and soul.
I appreciate the value of food that not only nourishes the body, but also the soul. For me, that means simple whole food that has a story to tell. Vegetables from our garden, foraged food, and local produce.
5. Extend family meal time by playing a game at the table after dinner.
Post-dinner board games are popular in our household. This year were planning to embrace chess and card games.
I hope 2014 brings you many family meals that matter.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 4th January 2014.