Welcome to the March Rhythm Challenge! For more background and links to all the Rhythm Challenges please see this post.
This month I want to challenge you to create a smooth-sailing rhythm around family meals and all your meal prep chores.
Last month we worked on bedtimes and early mornings, two crucial anchors for a peaceful family life. Meals are the next anchor to put in place for your daily rhythm.
Family meals can be a lovely in-breath each day when your family takes time to talk and laugh and be together as well as eat. But behind the scenes of a delicious, healthy, and relaxed family dinner is a parent (or two) making it happen! A lot of steps come first, sometimes way ahead of when you sit down to dinner…..planning the meal, grocery shopping, prepping things in advance, and of course cooking.
Feeding people multiple times a day is a fact of homeschooling life. If you know how much time this really takes you can plan for it and craft the rest of your rhythm around that plan. So let’s jump in!
I’ll walk you through some questions below. You’ll get the most out of this exercise if you take a few minutes to write down your answers. Here’s a worksheet for you to download and print (in color or black/white):
Start by thinking about meals at your house. Close your eyes for a minute and envision breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner. How do these times feel in your home?
Tuning into your heart space is a great place to start whenever you want to make changes in your family life. Do meal times tend to feel scattered, connected, rushed, frazzled, relaxed, wild, fun, cozy, warm, inviting, nurturing, or something else? This is a powerful clue as to what’s working and what’s not.
How do you want mealtimes to feel?
Starting with how you want these parts of the day to feel will be much more revealing than starting with what your “perfect schedule” would be.
What are some things you could do to bring more of that feeling into your home at meal time?
For example, if you want more of a feeling of gratitude at meal time, would it help to sing a blessing before each meal? If you want more of a feeling of connection, could you go around the table and each person share their favorite part of the day or something that made them laugh today? If you want meals to feel more relaxed, do you need to set aside more time to cook so you aren’t rushing the meal to the table?
Now think about meal preparation. What are all the steps for getting meals to the table and who is involved?
How does meal preparation feel right now? How do you want it to feel?
Would you like to get your children more involved in meal preparation? What ideas do you have?
I think one of the biggest benefits of creating a more relaxed rhythm around meal times is it opens up the opportunity for your children to help you and learn from you in the kitchen!
When do you want to do your meal planning (and how often)? Mark this on your calendar!
I have the most fun with meal planning when I get out a whole bunch of cookbooks to flip through and take my time. When I tried to do this every week it made me crazy so now I meal plan once a month. Do what works for you!
When will you do your grocery shopping? How long will it take realistically? This is time you don’t have available for other activities, so mark it on your weekly calendar!
What are your favorite sources of food and cooking inspiration (blogs, cookbooks, Pinterest boards….)? Do you need more inspiration?
Would it be helpful to simplify your planning with a meals rhythm or rotation?
Some families like to have a rhythm around their meals for each week. For example, Tuesday could always be soup night and Saturday morning could always be pancakes. You could have a set weekly rotation for breakfasts or lunches or a theme for each night of the week. This kind of predictability often works well for kids and makes your job easier too!
How much time do you need to set aside realistically to get meals to the table? When do you need to start cooking dinner? Do you need to do anything way in advance?
You might find yourself in a parenting stage when cooking really needs to happen earlier in the day. For example, if you have a toddler who is super cranky around 5pm, this might be a season of life when you start your morning by putting supper in the crockpot. Or if you have older children with late afternoon activities you might find it easiest to make a few meals ahead on the weekend and freeze in portion sizes for later.
What’s your least favorite meal prep chore? How can you make it more fun?
I went through a phase when I wasn’t at all excited about cooking and just thinking about having to get dinner on the table made me feel tired. But now I look forward to cooking in the evenings. I plan my meals well in advance so I won’t have any decisions to make at a time of day when my brain power is low. And when it’s time to cook I put on my favorite music (these days it’s usually my Brandi Carlile station on Pandora) and start by making myself a rooibos tea. My brain doesn’t get the “this is hard and you’re tired” signal anymore…..instead it registers, “this is self-care and a fun part of the day.”
You have to feed your family….what can you do so you enjoy it?
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