Back to the Basics of Feeding Your Family: Eat Well, Spend Less

This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series we are focusing on getting back to the basics of feeding your family.
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Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

Dinnertime is ever evolving in our house. This year we embarked on the path of swim club family, dragging the eldest to and from the pool a mere five nights a week for two-hour-long swim sessions. Combined with basketball, swim lessons for the younger crowd, catechism, homework for four, and time to wind down and read at night, dinner can seem like a necessary chore in the midst of more important matters.

Still, I remain convinced of the importance of teaching your children how to eat. We continue to be the family that ventures to the market and the grocery store together, that stands in the kitchen sharing the daily duties of getting hungry mouths fed, that sits around the same table night after night. I’m not going to lie. It is not easy, but I do believe that it is worth it.
Back to the Basics of Feeding Your Family via FoodforMyFamily.com

Make It a Priority

The first piece of sound advice I can offer when thinking about how we eat as a family unit is that it works because it is a priority. You prioritize the things you deem most important. For our family it comes in the way we eat.

So much in life is connected to how we eat: the way we feel on a daily basis, our overall physical health, the way our mind processes information, our emotions, our ability to get a good night’s rest. The act of eating is not simply a chore that must be done to get through the day, but also an act that affects every other aspect of life. If I were feeding my swimmer poorly, she would compete poorly, be tired during practices, and sluggish during sprints. All of the running to and from sports practices is not doing a single thing in long-term physical and mental health if we’re fueling our bodies with trash. We’ve all heard of sugar highs and the crash that follows; garbage in, garbage out; you are what you eat; and yet when people are told the way they eat affects how they feel, they balk.

How you eat is important, so refrain from making excuses and start acting like it. Look for ways to build relationships and family integration in something that sustains you each day you are alive.
Back to the Basics of Feeding Your Family via FoodforMyFamily.com

Be Intentional

Intent: (noun) the state of mind with which an act is done; purpose, aim, ideal, meaning, plan, target.

I feed my family whole foods prepared and shared at home together in order to increase overall health and to develop healthy habits that can be carried with them for the full of their life.

My intention with the food education of my children is to develop healthy habits. Habits, especially bad ones, are hard to break. They stay with us for years, following us around, haunting us. Daily habits that revolve around eating are the same. You become accustomed to daily dessert after dinner, to regular and diet soda rather than water, to meals that prepare themselves.

The habits of drinking water rather than soda and daily coffee consumption were learned early in my life. (Thanks, Grandma, for the coffee at age 2. I love it still.) The process of cooking in order to eat and sitting down together as a family were things that were stressed upon in my upbringing. There is power in the routine.

Make a list of meals you could make each week and shop for them. Keep the ingredients on hand; stock your pantry; plan ahead. Small steps make a huge difference during the week when the walls seem to be closing in on you as the five o’clock hour nears.
Back to the Basics of Feeding Your Family via FoodforMyFamily.com

Keep it Simple

Our meals are not always works of art. Often they are simple and straightforward, composed of basic foods made better with quality ingredients and loving hands. They are generally easy to prepare and get together in a hurry, and sometimes they are downright boring.

A few things that keep us going during the week are always thinking ahead. Stocks are made and started as dishes are cleaned and left to simmer as the nighttime routine rushes forth. Bread happens on the weekends, mixed as groceries are moved from bag to counter to cupboard. The long meals with thematic courses and wine and dessert are saved for guests and the occasional lazy weekend, when sections and state meets have passed and basketballs have ceased to dribble. They are savored, but they are not the standard.

Instead, soups and bread, simple salads, rice bakes, steamed vegetables, and stir fry find their way to the table. Unplanned pizza nights find pantry flavors like balsamic, sun-dried tomatoes, and eggs sitting atop no-rise dough thrown together amidst spelling sheets and algebraic equations.

Don’t Give Up

We all have those moments where we think things could be easier “if.” Life would be easier if I didn’t have to prepare, serve, and clean up dinner. I could easily write a check rather than pack lunch boxes and save myself 20 minutes each morning and countless hours a year shopping for those foods in the supermarket if I let go a little. In this instance, however, easier does not equal improved quality of life.

There are days when it just doesn’t happen, sure. Those days we find sandwiches from the local sandwich shop on our plate, bowls stuffed with rice and beans from the burrito factory in front of us. Then we start over for the next meal, continuously moving forward.
Back to the Basics of Feeding Your Family via FoodforMyFamily.com

Feeding a family, like the act of parenting itself, doesn’t have to be perfection. After living my entire life as a perfectionist and still struggling with it daily, I can firmly say that true perfection does not exist. Perfectionism is the act of aiming for the unattainable. Instead, I implore you to look at the total package rather than the individual events. Aspire for an overarching goal rather than an all-or-nothing approach.

As always, you can check out what others are writing in the Eat Well, Spend Less series and how they are getting back to basics:

Comments

  1. This is an awesome post, Shaina. So insightful and true! (And I laughed…I started drinking coffee around age 6 at my great grandma’s coffee klatsch gatherings with my mom and my aunts. Truly good memories.)

  2. Your evenings sound just as crazy as ours. My son’s basketball practice is on a rotational schedule and always makes dinner time a little nuts. My older boys mostly handle their own homework but on the nights that they all need help, I’m ready to pull my hair out! Great tips and I so agree with the importance of those meals together.

  3. Totally agree with your statement: “So much in life is connected to how we eat …..”. We were taught the importance of developing healthy eating habits at a very young age and I tried my best to teach my kids the same.

  4. Well written and well said! The best advice is to start over again every day. We always eat together but it’s not always healthy. you’ve inspired me to try harder to “eat real”.

  5. Totally love this post, Shaina. And reading it, I came to realize what it is that I dislike most about mealtimes in my house, which will only get worse when we have children: there is no dining room.

    We have a small table in the kitchen, that when required to seat four, becomes awkward. It would fit better if I gave up my kitchen island, but then I’d have to give up my kitchen island!

    It also becomes a magnet for all the crap that doesn’t have a home in our life, and so we most often end up sitting on the couch to eat. I don’t like this. We don’t talk while we eat, we watch TV.

    A dining room will be a huge priority when we move.

    • I should see if I can find a picture of our kitchen and table from the house before here. We lived there until we had three kids, and we were cooking and eating in an 8×8′ space. It was so tiny, but then, the kids were smaller at the time. A large dining room was definitely on the house-hunting list, as well as a dishwasher and a garbage disposal. I have all three. Small kitchen, psht. Dishwasher. Dining room.

  6. You know I agree with your points, especially with keeping it simple.

    This week and last, I’ve started by making a big pot of vegetable soup and string it in the fridge. We’ve been having it for lunch, and I’ll admit to even warming a mug around 4 pm when dinner still seems a long way off. It’s cheap, nourishing, and better for you than most snacks out there. =)

  7. This is an awesome post! I especially appreciate what you had to say about not giving up. I think parents have to let go of the goal that EVERY meal will be homemade and eaten together as a family and replace it with the goal of MOST meals being homemade and eaten together as a family. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person and I am going to work on that! Thanks!

  8. What a great post! It’s always good to read that others do their best to teach their kids that eating as a family is a priority. I find that with activities that can be difficult, but we still manage during our busiest seasons. I’m learning to love my slow cooker so that dinner is quick and easy on the busiest nights.

    • Thank you, Patsy. I know it took us a few week to adjust as schedules shifted, but it was so worth it to fight for dinnertime together. I am horrible about using the slow cooker, and I should be so much better at it. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. We’ve been eating this way so long I think time is on our side. I honestly don’t think I could do it differently at this point. As you said, not every meal is brilliant, but I can say that more often than not that we usually agree that we are so lucky to be eating such good food. I’m quite satisfied with that. Great post. Nice affirmation.

  10. Great great post, Shaina. I look back now that my kids are almost raised, and am so thankful we were intentional – most of the time. It’s easy to get off track, but so important to get back on again! I’ll share this for sure! xo

  11. Such a great reminder!

  12. It’s always good to remember to keep it simple. Love this post!

  13. Great tips friend! We all need a reminder to keep in simple every now and again. :)

  14. Great tips and reminders Shaina – I do believe it is so important to teach the kids from an early age to make healthy choices. With the crazy kid schedules, it’s not easy as you say, but every little bit helps. I need to do a better job of planning our meals ahead and keeping things simpler.

  15. This is a great little treatise, Shaina. We don’t eat out a lot in our family, and almost all meals are homecooked with fresh, healthy ingredients. In the end, it saves a lot of money!

  16. I love the tips! Life gets crazy and keeping it simple sometimes is so helpful! I always try to prep for my weekly meals on Sunday and do as much cooking as I can on the weekends since I am not home a lot during the week. I usually have a couple of things cooking on the stove and my two slow cookers going. The freezer is my best friend for leftovers.

    I love this series that you are a part of.

  17. Shaina,
    Here from Simple Bites–this is a wonderful post, and I appreciate you taking the time to articulate your thoughts. I agree, and strive to do this, and it’s nice to see reinforcement of my unarticulated thoughts.
    Thank you.

  18. Wonderful post! So true, and eloquently said. It is frustrating when people say they have no time to cook or eat well. I am also gone 5 nights a week taking kids to activities, but we have family dinner every night. It has to be a priority. It’s funny, my kids are getting older than when I started drinking coffee, but I won’t let them drink it yet.

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